Gillespie Park

Finsbury Park Junction is always busy, always noisy – but next to the tube station there is a black gate with a sign that gives you a clue that this is a portal to a magical space, hidden away.

Go through the gate, up the steps and along the path, past four grey tower blocks towards the gigantic Arsenal Stadium and suddenly you find yourself amongst meadows, woodland and hedgerows. This is Gillespie Park.

Follow the path across the meadow where birdfoot trefoil, rosebay willowherb, wild carrot and musk marrow grow along with many other wildflowers and grasses. This environment is carefully managed with one half of the space mowed at a time so that the creatures can escape into the other half.

Lumps of stone and metal scattered here and there are all that remain of its industrial past.

This was once the site of Stephens Ink Factory which closed in the 1960s. Now there are schoolchildren running around with butterfly nets and families picnicking – a rural scene, right here in this urban area.

Wooden signposts point along the wayside, taking you into shady woodland which is cool even on the hottest days of summer.

Here you can listen to blue tits, wrens and goldcrests singing. Stay quite still and a robin will approach you as though he is going to lead you through this enchanted wood.

Amongst the trees there is no sound of traffic, just the rustle of leaves. No music or people talking, just birdsong. You could stay here for a while – but there are other places to explore in this sanctuary.

You come across a pool with water lilies spreading out across the water, so dense that you feel you could walk on them across the pond.

All around there are reeds that are ten feet tall.

And here is the chance to envisage a greener future: a wind turbine.

Walk from Finsbury Park station

North London map