It’s surprising how many people have yet to discover The Parkland Walk. At just over 2 miles, it is the longest linear nature reserve in London. It’s a super green highway stretching from Alexandra Park through Muswell Hill, and after a short break, continuing from Highgate through Crouch End and Stroud Green to emerge at Finsbury Park.
Its transformation from a suburban steam railway line to one of London’s favourite walks was threatened in the late 80s when politicians proposed it would be ideal as a dual carriageway. The threat was withdrawn following a vigorous and well-supported campaign by The Friends of The Parkland Walk and now the route is hugely popular with ramblers, dog walkers and cyclists.
New threats for old
Over the years, most of the grassy embankments have disappeared to be replaced by a dense mix of trees, shrubs and bramble. For many, this is part of the charm – a chance to quickly escape the urban noise and bathe in one of nature’s secret havens, occasionally revealing tantalizing clues of its former life as a railway.
The re-formed Friends of The Parkland Walk is now much more involved in conservation work. “The increasing density of trees is not necessarily a wholly good thing. Densely wooded land makes for dull nature,” explains FoTPW Chairman Simon Olley. “Loss of light ultimately leads to a lack of ground cover, without which wildflower varieties and insect life are greatly reduced. We’re very keen to open up some sections of the Walk.” That is one issue for the Friends, but not the only one.
The Big Clean
A recent inspection of the deeper parts of the walk revealed some sad findings. In addition to the scattering of bottles and cans, there were a number of sections blighted by fly tipping and, most disappointing of all, signs that some of the worst damage is caused by those who have the privilege of living alongside this unique asset.
Along with rubbish and building rubble, 81 households use the nature reserve as a place to discard garden waste and old Christmas trees. The argument often given is that this is helpful. “Ecologically, this couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Simon, “but the bottom line is, if it is unacceptable to throw garden rubbish into a neighbour’s garden, why would it be right to throw it into a nature reserve?”
In a bid to redress the damage done, The Friends are organising what they hope will be the biggest ever litter clearance operation ever held on the Walk. With grant aid from the Mayor of London’s office and working with Haringey Council, Veolia and The Conservation Volunteers, they’re looking for 300 volunteers to help out over the weekend of the 16th and 17th November.