Image: Alexandra Palace/Andy Paradise
Hattie Lloyd 04/04/23
Itinerary Location: Haringey & Crouch End | Duration: 6 Hours
If this is Spring, then winter was like a long, saggy, over-stretched slinky.
But the brighter days are finally upon us, and what better way to make use of them than to venture – dare we say it – outdoors? To bask in the canopies of blushing cherry blossoms? To frolic, lamb-like, across the parklands of London? To make an afternoon of drinking an acceptable activity, because you’re doing it outside?
However, locating London’s cherry blossoms is a gruelling, time-sensitive sport that should be attempted only by the extremely hardy. The rest of us should make do with a tailor-made day out that involves swan pedalos, a secluded railway park that’s home to actual deer, and a beer garden masquerading as a treehouse, that just happens to take in some of the season’s finest blooms along the way.
We begin the day at Alexandra Palace station, ready to head, fittingly, to:
This vast stretch of greenery is a bit like the Crystal Palace Park of the north: there’s acres of rolling parkland to explore, glittering boating lakes, a skate park and a Sunday farmer’s market – except this park still has its palace, too. Ally Pally is a jaw-dropping jewel of Victorian architecture. Its grand circular window looks like something that’s been nicked from Notre Dame, and it sits on top of a hill with some of the most impressive views you can find in London. Go for an early(ish) morning stroll through the grounds, rent a swan pedalo, crush the competition at the 10-hole golf course, and finish up outside the palace itself to soak up the parade of cherry blossom trees that frame the panorama of the city.
Hop onto the W3 bus (it stops just in front of the Palace) for ten minutes or so, and get off at Tottenham Lane (or if you fancy the exercise, it’s about a half hour walk). Head right onto the main road, and walk down past Arthouse (one of London’s best independent cinemas) and past the parade of shops until you spot…
The family-run Beam cafés are a little ray of light in Notting Hill and Highbury, but their spacious Crouch End spot is where it all began. Not that being spacious does anything to thin out the queues snaking down the street, sadly. Brunch here, however, is worth the wait. There’s the signature Eggs Benedict; a shawarma-spiced patty with pickled red cabbage and crispy, golden-yolked eggs. There’s the classic French toast; lavished with vanilla crème fraîche, banana and salted caramel. And there’s the Turkish eggs, swimming in garlic yoghurt, brown butter and hunks of spicy beef sausage. And yes, for some reason, Beam also serves salads.
It may be some time before you’re ready to move again, but when you are, head back outside and continue down the street past the clock tower and the beautiful 1930s town hall (set to reopen as an arts centre sometime this year). Stop in along the way at Dunn’s, one of the city’s oldest bakeries, and take the left road at the fork, down Crouch Hill. On your left, Cecile Park is one of London’s prettiest streets in Spring, when the road is flanked by a fluttering chorus of pink cherry blossom trees.
Continuing along Crouch Hill, keep your eyes peeled for a small opening on your right, and follow it down to…
This secluded three-mile linear park is one of London’s best walks. Stretching from Highgate in the west along to Finsbury Park in the east, the Parkland Walk follows the route of an old railway line. Over the years, the disused tracks were taken away, and nature has been allowed to reclaim the path left behind. It’s now the city’s longest nature reserve, home to over 300 species of wildflower as well as birds, butterflies, hedgehogs, and the occasional muntjac deer, while the disused station buildings make the setting all the more strange and atmospheric. Keep an eye out for the spriggan statue (a kind of Cornish folk creature) looming out from a brick alcove near the old platforms of Crouch End station, as well as the art of Ben Wilson, who creates tiny, colourful paintings on discarded blobs of chewing gum.
Once you reach the end of the trail, head down Oxford Road, take a left down Woodstock and a right down Perth Road until you reach the corner building cloaked entirely in climbing ivy…
Hiding beneath all that greenery is The Faltering Fullback, a magpie’s nest of vintage Guinness posters and beer kegs, with birdcages, instruments and anything else the owners could get their hands on strung up across the ceiling. It’s a unique setting, and one which comes alive when local musicians pitch up in a corner on Sunday evenings. But on a bright, sunny day, it would be sacrilegious not to ascend the twisting wooden staircases to find a spot in the pub’s multi-storey treehouse of a beer garden; a leafy, decked oasis dotted with yet more eclectic decor and dozens of little nooks to settle in with a pint.
Feeling peckish? Well, there’s one final stop to take in. Keep going down Perth Road and head right up the main road until you reach…
Max Halley’s café is the definition of a cult classic. This Crouch Hill canteen has been churning out some of the finest sandwiches in the city since its inception in 2014. Punters make the pilgrimage for numbers like the Tikkanother Piece of My Heart (goat tikka masala, Bombay mix and lime pickle mayo) and the ultimate Ham, Egg ‘n’ Chips, with shoestring fries, slow-cooked ham hock and malt vinegar mayo. They are not made to be devoured with dignity. Throw decorum out of the window and rejoice in the springy, mayo-slathered, jaw-busting mess of it all before retreating to Crouch Hill station and napping on the Overground in gracious defeat.
➊ Alexandra Palace Park | Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
➋ Beam | 39-41 Topsfield Road, London N8 8PT
➌ Parkland Walk | Crouch Hill, London N4 4SE
➍ The Faltering Fullback | 19 Perth Road, London N4 3HB
➎ Max’s Sandwich Shop | 19 Crouch Hill, London N4 4AU
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Starts at Alexandra Palace train station, Crouch End, N22 7SS
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