28 November 2011
This is one of my favourite tours and a real hidden gem of London, no one seems to know it’s there!
It follows the old Great Northern Railway, now a thin, hidden tract of trees, cutting through the surrounding urbanity, magically lit with dappled sunlight reaching through to the mossy undergrowth. The tracks and sleepers were lifted in 1971, and a 4.5 mile long linear park has been formed where they once ran.
It’s a great place to witness ecological succession and the recovery of nature. Many of the pioneer species, London plane trees, sycamore and birch can be seen, with really small oak trees now starting to come through as the plants rebuild the ecosystem anew.
The route boasts two rare species of bee, the ashy mining bee and the cuckoo-bee. The larvae of the cuckoo bee are laid in the tunnels of the mining bee, and consume the pollen balls the host has left for its offspring.
If you know where to look a local artist has placed a statue of the fairy Spriggin – representing the reclamation of nature. After this we pass though the deserted railway platforms of the old Crouch End station. At the end we come to Alexandra Palace, known as Ally Pally to every Londoner and a historic site in its own right.
When you walk this disused route you discover many things, the lives of a bygone generation, the forgiveness of nature, folklore, fairies and habitats being protected today, for all of us to enjoy in the future.
Guest post by Catherine Baker, Founder of Green London.
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