Everyone thinks that their home patch is special. That's the way it should be. But excuse my parochialism, I am absolutely convinced that my local splash of green, Waterlow Park, is the loveliest in London.
It's been shown to best effect on recent sunny winter mornings. There's something bewitching about it. The park is just 26 acres, on the southern slope of Highgate Hill, looking out towards the City four miles or so away. It's gorgeous!
The park was given to the people of London as 'a garden for the gardenless' by Sir Sydney Waterlow in 1889. He was a business man and philanthropist, a Lord Mayor of London and the Liberal MP for Islington North (the seat now held by Jeremy Corbyn).
There's an imposing statue in the park of this public benefactor.
Adjoining the park is Lauderdale House, which dates back to 1580 and has a nice cafe and an outside seating area.
And the park has three ponds, all fed by natural springs. The photo below is of the middle pond where I have seen a kingfisher (just once, but how many Londoners have spotted a kingfisher in their local park!) and terrapins.
From the park you have an enticing view over high-rise Central London, which adds to the magic.
And fun fact: unlikely as it may seem, Mott the Hoople (remember those dudes?) wrote a song about the park entitled 'Waterlow'.
Waterlow Park, captivating in the bright winter sun. What a lot of bright autumnal Sundays we have had this year. You can just make out the turquoise green of St Joseph's through the trees. The most wondrous sights are often close at hand!
What I remember most from my first visit to Agra, almost twenty years ago, is the parakeets. At Agra station as dusk gathered, parakeets roosted in their hundreds just the other sides of the tracks. I'd never seen such birds in the wild, and their raucous assembly and vivid colours lodged in my memory.
Fast forward to the present, and parakeets are one of the more common birds on Hampstead Heath. I've seen them on occasions from my kitchen window in NW5. The exotic is now at our doorstep.
But this globalisation of fauna didn't prepare me for what I saw yesterday at Waterlow Park, one of north London's more hidden away and entirely glorious open spaces. I've seen herons there, and on one solitary occasions a kingfisher - but turtles?
There on a log peeping out of the top pond was a basking turtle, about the size of a side plate. On the bank a few yards away, another one lazed a few inches from the water's edge. So, what's the back story? I didn't think there were any indigenous turtles in these parakeeted isles?
Not that I'm complaining. It's wonderful to have turtles in Waterlow Park.
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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