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Abney Park

Step inside the gates of Abney Park and you find yourself in an eerie overgrown graveyard where you can escape from the incessant noise of Stoke Newington.

In just a few moments after entering Abney Park, you can imagine that you have been transported back in time to when people travelled by foot or on horseback along these lanes with names like Wilson Ride and West Boundary Ride.

It feels so unnerving that you can almost expect see a horse and carriage carrying a coffin to the Gothic chapel whose ruins stand amongst the trees.

And there are many, many trees in Abney Park which was laid out as an arboretum; at one time, more different species of trees were counted here than in Kew Gardens. Native oaks, hornbeam and hawthorn reach out from the side of the lanes.

The trees in Abney Park are very well cared for even if they have suffered damage and disease – they are given a chance to recover and there have been some that have survived against all the odds including a silver birch which was struck by lightening and almost split in two and yet which continues to grow.

A tree that was ninety years old was damaged by fire in the 1980s and lived on for nearly three decades before finally being felled but has survived in a surprisingly different form – a coppice of trees sprout from its hollowed out trunk.

Ferns creep across the drier, shadier areas and dead trees are left to rest on the ground where they provide food and shelter to many different creatures and a home for fungi and insects, essential links in the chains of bio diversity that provide nourishment for flora and fauna.

Bats hide away in the trees above and there are a huge variety of birds.

Sparrow hawks and tawny owls breed in Abney Park; great spotted woodpeckers, black caps and stock doves have healthy populations in this nature reserve.

Green woodpeckers, chiff chaff, gold crest and coal tits can also be spotted as well as jays, thrushes and finches. There are also different species of bees including some that are rare.

On a windy day watch how the tall trees sway dramatically from side to side and yet others remain bolt upright as though they are the ones who are determined to remain on guard – silent and still, in respect for the dead.

And in spring, bluebells arrive to remind us that in nature life is never ending.

Walk from Stoke Newington Common or Stoke Newington Station

East London map and North London map


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