Gladstone Park to Fryent Country Park: The Natural Treasures of North London

A warm welcome to all the London lovers and walking enthusiasts out there! My journey today will take me to the most Northern part of the capital that I’ve explored as I begin at Gladstone Park and uncover the gem of Dollis Hill House. I’ll then discover Woodfield Park and Brent Reservoir, before heading through Silver Jubilee Park and concluding at Fryent Country Park. It’s a walk which takes me to woodlands, a reservoir and a country park and sees me stroll through some of North London’s most wonderful sights.

Screenshot 2019-06-07 at 21.49.08.png
Gladstone Park to Fryent Country Park

Located in Dollis Hill, Gladstone Park is 35 hectares (86 acres) of picturesque trees and glorious greenery.  The arrival of the Great Central Railway towards the end of the 19th century led to the loss of sports grounds in Neasden, which prompted the public to back a new park in Dollis Hill.

IMG_8857.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8859.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8864.jpeg
Gladstone Park

The proposed land to be used was part of the Finch family’s estate, and after local objection was resolved, funds were raised to purchase it for £52,000. The funds would come from a variety of councils, including Middlesex County Council, London County Council, Hampstead, Hendon and Willesden.

IMG_8867.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8870.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8872.jpeg
Gladstone Park

The contract to purchase the house, gardens and estate from Robert Augustus Finch was signed by the council on 9 August 1899. On 12 December 1899 it was agreed to name the park after William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister who had died the previous year and who had visited the house for many years.

IMG_8875.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8877.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8879.jpeg
Cool bird sculpture!
UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1831.jpg
Cool bird sculpture!

The park was designed by Oliver Claude Robson, the District Council Surveyor. It was decided to leave the northern part of the new park to its ‘original and natural beauty’, while devoting the southern section of the park to sports. Robson would also install fencing, a children’s playground, seats, stabling, pavilions for football and cricket, and a water supply. Interestingly no paths were created, instead these were added once the park was opened as Robson wanted people to mark out their own pathways.

IMG_8884.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8887.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8889.jpeg
Gladstone Park

Today the London Borough of Brent owns the park and is maintained by the Brent Parks Service. Some of the park’s features include a formal garden, duck pond, varied terrain, woodland and hedgerows.

The entire park area, especially the pleasure gardens and pond, really are one of London’s hidden gems, and whenever I walk around them basking in their natural splendour, I do think that had I not been a fan of walking around the capital, I’d never have come across it! Gladstone Park isn’t a tourist hotspot, nor is it somewhere that’s well-known, so unless you’ve visited it before, you’d probably never come across it. That’s a great shame and is one of the many reasons I love doing this blog as I can discover areas such as these. For a moment of peace and quiet, you’d definitely want to pay it a visit.

IMG_8891.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8899.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8900.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8902.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8904.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8922.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8924.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8928.jpeg
Gladstone Park
IMG_8930.jpeg
Gladstone Park

One of the park’s historical landmarks was the Dollis Hill House which was an early 19th century farmhouse located on the northern boundary of Gladstone Park. The house was built in 1825 by the Finch family when the Dollis Hill area was still rural. In 1881 Lord Tweedmouth’s daughter and her husband, Lord Aberdeen, took up residence. They often had Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone stay as a guest. Other guests at the house included Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Rosebery, and Lord Randolph Churchill, father of Winston Churchill. The Aberdeens moved out in 1897 after Lord Aberdeen was appointed Governor-General of Canada. The Willesden and Urban District Council acquired the house and land in 1899. A notable resident of the house was American author Mark Twain who stayed there in the summer of 1900.

Sam Clemens at back of house.mth.jpg
Dollis Hill House (Source: Dollis Hill House.org)

The house would open to the public in 1909 and was used as a hospital during the First World War. Also, in 1941 it was used as Winston Churchill’s war cabinet during the Second World War. From 1974 the house was used for training courses for catering students until it closed in 1989. The house was damaged badly in two separate fires in 1995 and 1996 and remained derelict from then onwards before being demolished in 2012 and landscaped as a stabilised ruin. Despite many campaigns to restore the house to its former glory, none have unfortunately come to fruition.

The ruins from the house remain near the pleasure grounds to provide a slight glimpse of what it used to look like. Even though the house hasn’t been resorted, it’s lovely to see that a part of it is still there and is a wonderful legacy to a truly beautiful building which has a lot of history attached to it.

IMG_8912.jpeg
Remains of Dollis Hill House
IMG_8917.jpeg
Remains of Dollis Hill House

I’ll now leave Gladstone Park and visit my next destination on my walk today, Woodfield Park. Located in Hendon, the park is home to the Brent Reservoir which is commonly known as the Welsh Harp and straddles the boundary between the boroughs of Brent and Barnet, and is owned by the Canal & River Trust.

IMG_8938.jpeg
Brent Reservoir
IMG_8946.jpeg
Brent Reservoir
IMG_8966.jpeg
Brent Reservoir

The Welsh Harp name comes from the public house which also had the same name and stood nearby until the early 1970s. The 68.6 hectare (169 acres) area is a site of special scientific interest and is home to the sailing centre, the Welsh Harp Sailing Club, Wembley Sailing Club, the Sea Cadets and the University of London Sailing Club. The reservoir now holds an estimated 1,600,000 m³.

IMG_8948.jpeg
Brent Reservoir
IMG_8950.jpeg
Brent Reservoir
IMG_8954.jpeg
Brent Reservoir

The history of the reservoir dates back to 1820 when there wasn’t enough water to supply the Grand Union Canal and the Regent’s Canal, so having obtained an enabling act of Parliament in 1819, the Regent’s Canal Company decided to dam the River Brent to create a reservoir and cut a feeder channel from it to an upper point on the Grand Union Canal. The reservoir was constructed by contractor William Hoof between 1834 and 1835, with additional extensions to it completed in December 1837.  Having explored many watery wonders on my walks, this is the first time I’ve visited a reservoir, so it’s something else I’ve managed tick off my London walking checklist!

IMG_8940.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8942.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8944.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8952.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8957.jpeg
Woodfield Park

The surrounding area beside the reservoir is called Woodfield Park and contains a wide variety of birds including the great crested grebe, gadwall, shoveler, common pochard, tufted duck and common tern. Also it’s home to 31 species of butterfly, dragonflies and damselflies as well as foxes, squirrels and bats. I really enjoyed walking through the grass, by the trees and under the branches discovering all the parks little treasures. One of the best sights you’ll see when you explore the park is the sun shining through the trees creating mesmerising light and shadow.

IMG_8958.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8962.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8965.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8968.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8970.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8972.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8974.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8976.jpeg
Woodfield Park
IMG_8978.jpeg
Woodfield Park

It’s time for me to leave Woodfield Park and Brent Reservoir and make the journey to my final location on today’s walk, Fryent Country Park. To get there I pass by the lovely Silver Jubilee Park, which was renamed for the Jubilee of King George V in 1935. The park has a mixture of picturesque trees and sports facilities.

IMG_8982.jpeg
Silver Jubilee Park
IMG_8989.jpeg
Silver Jubilee Park

My walk concludes at Fryent Country Park which is 103 hectares (254 acres) of rolling fields and woodland located in the London Borough of Brent. The wood comprises of French oak, hornbeam, elm, ash and fruit trees, and is considered as one of the surviving examples of the Middlesex countryside.

IMG_8999.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9002.jpeg
Fryent Country Park

 

IMG_9008.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9012.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9014.jpeg
Fryent Country Park

Like with the Brent Reservoir, this is first time I’ve walked through a country park, something you don’t normally expect in London. While you’re walking through the park you get a glimpse of Wembley Stadium in the distance, which provides a true juxtaposition of a quiet natural park with a loud football stadium. When you stand in the middle of the park and look around, taking in a 360 degree view, all you can see is trees and green land, which does make it quite surreal and unique to other places in London.

When you think of London what normally comes to mind is landmarks such as Big Ben, The Shard or Buckingham Palace, and even when you think of the nature in the capital, you might think about Hyde Park or perhaps Hampstead Heath. But what makes exploring London so marvellous is you come across unexpected places like Fryent Country Park, which you wouldn’t have thought could be in London!

IMG_9016.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9018.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9023.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9025.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9028.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9030.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9033.jpeg
Fryent Country Park
IMG_9034.jpeg
Fryent Country Park

Well that’s all from my walk today which has seen me explore North London’s finest natural wonders from parks to reservoirs and a country park, it has included it all! So if you’re ever wandering around North London seeking some tranquility, there’s plenty to enjoy.

Thanks for reading and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood

Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge

Norbury Park to Tooting Commons

Lesnes Abbey Woods to the Thames Barrier

Richmond Green to Wimbledon Common

Chiswick Bridge to Kew Green

Sources:

All photos taken by London Wlogger unless stated © Copyright 2019

Information about Gladstone Park

Information about Dollis Hill House

Information about Brent Reservoir

Information about Silver Jubilee Park

Information about Fryent Country Park

Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge: Discovering Wandsworth and Battersea

Why hello there, and thanks for joining me on my next expedition of London. Today’s journey will see me explore south of the capital, as I begin at the iconic Clapham Junction station, take a stroll through Wandsworth Common and Wandsworth Bridge, before passing by Battersea Railway Bridge, and concluding at Battersea Bridge. It’s a walking adventure which has everything you love in London – the Thames, bridges, and parks!

Screen Shot 2019-02-09 at 15.44.33.png
Clapham Junction to Battersea Bridge

I start my walk at Clapham Junction train station, which is actually technically based in Battersea.  Before there was a railway, the area was rural, and was known for growing lavender, which is where the street name outside the station, ‘Lavender Hill’ derives from. There was a coach road from London to Guildford near where the south part of the station is now located.

IMG_7656.jpg
Clapham Junction Station

On 21 May 1838 the London and South Western Railway was formed after the merging of the London and Southampton Railway, which lead to the opening of the line from Nine Elms to Woking. This was the first railway through the area, however, it still didn’t have a station on the site. A second line between Nine Elms and Richmond opened on 27 July 1846, and then a line opened to London Victoria in 1860. This lead to the opening of Clapham Junction on 2 March 1863 as an interchange station between the lines from London, Brighton, the South Coast, and West London.

IMG_7645.jpg
Clapham Junction Station

Despite being in Battersea, the station has been stated as located in Clapham. One of the reasons given for this was partly due to the railway companies trying to attract middle and upper class clientele to the site, as Clapham was seen as more fashionable than the industrial Battersea, so they used this factor for station’s name.

Clapham Junction today has about 2,000 trains passing through it every day, which is the most for any station in Europe. At peak times 180 trains per hour will pass through the stations, with 117 stopping. About 430,000 passengers during the day on weekdays will pass through the station, which still doesn’t make it the highest by volume, as Waterloo has that honour.

IMG_7652.jpg
Clapham Junction Station

With 17 platforms there are mainline links from London to Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and the outskirts of London, as well as other parts of London via the London Overground. The station announcements are currently made by Celia Drummond and the late Phil Sayer.

As someone who uses the station on a regularly basis during peak hours, it’s a whole experience in itself, with the hustle and bustle of busy commuters, all with their own set destinations in mind, and there’s no time to stop and ponder!

IMG_7643.jpg
Clapham Junction Station

I’ll now leave the station to head to my next destination, Wandsworth Common. Now of course, I could hop on a train to the common which has a station right next to it, but this is a walking blog of course!

Just outside the station there’s a memorial plaque to remember those who lost their lives in the Clapham Junction railway crash back on 12 December 1988, when three trains collided with each other, killing 35 people and injuring 484.

IMG_7665.jpg
Clapham Junction Crash Memorial

Walking from there I head to the 69.43 hectare (171.6 acres), Wandsworth Common, which is a real south London gem of natural wonders and recreation. Back in the 1860s with the expansion of London, its railways, and the 4th Earl of Spencer selling off parts of the Common, there was demand to protect the area. This resulted in the Wandsworth Common Act 1871 being created to help ensure its future was secure.

After the creation of the London County Council (LCC) in 1890, which became the owner of the Common, it would turn the rubbish-strewn unkempt space, into the island of tranquility that we see today. In 1965 the LCC became the GLC, and the ownership of Wandsworth Common was handled by Wandsworth Borough Council. In addition to its own Act of Parliament, The Commons Act 2006 also ensures its safeguarding. The Common is split into twelve separate sections, and includes everything from an area for football, cricket and rugby, a playground, trees and plants, as well as a large lake.

IMG_7678.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7684.jpg
Wandsworth Common

Wandsworth Common is classed as a site of importance, so much so it has a Grade 1 status for nature conservation. It includes nine different ecological habitats, which cover grassland, woodlands, meadows, trees, plantation, amphibian wetland, and the pond and lakes.

The grassland throughout the Common is ideal for wild flowers, butterflies, grasshoppers, and other insects, and the tiny holes in the ground provide a solitary residence for bees.

IMG_7660.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7666.jpg
Wandsworth Common

There are a number of woodland areas whilst you walk through the vast space of the Common, which are a perfect place for grasses, shrubs, mosses, wild flowers, and plants to thrive. As well as the plants, the woodlands are a great habitat for beetles, centipedes, birds, and bats to enjoy.

IMG_7669.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7670.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7715.jpg
Wandsworth Common

One of the distinct elements of the Common is its water oasis which is teeming with life – from ducks and geese, to pond skaters and dragonflies, and fish and newts. It’s somewhere that covers every facet of nature and everything you could wish for to help all creatures and plants to survive and thrive. Being someone who loves being in the great outdoors and always loves exploring natural beauty like this, it’s refreshing and exciting to know that as time goes on, these essential areas are kept and maintained so splendidly.

This area does remind me of my walk to the neighbouring Clapham Common which has the perfect beautiful combination of ponds, green space, and trees too.

IMG_7686.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7688.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7692.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7694.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7696.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7698.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7700.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7704.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7706.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7711.jpg
Wandsworth Common
IMG_7713.jpg
Wandsworth Common

It’s time to leave Wandsworth Common and head down the long Trinity Road to my next stop, Wandsworth Bridge. The first bridge on the site was a toll bridge built by Julian Tolme in 1873, in the expectation that once the Hammersmith and City Railway terminus was built there would be an increase in the number of people wanting to cross over the river at this part along the Thames.

However, the railway terminus was never built and drainage problems made it difficult for vehicles to cross, which ultimately made Wandsworth Bridge commercially unsuccessful. As a result in 1880 it was taken into public ownership and the toll was removed. Although in 1926 a Royal Commission suggested that it should be replaced as it was too weak and narrow for buses.

IMG_7722.jpg
Wandsworth Bridge
IMG_7724.jpg
Wandsworth Bridge

Just over ten years later the bridge was demolished, and replaced with a steel cantilever bridge designed by Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, which opened in 1940, and is the bridge we see today. When it was opened it was painted in dull shades of blue as a camouflage against air raids, and this colour has remained ever since.

The length of the bridge is 650ft (200m), with a width of 60ft (18m). It proceeds Fulham Railway Bridge and follows Battersea Railway Bridge, and is one of the busiest bridges in London with over 50,000 vehicles a day going over it. It’s been given the name by many as being one of London’s most boring bridges, but I don’t buy that as I really love the colour of it as it compliments the blue of the river and the sky nicely.

IMG_7717.jpg
View from Wandsworth Bridge
IMG_7719.jpg
View from Wandsworth Bridge

Walking beyond Wandsworth Bridge along the Battersea Reach apartment complex, you walk past The Tidal Thames planting project which is a series of plants that were laid out near the river banks in 2005 when the complex was developed. Amongst this and across the Thames you’ll find an array of fish, birds, creatures, insects, and plants.

IMG_7733.jpg
Along the Battersea Reach

Whilst I stroll along the river towards Battersea Railway Bridge I pass this helipad and was lucky enough to see the helicopter landing, which was a pretty surreal experience!

IMG_7736.jpg
Along the Battersea Reach

The walk takes me to the second of the three bridges that I’ll discover on my walk, Battersea Railway Bridge. Designed by William Baker, who was the chief engineer of the London and North Western Railway, the bridge opened on 2 March 1863 at a cost of £87,000 (£8.2m in today’s money). The bridge is 754ft (230m) in length, with a width of 34ft (10.5m), and carries two railway tracks on it which lead into Imperial Wharf station.

IMG_7741.jpg
Battersea Railway Bridge

Consisting of five 120ft (37m) lattice girder arches set on stone piers, the bridge has been strengthened and refurbished twice – once in 1969 and again in 1992. The bridge was given the honour of Grade II listed status in 2008 to protect it from unsympathetic development. I personally really like Battersea Railway Bridge, especially the colour and cross design, something very satisfying and aesthetically pleasing about it. Also I find the fact that neither cars nor pedestrians can go across it adds to its uniqueness, as there aren’t too many bridges in London which are specifically for trains.

IMG_7745.jpg
Battersea Railway Bridge

I’ll now keep walking along the river onto my final sight on my walk, Battersea Bridge. Like with the original Wandsworth Bridge, the first Battersea Bridge was also a toll bridge, and was commissioned by John, Earl Spencer, who’d recently acquired the rights to operate a ferry on the Thames. There were plans to build the bridge out of stone, however, this was deemed to be too expensive, so a cheaper wooden one was built instead. The original bridge was designed by Henry Holland and only opened to pedestrians in 1771, and then to vehicle traffic in 1772.

IMG_7751.jpg
Battersea Bridge

Unfortunately, the bridge was poorly designed, and quite dangerous for those passing over it, as well as ships and boats who would often collide with it! Iron girders were installed, in addition to removing two piers from it to avoid the ships from colliding with it. It was in fact the last surviving wooden bridge on the Thames despite all its problems, and has inspired many artists including J. M. W. Turner, John Sell Cotman, and James McNeill Whistler to paint about it.

IMG_7760.jpg
Battersea Bridge

The bridge would be taken into public ownership in 1879, before being demolished in 1885. It was replaced with the structure we see today, which was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and built by John Mowlem & Co. It’s the narrowest of London’s bridges, and surprisingly one of the least busy, though I certainly didn’t feel that when I was on it!

The golden colouring of the bridge makes it really distinctive and eye-catching – and I personally love the lamp posts on it too, which adds a great deal of character to it. Whilst standing on the bridge you can see The Albert Bridge as well as Battersea Park and The Shard.

IMG_7758.jpg
View from Battersea Bridge

Well that’s all from me on this expedition of the capital, which has seen me explore some of the iconic bridges of south London, as well as one of the busiest railway stations in Europe and a captivating common. What are your memories of Wandsworth and Battersea? Have you explored them recently? Share your thoughts in the comments section, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for joining me and in the meantime you can follow all my walks on Twitter and Instagram, and don’t forget to sign up to my blog too so you don’t miss a post! Also why not have a read of my other walks which explore all over London, from north to south, to west to east via central, there’s something there for you! 🙂 Here are the links to them all below for you!

Victoria to Green Park

Marble Arch to Mayfair

The Shard to Monument

King’s Cross to Hampstead Heath

Leadenhall Market to Old Spitalfields Market

Waterloo to The London Eye

St Paul’s Cathedral to Moorgate

Mile End Park to London Fields

Hyde Park Corner to Italian Gardens

Little Venice to Abbey Road

Regent’s Park to Soho Square

Clapham Common to The Albert Bridge

Grosvenor Gardens to Knightsbridge

Holland Park to Meanwhile Gardens

Hackney Downs to Springfield Park

Tower Bridge to Stave Hill

Shoreditch to Islington Green

Highgate to Finsbury Park

Ravenscourt Park to Wormwood Scrubs

Covent Garden to Southwark Bridge

Putney Bridge to Barnes Common

Westminster Abbey to Vauxhall Bridge

Crystal Palace Park to Dulwich Wood

Sources: (not the food sauces)

All photos taken by London Wlogger © Copyright 2019

Information about Clapham Junction: Railway Wonders of the World

Information about Wandsworth Common: The Friends of Wandsworth Common

Information about Wandsworth Bridge: British History Online

Information about Battersea Railway Bridge: Know Your London

Information about Battersea Bridge: Londonist