Northbound – walk from St.Pauls through Islington to Highgate

It was an odd walk in a way, but one that has stayed with me over the Christmas period since. There was just the desire to walk – to be out. I knew where I didn’t fancy and with only around 3 hours of daylight I wanted options for walking in the dark. The pivotal moment was at the ticket barriers – east or west.

Roman Wall City of London

I alighted at St.Pauls and let old instincts guide me. A look at the Roman London Wall in Noble Street, the on to Golden Lane Estate where there was a recent protest against the redevelopment of former Police accommodation into a block of luxury flats.

Golden Lane development

Up Goswell Road and across Northampton Square, one variation on my daily walk home from work at the South Bank when I lived up at the Angel, and also our route to Ironmonger Row Baths. Andrew Kötting’s expression ‘the noise of memory’ came to mind, when there is so much memory attached to an area that it almost becomes overwhelming. This territory on the slopes of Islington and Finsbury is like that for me, the sound intensifying as I made my way up Chapel Market, the Christmas tree seller having a furious argument down the phone kicking empty boxes. There’s a For Let sign above the iconic Manze’s pie and mash shop, the one featured in The London Nobody Knows, let’s hope I don’t add to the ‘Dead Pie Shop Trail’*.

Manze's Pie and Mash Chapel Market

On through Barnsbury to Holloway Road as the sun starts hitting the glorious Holloway Odeon. I sorely tempted to give up the ghost and while away an hour or two in the Coronet – a beautiful old cinema converted into a Wetherspoons. Something keeps me plodding on towards the Northern Heights, an image I’d conjured in my head at the beginning of the walk of ending up in Highgate.

Coronet Holloway Road

Faced with the Archway Tavern I think of Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity that I first read some 20 years ago when music played a far bigger part in my life than it does today and I would routinely pass a happy hour thumbing through racks of vinyl on dusty old record shops. At the time I felt the Archway Tavern must have been the pub/venue in the book where the record shop staff watch bands. The shop, Championship Vinyl, is located in on Seven Sisters Road (so is the Harry Lauder actually the World’s End instead?). There’s a secondhand book stall in front of the old Archway Tavern and sure enough they have a slightly battered copy of High Fidelity that I pick up for £2.50 and have been reading over Christmas. It’s funny how the book has aged in that time.

Gatehouse Highgate

Highgate Village was every bit as festive as hoped with chains of Christmas lights looped across the High Street. I make for the Gatehouse, an old coaching inn with a resident ghost. I tell the young barman about the spectral guest that haunts the pub and he fixes me with a look of disbelief. ‘It’s true’, I say, ‘look out for it when you’re locking up later.’

 

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* this was an essay I wrote for Jake Green’s photobook documenting the surviving Pie and Mash shops in London. My essay was a walk linking sites of several former Pie and Mash shops. There are copies of the book in each of the remaining Pie and Mash Shops in London. Get yourself a double pie and mash and settle down with a copy.

3 Comments

  1. Lee sturley   •  

    Great read very interesting to know our history. Learn something every time. Many thanks yours truly kind regards Lee Sturley.

  2. John Low   •  

    Very enjoyable. You might think it odd but I was especially taken with Dick Whittington’s (probably fictional) cat. I’ve a bit of an interest in animals in our history and always keep an eye out for such memorials (also have an obsession with old horse troughs). Though I’m sure I’ve heard of the Whittington stone before, the sculptured cat on top escaped my memory. Your inclusion of it sent me off on a bit of research and it seems that, while the stone dates from 1821, the cat wasn’t added until 1964. It looks like a lovely little statue, though I can’t say its iron cage does much to enhance it. Vandal and theft protection I guess. I read that another sculpture featuring Whittington’s cat is at the front of the Guildhall Art Gallery in London; also that a black cat appears on the Whittington Hospital sign and that, indeed, in recent times a local cat was a regular visitor and popular with the staff until his owners moved away. Perhaps my favourite Australian feline memorial is the one of Trim who sits on a window sill outside the State Library of NSW in Sydney, just behind the statue of his master, the great maritime explorer Matthew Flinders. Anyway, another terrific walk, John. Many thanks and I hope 2018 brings you a lot of joy and many more walks. PS. Kotting’s “noise of memory” is spot on!

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