The Olympic Legacy

Well, the Olympics have now drawn to a close and what the government term the “Olympic Legacy” will soon begin.

Whatever is going to happen to the Olympic site, one thing has most certainly changed in that the Olympics have helped make the wider East End of London cool, and have alerted visitors and Londoners alike to what, to many people, is a truly undiscovered and unexplored part of London.

Until the Olympics the furthest East most visitors got was probably the Tower of London with the more intrepid possibly heading into the districts of Spitalfields and Shoreditch.

But now, what 7 or 8 years ago was a run down part of the capital has become a truly amazing place to explore. Canal tow paths that lead you past Victorian factories and buildings can introduce you to forgotten parts of London’s industrial past, as can cobbled lanes that lead into 18th century mill complexes.

I’m currently working on a new book of walks around London and have spent the past 6 weeks mapping out trails all over the capital. The book ignores the well known, and well chronicled, tourist routes and concentrates instead on the less explored areas and aspects of London. I have to say I’ve really had a blast walking the parts of London that few visitors ever venture into.

Quite a few of the walks have taken me into the pats of the East End that have been given a new lease of life by their involvement in the 2012 Olympic Games. Others have taken me further afield to the far west or to the dense south of London, more of which in a later blog.  

But other walks have yielded up some genuine surprises in parts of London I would never have dreamt of venturing into had it not been for my research for the book.

This week, for example, I headed over to Finsbury Park Station to pace out a walk in one of London’s most idyllic wildernesses. Now most people who know London would probably scratch their head in bafflement by my referring to Finsbury Park as an idyllic wilderness! But bear with me on this.

True, when you emerge from the station you are confronted by a busy, not particularly attractive, high street that is lined with shops, pubs and takeaways for which the description  “idyllic” is probably the last word to come to mind.

But, if you turn left, cross Stroud Green Road, head into Finsbury Park itself, which is, I have to say, a lovely park, you are in for a pleasant. Having veered left to follow the railway embankment, turned left at the junction, crossed the bridge over the railway line and gone sharp right, you join the Parkland Walk which follows the disused Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace Railway Line.

Within moments the roar of modern London falls away to be replaced by the tweeting (and I’m not talking 140 characters here!) of birds and the sound of the leaves rustling in the breeze.

You pass through woodland, go through tunnels, over bridges and, at one stage, you even pass between the platforms of an abandoned railway station. Your companions throughout the journey are joggers, cyclists, and dog walkers, and you are able to admire the art of graffiti artists on bridge and tunnel walls on a stroll that is both exhilarating and fascinating.

So, if you really want to experience another side of London and see how many green spaces and secret places this city contains then why not head out to Finsbury Park and uncover a wonderful slice of the countryside in the heart of London?