Not so very far from the madding crowd
THE SUNDAY WALK; Follow the tree-lined trail from London's Finsbury Park station to East Finchley via Highgate Wood
Sunday 19 January 1997
Starting at the Finsbury Park end, take the main exit out of the station on to Station Place. To your right is an Arsenal Football Club shop where you can kit yourself out if you wish and to your left is Ridley's Bagels where you can stock up on sandwiches and takeaway drinks, even on a Sunday. If you need a fry-up to set you on your way, do not despair because greasy cafes also abound in this area.
Immediately across Stroud Green Road (which runs under the railway bridge to your left as you leave the station) is an obscure, rubbish-strewn gateway marked "Welcome to Parkland Walk". Take the path through here which runs sandwiched between the railway and Finsbury Park itself. Then, when you reach a railway bridge on your left, cross it.
After the bridge, turn immediately right on to a pathway which will take you down a disused railway line, along the top of an embankment, for about two miles into Highgate. This tree-lined path is actually the longest Local Nature Reserve in London, a status it acquired, thanks to a public campaign, after the railway line was abandoned 30 years ago.
The path today provides a delightful and indeed almost miraculous respite from the endless terraces of north London, which can still be glimpsed down below, peeping out between the trees.
On your way, you'll pass the ghostly remains of the abandoned stations of Crouch End and Stapleton Hall Road, as well as skateboarding rinks and woodland art including elfin figures emerging from old cuttings.
Finally, where the old railway line enters a (closed) tunnel, the path runs out on to Holmesdale Road. Follow the road in the same direction along here before turning right onto Archway Road. A couple of minutes later, you'll pass the Woodman Inn which serves basic pub grub including fish and chips if you're in need of sustenance; while over the road is the Ripping Yarns second-hand bookshop which specialises in back editions of the Dandy and other comics.
Beyond the Woodman, continue along Archway Road, past Highgate station and across Muswell Hill Road. A few minutes later, you'll reach the Archway Gate entrance to Highgate Wood which really is quite secluded in parts. Once inside, walk straight on right across the park as far as the Lodge Gate park entrance, and then turn left here along a gravel path that takes you past the Lodge on your right.
Follow this path through the length of the wood, until you reach the Bridge Gate exit. Once through the gate you've got a few suburban streets to negotiate: First, turn right along Lanchester Road, go across Woodside Avenue, and walk down Fordington Road. Where the right turns sharp left, take the small entrance into Cherry Tree Wood recreation ground. At the far corner of the park is East Finchley Underground station, as well as shops, pubs and snack bars further up the hill.
This walk is featured in `100 walks in Greater London', published by Crowood Press.
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