Escaped mental patient at Hardknott Pass, Lake District, Cumbria - photo by Tania Payne

Escaped mental patient at Hardknott Pass, Lake District, Cumbria - photo by Tania Payne
Escaped mental patient at Hardknott Pass, Lake District, Cumbria - photo by Tania Payne

Thursday 4 August 2011

Barnet to Hackney via Haringey - Capital Ring Sections 11 and 12

Name: Capital Ring - Sections 11 and 12
Date of walk: Weds 27 July
Direction: Clockwise, or from west to east
Distance covered: 9 miles (14.5 km)
Time taken: 3 hours
Marks/10: 7
In a (few) word(s): Full of variety - one of the best city walks I've done
Difficulty: Easy
Signage: OK (on these sections) - look for a bright green background on the roads. Just keep an eye out for the signs, they are easy to miss and not always where you expect them to be.

Info Section 11

Map Section 11
Info Section 12
Map Section 12

So I've just moved to North London - Finchley in fact. I thought I would check out the stretches of the Capital Ring walk up here, since it goes through jolly nice areas like Highgate and Hampstead. I've done parts of the Capital Ring down in the west of London, where I'm from, along the Grand Union Canal, River Brent, River Thames and through Richmond Park. Now I plan to join the dots and do the whole thing... in stages of course, because in total it's something like 75 miles (120 km). The main draw of  Section 12 is the Parkland Walk along the course of an old railway line, which is one of the most important conservation areas in London - I walked part of this some years ago, with my saxophonist friend Carl who lived in Harringay.

Note about the Capital Ring
The Capital Ring connects up existing suburban walks, using open or wood land where possible and (signed) road paths when not. It's a great way to see the different faces of London - the residencial areas, the parks and woods and the waterways. It can easily be walked in stages, because the start and end points of each section are generally very near London Underground stations and fairly well signed.

Because I started from Finchley Central, not Hendon Park and finished at the Climbing Castle on Green Lanes (near Clissold Park), my total distance was a little shorter than the complete sections 11 and 12. Also I missed out on the superb, creepy Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington - which I highly recommend visiting and will do next time. The walk took me along gently babbling Dollis Brook in Finchley and Mutton Brook in East Finchley, through Hampstead Garden Suburbs, Highgate Wood, Queens Wood, the aforementioned Parkland Walk (which one joins right near Highgate Underground Station), Finsbury Park and the delightful New River Path. The walking is pretty easy, apart from a steep section through Queen's Wood, although it's not THAT steep and that section can be avoided by taking a signed alternative route along roads. You can find good information about this walk by clicking the links in the Thumbnail section above. The maps are much easier to read when you are zoomed in a LOT..

I saw two swans and a coot (with young) on the New River Path. Near Finsbury Park a group of friendly Hasidic Jewish schoolboys seemed very excited indeed to see a gentile and waved and said hello to me. I spoke to a nice Italian lady in a cafe on Green Lanes at the end. She had been in the area 30 years and told me to check out the Climbing Castle and about a big underground water pipe in the area (if I understood that bit correctly - her accent was pretty strong).

Of interest
  • Mutton Brook merges with Dollis Brook to become the Brent River in Brent Park.
  • In Highgate there are some nice residencial houses on one side of the road, built on a steep slope with paths snaking up through practically vertical, pretty gardens.
  • Highgate Wood and Queen's Wood are nice and just a little bit mysterious.
  • Parkland Walk is a 4.5 mile (7.2 km) green walkway which follows the course of the London and North Eastern Railway's (LNER's) railway which used to run from Finsbury Park through Stroud Green, Crouch End, Highgate and Muswell Hill to Alexandra Palace. It was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1990 and is London's longest. The railway line was constructed in 1867 with the branch to Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace added in 1874. These sections were to be incorporated into the Northern Line in the 1930s, but the Second World War put a stop to that. Trains ran on this section until 1970 and the Parkland Walk opened in 1984.
  • Crouch End Hill station still has platforms on either side of the Walk and a lovely high arched wall covered in quite stylish graffiti tags.
  • Information points about birds and bats to be found along the "dark corridor" which is the Parkland Walk.
  • The New River Path was a revelation, with some lovely tree-lined sections. It is an artificial 39 mile aquaduct transporting water from Hertfordshire into London, constructed in 1613.
  • Lots of water around at the end of the walk - East Reservoir is wilder, whereas West Reservoir has a sailing club. New development overlooking the reservoirs - Woodberry Park.
  • The Climbing Castle on Green Lanes (between the reservoirs and the entrance to Clissold Park) is VERY COOL. It was a Victorian water pumping station and in the late 20th century the local community were involved in deciding what should be done with it. Someone proposed the genius idea of turning it into a climbing centre - it is now the largest in europe. Well worth visiting (free) - just sign in at reception.
  • At the eastern end of Section 12 is the fantastic Abney Road Cemetery (which I didn't get to this time) - a must-see, just don't get locked in there like my mate Chris Don.
I listened to a couple of old mixes of mine, Myopic Episod and Anodyne Soliloquy, plus this Derrick Carter disco mix and this Andy Weatherall/Ivan Smagghe mix. Standout tracks were King Crimson's The Sheltering Sky and Wolfram featuring HADDAWAY!!!! Thing Called Love (Legowelt Remix).