diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NR400: 1613 - 2013
7: Stoke Newington → Islington
(3 miles)

Today the New River runs no further than the reservoirs in Stoke Newington. But 400 years ago it ran three miles further, all the way to fields on the edge of London near the Angel. This final section became disused and was covered over in the early 20th century. But very little has actually been built over, so it's surprisingly easy to follow the route through Canonbury and Islington. Indeed as lost rivers go, this anniversary-celebrating canal is far less lost than most.

The 'Heritage' section of the New River Walk starts in Clissold Park. Ignore the two lakes to the north of the park, they're merely ornamental ponds on the line of the Hackney Brook. This stream was the last of the natural valleys the New River had to negotiate, thankfully shallow, but still requiring a Highbury-ward diversion. To continue on the New River Path walk halfway down the park to the Pump House kiosk, an original waterside building now serving drinks and sandwiches, and turn left. Hackney council have restored a short section of the New River through the heart of the park, fairly recently in fact, appearing suddenly within a fenced-off rockery. Two new footbridges have been built, each end marked with the seal of the New River Company and its motto "Et plui super unam civitatem" ("And I rained upon one city"). The waterway looks more river than canal on the corner by Clissold House - once the estate's mansion, now a Grade II listed cafe. And then the channel disappears again beyond an iron footbridge, because it isn't really flowing anywhere, in truth it's just another ornamental pond.

Another double-back leads to the New River Cafe, a 'proper' cornershop eaterie serving cappuccinos and salads. Look behind to discover a string of allotments along Aden Passage which precisely follows the original New River. There wasn't room to squeeze houses in here so they replaced the river bed with beds for beans and marrows instead. Indeed "there wasn't room to squeeze houses in here" explains much of what we're about to see. Petherton Road is a case in point. Houses were built down both sides of the New River in the 1880s - aspirational four storey terraces by modern standards - set back one road's width from the water's edge. When the New River was culverted this created a half-mile-long avenue with a space down the centre, once used for car parking, more recently turned over to grass. The local residents association are duly proud, and have thrown down woodchip in the central section to prevent their landscape feature being churned into mud. On Sunday they're holding a 400th anniversary picnic on Petherton Green, as it's now called, and will be making a flight of fishes to hang from the trees. A charming street, this.

The road continues, still wider than normal, past the Snooty Fox pub and Canonbury station. And then comes a rather splendid re-creation, New River Walk, a landscaped half-mile of which Islington council are very proud. A thin strip of green curves round from St Paul's Road to the Essex Road, overshadowed by trees, with what looks like the New River wiggling down the centre. But there are a few clues that it's not. For a start the water's not flowing, it's still, hence ideal for leafy reflection. More blatantly the channel's not straight, it bends and curves in an attractive manner whereas Myddleton's original channel cut direct. Transformation took place in the 1950s, creating a replica of a moorland stream with shrubs and rockeries of Westmoreland stone. Various sections have been upgraded since, adding wooden walkways and willowy pools, which so isn't the state of the open New River upstream. But never mind the authenticity, enjoy the ambience.

The most characterful part of New River Walk occurs near the end close to Canonbury Road. A small stone hut, thought to have belonged to a watchman, survives at a bend in the river. The channel here is the original New River, narrower as was the case in 1613, with its wooden banks (or revetments) restored. It's a favoured spot for waterfowl, and blimey if there wasn't a heron standing there clear as day keeping watch when I passed. This one's a long-standing visitor, it even attended the reopening ceremony (along with Princess Alexandra) when this particular section was restored in 1998. But that's it for water on the surface. The final section along Astey's Row is entirely dry, home to a linear rock garden (and that's Greenpeace HQ in the old boiler house alongside). Watch out for a map of the New River inscribed in the path at the far end - it's a bit faint, but a nice touch.

Essex Road is where civilisation hits. If you carry on walking down to Islington Green there's a statue to Sir Hugh Myddleton in the most prominent position possible where Upper Street divides. Islington really took to the New River's creator and the prosperity he brought to these fields, indeed he was namechecked again at the Myddleton Arms pub a few streets back. Sir Hugh's artificial aqueduct crossed obliquely beneath Essex Road by tunnel, then resurfaced alongside what's now Colebrook Row. When the Regent's Canal arrived 200 years later it therefore had to pass underneath the New River, which it does near the entrance to the Islington Tunnel. I'd previously thought that the linear parkland on top was just another garden square, and never previously twigged it was yet another manifestation of the New River. Again the houses are very pleasant here, that's just round the back of Angel tube. And don't forget to look up by Duncan Terrace to enjoy a cluster of 300 bird and bee boxes hugging the trunk of a tree, entitled 'Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven', part of the Secret Garden Project.

That really (really) is almost it. 28 miles down from Hertford and there's only a few hundred yards to go, cutting across City Road and Goswell Road a short distance downhill from the Angel. The New River would then have passed through what's now Owen's Field, a minor parklet alongside City and Islington College, where you could easily sit and eat your lunch or watch your dog perform without ever realising the history of this spot. A few more hints follow. Chadwell Street, named after the New River's springs in Ware, rises up to the glorious expanse of Myddleton Square. Beyond are River Street and Mylne Street, the latter named after the New River Company's Victorian chief engineer. And just off Rosebery Avenue is New River Head, the ultimate terminus of both water and walk. 399 years, 361 days, and counting.

» Map of the New River Walk: http://www.shelford.org/walks/newriver.pdf
» The entire route; my map of today's walk; map from 1834
» Click here to start from section 1

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards