The Capital Ring is a strategic walking route that completely encircles inner and central London. It is approximately 78 miles long and cuts through as many green spaces as is possible.
It was a glorious autumn day, Dog had been a little sore footed recently so hasn’t had the mileage he enjoys and I’d had enough of plumbers so we, Dog and I decided time for a walk.
And given the proximity to Halloween I thought we’d do the section that ends at Abney Cemetery. WoooooooHoooooooooo.
This section of the Ring is a little out of phase with the previous sections but it is spectacular so I hope you’ll forgive us.
Now, a little local geography. We are in North London. This is a different country to South London. They speak a different language, using the letter ‘t’ more. They have successful football clubs with money and a sense of entitlement. We have Crystal Palace, Millwall and Charlton (ignore Chelsea, they are west London and do not count, much like Fulham) whose only sense is of danger, especially if Millwall are playing. You need a passport, inoculations and security. They can smell a Sarf Londiner miles off.
So Dog and I trod lightly and spoke to few people.
That said, it is glorious.
We started with an old disused railway, now a strip of spectacular wood and a wildlife paradise called the Parkland Walk, with some pretty super graffiti on some of the crumbling railway infrastructure.
This railway was a Victorian spur through Crouch End; it had been planned to become yet another branch of the underground/tube network and electrified but work on the change stopped in 1940 and was abandoned post WW2.
This two mile interlude with the odd gap giving views each side was unusually crowded for a midday Monday until I realised it was half term holidays. Yummy mummies and their charges abounded.
At the far end we entered Finsbury Park and were overwhelmed with buggies.
Is it me or have this things grown into small space stations capable of supporting life for two weeks at up to four atmospheres? Two abreast and you can kiss goodbye to your shins.
On the far side of the park is the largest council estate – public housing – in the UK – Woodbury estate. Skirting around it is the quaintly named New River. Completed in 1613 it brought fresh water from Ware in Hertfordshire to central London, using the natural land contours to do so, each mile seeing a drop of two inches. The Welsh genius who designed and built it Hugh Myddleton is not celebrated enough.
The idea that, at the time of Shakespeare this canal was being built to feed a reservoir does my heart good.
After a wending walk the East and West Reservoirs are reached. They are not needed these days but are kept full for water sports and to serve the surrounding nature and wetlands reserve.
Looming across the water is a strange Gothic building, which is known as the Castle and is now a first class indoor climbing centre. It’s original use? A Thames Water pumping station. The Victorians were the ultimate in overdoing public buildings, god bless ’em.
After the Castle it was Clissold Park, another easy on the eye open space. Clissold is named after a clergyman who courted the daughter of a local landowner who disapproved of parsons. It was only after he died that the clergyman and the daughter could wed, and they promptly named the old boy’s mansion after the new master.
Stoke Newington is ahead. It is a pretty village of aged buildings coffee shops and galleries, signs of affluence. First you see St Mary’s Church (designed by George Gilbert Scott who also designed St Pancras station) and then the High Street. The walk is nearly done but there is one last twist.
Stoke Newington was renowned in the 17th and 18th century as a home for dissenters (Daniel Defoe is one) and religious non conformists who weren’t welcomed in the City of London. It’s hardly surprising that the local cemetery – Abney – houses some of their graves.
The Booths, who founded the Salvation Army are there (sorry about Dog’s manners) as well as a number of grand mausoleums. These are now eerily decrepit and the whole place is a nature reserve as much as a place of death. The ubiquitous creepers and ivy give it a horror film feel and indeed a lot of such a filmed here.
Now it is full and a pleasant walk, that becomes creepy as dusk falls. The light wasn’t great so I should have used flash but somehow that didn’t seem right! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
And there we have it. Stoke Newington station is ahead taking Dog and me home. This was a breeze at 5.2 miles and one of the richest sections for the variety and interest.