Parkland Walk | Walk Along An Abandoned Railway Line
Discover London’s very own bat cave and walk along an abandoned railway on the Parkland Walk.
The full route goes from Alexandra Palace, incorporating a walk through Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood, but the main stretch runs from Highgate Station to Finsbury Park. There’s a helpful map below.
Alexandra Palace to Highgate
Starting from Alexandra Palace – enjoying one of the best skyline views over London – you follow the Parkland walk (North) trail until it joins with the Capital Ring, leading you through Highgate Woods and Queen’s Woods
Highgate Woods are 28 hectares of ancient woodland, today managed by the City of London Corporation. It was mentioned in the Domesday Book and was later owned by the Bishop of London.
Within the woods I spotted this lovely dedication on a bench;
Once you leave Highgate Woods you follow Archway Road past Highgate Station.
The Abandoned Railway
Today it’s on the Northern Line, the underground opened in 1941, but there was an earlier railway station built in 1867.
If you peer over the car park wall beside the Archway Road entrance…
Image from Google Maps
You can just about see the abandoned station platform below.
Built by the Great Northern Railway in 1867, the line ran from Finsbury Park, via Highgate and up to Edgware. Further branches were added to High Barnet and Alexandra Palace in the 1870s.
Dotted lines show the lost rail routes on an information board along the walk
The ambitious ‘New Works’ plan would’ve seen all the lines combined with the Northern Line on the Underground, but the project was only partly complete at the outbreak of WWII. Some passenger trains ran until the 1950s and freight trains until the 1960s but it was eventually mothballed.
Creating the Parkland Walk
The Parkland Walk officially opened in 1984, following part of the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway. Designated as Metropolitan Open Lane, it’s also London’s longest nature reserve.
On that theme, we then join the main section of the walk, following the signs for Parkland Walk (South).
But before heading off to the right hand side, starting along the path, it’s worth doubling back on yourself and walking towards this dead end.
These are London’s very own bat caves! Hosted in the former tunnels of the railway line.
From here the path follows a straight line along a slightly raised level above the streets. Rather like the famous New York High Line which opened in 2009, The Parkland Walk is sometimes suggested as an inspiration for the US project.
Varying between woodland and more open paths, there’s plenty of evidence of what looks like former platforms along the route.
As well as the ubiquitous aerosol decoration which – depending on your tastes – is either a colourful addition or eyesore.
One thing to make sure you look out for is this playful sculpture of a green man. It’s known as the Spriggan Sculpture and is by Marilyn Collins.
Peering down at passersby, the sculpture and walk supposedly inspired Stephen King’s short story ‘Crouch End’, which features a police investigation about a missing person and a monster on the loose.
But don’t let that put you off! Personally I find him rather friendly-looking.
The walk comes to end as you reach Finsbury Park, finishing with a colourful bridge across modern railway lines. It’s then a short walk to Finsbury Park Station.
So if you’re looking to get back to nature but still want a walk with urban features then try the Parkland Walk. It was a glorious sunny day when I tried it, but it’s great all year round.
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This walk is now very well maintained and waymarked. A delightful walk in North London.
Thanks Katie — sounds a terrific walk, and thanks for describing and photographing it so well! I’ll recommend it to my walk-happy son!
My thanks also to the first commenter, ‘Get Outside’, for the website link: valuable background!
Hi Katie !
I lived in london for one year a few years ago, I’m back to France since 5 years already and this parkland walk was my familiar place for walking, running and cycling as I lived a few meters close to it near Finsbury park. I can’t help but feeling homesick when reading this letter. Thank you so much for remembering me this wonderful part of my life.
Thank you for this, Katie. A couple of years ago I went on a Hidden London visit to Highgate Station – fascinating – and thought then that I really must do the walk. Typically I then forgot about it so I appreciate you reminding me it’s there! Best wishes.
Thank you for this really interesting piece Katie. Is this ‘New works’ line, (or any part of it) by any chance, the prewar proposed ‘overground’ planned line which was stopped by ww2, I not sure ? Some of the stations (pre ww2 overground) are still fairly intact, and in more recent years there are some books which show old stations and lines, and what they are today, and some of the mentioned stations (I believe Alexandra palace) are illustrated in these books. And yes, you could go from Alexandra palace to Brighton on train up to about the 1950’s, as my parents use to go for the day out to Brighton, always wondering why the line was taken out as it was always used by many people. Interested to know anyone else’s knowledge / experience of these lines.
Thank you o much for such a interesting story. I always love looking at hidden places especially where railways used to be. I also love the old steam railways but that is another story. I thought the sculpture was so exciting. I think that anybody that came across it without warning would be quite shocked. But it looks a friendly ‘Green Man’.
All the best from Ron and Gilly.
I’m just about to move to Finsbury Park and the footbridge is at the end of my street called Oxford Road. I’m looking forward to walking up to Highgate and beyond especially now the warmer weather is on its way. Thank you for your information and photos I can’t wait.