North London Food & Culture

Bored of the Heath? A trio of proper lockdown walks

From forest saunters to extended waterside hikes, take your pick from these three corkers

Who doesn’t love – lockdown or no lockdown – a brisk hike around the Heath and up Parliament Hill to take in the views?

And anyone with littl’uns is bound to have animal-spotted along the Regent’s Canal. But, when you’ve braced the autumnal air at the usual spots, where next?

Here are three routes we’ve enjoyed this month, from shorter strolls to extremely hearty jaunts.

Queen’s Wood, Highgate. Photos: Laura Evans

Highgate Woods

Our first pilgrimage takes us nimbly up the steep Dartmouth Park Hill and past Crick’s Corner, before hanging left into 29-acre Waterlow Park – a quieter green space than its better-known neighbours. Head for the Middle Pond, keeping a beady eye out for terrapins basking on fallen branches. And then follow the incline, before leaving via the high street.


We like to stop for takeaway empanadas at Chango, the queue well worth the wait. To drink? A moreish mulled apple juice laced with Christmas pudding gin is a killer option from the new Sacred Distillery store.

Warming cup in hand, it’s onwards along Southwood Lane. Glance right at Kingsley Place: the cityscape view is worthy of a quick pause. Then it’s just 15 minutes northwards to Highgate Wood and the Gypsy Gate.

The 28-hectare oasis is a haven for wildlife, with more than thirty bird species breeding there, and seven types of bat recorded. Take the circular trail around the ancient woodland or criss-cross your way.

And for those with extra energy, wander eastwards to explore Queen’s Wood, pictured above. Float back downhill to your less lofty north London perch – or there are, of course, tube and bus options too.

Woodberry Wetlands. Photo: Laura Evans

Woodberry Wetlands

Make a short winter’s day of it and, taking the Overground to Harringay Green Lanes from Gospel Oak, start with a ramble around leafy Finsbury Park. Exit back at Green Lanes, one of the capital’s longest single roads at just over six miles. (It spans five postcodes too). Cross the busy thoroughfare, slip through the gateway, and pick up the New River – a somewhat misleading name for a four centuries-old man-made aqueduct.

Amble the meandering footpath that runs alongside, taking in the arching weeping willow and towering reeds. On our visit, a swan sits proudly in the water atop a mighty impressive nest. We leave the large bird to her motherly act and continue on.

Leftwards, a pair of 19th-century reservoirs can be spied. The eastern one is a thriving nature reserve unveiled by Sir David Attenborough in 2016 following a £1.5 million cash injection. And west is a sports centre where the likes of sailing, kayaking and swimming can be dabbled in – when permitted, of course.

From here you can either snake through Stoke Newington, with Church Street’s multitude of eating and drinking options, down to Canonbury Overground, or walk back along the same path to Harringay Green Lanes.

Looking across to the Olympic Park. Photo: Laura Evans

Hackney Wick

Okay, so this is for the 15,000+ steps a day brigade. Coming in at two hours (that’s marching at a decent pace and one-way only), it’s mainly a canalside excursion.

Join either down at King’s Cross or, depending on where you live, further east along the towpath at Baring Street, a little beyond Rosemary Gardens in N1.

Now continue along through Haggerston and past Broadway Market. Be sure to watch out for the legions of cyclists at any one time flying past and ringing their bells (more on that issue here).

Houseboats galore line the waterway; we can’t help but peek through their dinky portholes and wonder what life is like within. To the right, rear gardens of varying size back onto the bank, and on the left is sprawling Victoria Park.

Shortly after you see the boating lake and the eye-catching Chinese Pagoda, follow the Hertford Union Canal eastwards past graffiti-adorned tunnels and a ton of flat developments.

The end point? Either one of the main bars doing takeout along the water at Hackney Wick; or Here East, a parade that was originally part of the Media Centre for the Olympics, and whose eclectic eating and drinking outlets are all open for takeaway (we recommend plant-based fare at Mother, or a burger at Randy’s).

And rest your weary feet on the train back: the Overground station itself is only a few minutes’ walk away, whisking you back to the manor in just 20 minutes.

Main image: Hackney Wick (Laura Evans).

Please support us if you can

If you enjoyed reading this, perhaps you could help out? In November 2020, Kentishtowner celebrates its 10th birthday. But with the sad demise of our free independent monthly print titles due to advertising revenues in freefall, we need your support more than ever to continue delivering cultural stories that celebrate our neighbourhood. Every contribution is invaluable in helping the costs of running the website and the time invested in the research and writing of the articles published. Support Kentishtowner here for less than the price of a coffee – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.