An abandoned railway line can be a creepy place to walk alone at night with its overgrown vines, a forgotten railway infrastructure and the smell of spray paint lingering in the air.
Well, where once a railroad line crossed through the wilds of London’s Haringey and Islington, a scenic 5.0 km linear green pedestrian and cycle route has taken its place and the crumbling, abandoned stations and tunnels are now home to urban legends, graffiti, and some whimsically unsettling decoration.
The route of the path between Finsbury Park and Highgate was originally constructed by the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway in the 1860s as part of its railway line from Finsbury Park to Edgware. Before the line was opened on 22 August 1867, it was purchased by the larger Great Northern Railway (GNR), while branch lines from Finchley to High Barnet, and from Highgate to Alexandra Palace, opened in 1872 and 1873.
It was even scheduled to be connected to the London Metro at one point, but the onset of World War II put a stop the plan despite much of the construction work already being completed. The railways continued to be used right up until 1970, but eventually the line was closed, and in 1984 the Parkland Walk was established.
After the track was lifted, most of the platforms and station buildings were demolished, even if the long trail is punctuated at various point by the ruins of the train line, many of which are still accessible to visitors. Much of the area has been put to use for ecological projects and, in the late 1980s, the park was threatened by a plan to build a road along its route but withdrawn following local opposition which was co-ordinated by The Friends of the Parkland Walk. The walk was declared a local nature reserve in 1990.
Today gnarled trees lean over your head while the aging brick stands out and local legends have unsurprisingly sprung up along the evocative path, with children daring one another just to walk down it in the dark.
Along the walk just before the disused platforms at Crouch End, a man-sized sculpture by London-based sculptor Marilyn Collins has been placed in one of the alcoves of the wall at the footbridge before the former station.
It is a spriggan, or a wood spirit, mischievous creatures from Cornish folklore, known for thieving, but also for their part-time roles as fairy bodyguard, notorious for its unpleasant dispositions, who delighted in working mischief against those who offended it.
It has been suggested that the sculpture, and the Parkland Walk generally, provided the inspiration for Stephen King’s short story “Crouch End”. However, as the story was first published in 1980 and the sculpture not erected until 1993, there can be no connection between the Spriggan and the story.
Either way, according to a local urban legend, a ghostly “goat-man” haunted the walk especially in the 1970s and 1980s.
Graffiti is the only other constant decoration along the trail, which constantly changes and evolves just like the nature all around it.
Source and photos: Wikipedia