The Parkland Walk is a 4.5-mile (7.2 km) linear green walkway, in the London Boroughs of Haringey and Islington, which follows the course of the railway line which used to run between Finsbury Park through Stroud Green, Crouch End, Highgate and Muswell Hill to Alexandra Palace. It is a Local Nature Reserve and a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation. It was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 1990 and is London's longest LNR.
The walk is almost all in Haringey, but a short stretch between Crouch Hill and Crouch End Hill is in Islington. (Crouch Hill Park in Islington is to the south of the Islington stretch and immediately bordering on the Parkland Walk) The route follows the bridges and cuttings of the line, passing through tunnels on each side of the closed surface section of Highgate station, which is closed to walkers for safety reasons. The route between the northern end of the Highgate Tunnels to the Northern line depot at Wellington Junction is used by trains entering the depot, while the rest of the cutting round Highgate Wood from Wellington Junction to Cranley Gardens is outside The Wood’s fence, not officially part of Parkland Walk, and so is allowed to stay overgrown.
No trees were permitted to grow close to the track when the railway was operational. The range of trees found today has grown up in the last fifty years. Most arrived naturally (oak, ash, birch, hawthorn, cherry, apple, holly, rowan, sycamore and yew), but a few additional species have been planted (field maple, hazel, black Italian poplar and white poplar). More than three hundred species of wild flowers have been recorded on the Parkland Walk. They range from commonplace to exotic. Species sighted include Michaelmas daisies, golden rods, buddleia and Guernsey fleabane.
The great variety of plant life sustains a wide range of animals. Twenty two species of butterfly have been recorded. Hedgehogs benefit from the proximity of adjacent homes and occasional feedings from homeowners. Foxes are plentiful and muntjac (a small species of deer) are seen occasionally. A colony of slow-worms thrive along the grassy embankment. More than sixty species of bird have been seen along the walk and many breed here. Parkland Walk is known to be an important site for bats in the London context, providing important foraging habitat and an excellent dark commuting route. A significant bat roost is known to exist in the vicinity.
Sculpture and Urban Legends:
Along the walk just before the disused platforms at Crouch End, a man-sized green spriggan sculpture by Marilyn Collins has been placed in one of the alcoves of the wall at the footbridge before the former Crouch End station.
According to a local urban legend, a ghostly 'goat-man' haunted the walk in the 1970s and 1980s. Local children playing out in the evenings would 'dare' each other to walk the Parkland Walk from the Crouch End Hill bridge to the Crouch Hill bridge in the darkness. The sculpture, and Parkland Walk generally, provided the inspiration for Stephen King's short story "Crouch End".