The Edgeware, Highgate & London Railway line from Finsbury Park to Highgate (and on to Edgeware) opened in 1867. A branch from Finchley to High Barnet opened in 1872, and from Highgate to Alexandra Palace in 1873. In the 1930s it was planned to transfer all the lines to become part of an expanding Underground Northern Line. The sections north of Highgate – to Barnet and Mill Hill – were transferred in 1940, however, though partially completed, the rest of the scheme was halted and then abandoned after WW2. Infrequent passenger trains continued to Alexandra Palace, but these ceased in 1954. Some freight trains ran until 1964, and the last use of the line was by London Transport to transfer tube trains until 1970.

Numerous schemes developed during the 1970’s to make use of the land released as a result go the line closures, all included, to varying extents, a right of way for walkers. Many also included extensive housing development. In 1979 a public enquiry concluded that as an open space it, “had a value extending far beyond that of local interest… warranting spacial protection.” It has now become London’s longest nature reserve.
The Parkland Walk was officially opened in 1984 and has been protected through being formally designated both a Local Nature Reserve and as Metropolitan Open Land. The section from Finsbury Park to Highgate is part of the ‘Capital Ring’ a long-distance walk around Inner London.
Visible reminders of the railway include the platforms at Crouch End Hill, the station house at Stapleton Hall Road for Stroud Green, the viaduct in Muswell Hill, and the brick building by Crouch End Hill which was built to house an electricity transformer for the Underground scheme, but never used.
As a habitat type, the Walk is young deciduous open woodland, and about 50% of the bird population are blackbirds, robins and blue tits. Other common residents are wren, starling, song thrush, dunnock, great tit, greenfinch, bullfinch, carrion crow and jay.
There are increasing numbers of species which are associated with more mature woodlands, such as the great spotted woodpecker and nuthatches. On the open grassy embankments other birds such as goldfinches, magpies and kestrels may be seen.
The density of birds in Spring is well above the national average for this type of habitat. During the winter chaffinches, redpolls, gold crests and coal tits arrive in small numbers, but perhaps the most beautiful is the long-tailed tit. This tiny bird, with its pinkish chest and obvious long tail, is to be regularly seen in flocks of up to a dozen searching through the birch trees and scrub for food.
From April the Summer migrants arrive from Africa and the European mainland. Most of these such as the chiffchaff, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat use the Walk as a temporary staging post; stopping off to feed on their way to breeding grounds elsewhere in Britain.
Blackcaps and willow warblers have held territories on the line and, given an increased percentage of dense scrub, may well continue to do so in the future.

(‘The Boys’ and I visited the Parkland Walk on a fine, mild, Autumnal saturday morning. The text is taken from information boards down the line.)

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