A bright, sunny New Year's day - and I'm on my way. Hightailing through Dartmouth Park (not the posh conservation area, but the distinctly unposh space surrounding the covered reservoir on the east side of Dartmouth Park Road) - trying not to notice the overpowering whiff of dope surrounding the only guy on the benches at the highest point - and marvelling in this little known vantage point looking out to Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the Shard.
A little further east along Junction Road towards Archway, there's one of the most elegant buildings in this part of north London - now a great gastro pub, the mid-Victorian St John's Tavern.
The building dates from the 1860s, and was recently renovated with support from English Heritage and Islington council - there's more about that on this council site, from which I have taken the wonderful photo of the pub more than a century ago in 1904:
Then past the distinctly inelegant Archway, along St John's Way, and pushing over to the north end of Hornsey Road - a fairly anonymous area, though with lots of patches of open space, which I suspect reflects how badly it suffered in the blitz.
'The Shaftesbury' was shut - it seems to be one of those great local pubs which has closed and, happily, been reborn. Nearby there's a Shaftesbury Road and an Ashley Road - Ashley was the family name of the great social reformer the Earl of Shaftesbury (his big issue was improving working conditions in factories). I suspect the pub dates from the time of his death in the 1880s.
Along Hanley Road are a couple of buildings, council flats by the look of them, which have a crest with the motto: 'Deus per Omnia'. This translates as 'God through all things', or more colloquially 'in God we trust'.
No coincidence surely that this is also the motto on Arsenal's crest - their ground isn't all that far away.
On to Stroud Green Road, and what I guess I had in mind as the destination of this walk - one of London's most magical buildings. It's now a rambling pub, The Old Dairy, and was built in about 1890 by the Friern Manor Dairy Farm, which had an earlier buidling on this site (which probably explains why the building bears the date 1866).
There's a little about the history of the dairy on this wiki about Stroud Green - but it would be nice to know more about the fantastic, eye catching panelling. There are seven panels in all, in excellent condition - the two below illustrate 'Old Style Delivery' and 'Present Day Delivery' (do remember this was 120+ years ago).
If you have never seen this building, then just get out there and do it - the junction of Hanley Road and Crouch Hill to be precise. You won't be disappointed.
It has some really extraordinary architectural features - among them a couple of stone owls peering down on passers by. Lord knows what that's all about.
It's not quite what you expect in this otherwise rather drab and out-of-the-way corner of north London, but it is a real architectural curiosity and delight. The dairy apparently had quite a few offices and depots across London - but I'm not aware of anything else that quite matches this.
Just a few yards away is Crouch Hill station - and due any minute, a service on what I still call the North London line, which delivers me back to Gospel Oak in less than the time it's taken you to read this blog.
So that's how I spent my New Year's Day. Many more happy wanderings to come, I trust, in the course of 2013.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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