I live next to a covered reservoir, the Maiden Lane reservoir, which gives a heartlifting pastoral aspect to this crowded corner of north London. You can see for yourself - the photo above is the view from my bedroom window (which also takes in the Emirates Stadium, Canary Wharf and quite a few of the City skyscrapers). You can just see the top of the reservoir, and the fenced off banks are home to foxes, woodpeckers, finches - a decent array of inner city wildlife.
There's a network of covered reservoirs across north London - at Highgate, Hornsey Rise, Stroud Green and Claremont Square and I'm sure many other locations as well. Most date from the mid-Victorian era when there was an acute need to provide water to a rapidly expanding city.
It's only when repair work started on the reservoir that I was reminded of its name. Maiden Lane was the ancient name for the route from King's Cross to Highgate, now fallen into disuse. The northern part of the lane was renamed Dartmouth Park Hill as long ago as the 1870s.
Sometimes in my more lurid imaginings, I fear that the reservoir is about to burst and sweep us all away down the hill, following - no doubt - the route of the former Fleet River. So I suppose I should be grateful that Thames Water has of late been conspicuous in carrying out repairs.
A few years ago, they rooted out the trees fronting Dartmouth Park Hill, without much of a by your leave, to ensure the integrity of the reservoir. Now another round of inspection and repair appears to have revealed a small crack in the reservoir lining. This means the impending loss of all the trees in the photos above and below, and the driving of massive concrete piles to ensure the reservoir remains stable.
I suppose it's better than losing the space altogether - not that the reservoir and banks are accessible to the public (I've lived alongside for fifteen years without setting foot in it, though the area on the far side of the rails constitutes the windswept and rarely visited Dartmouth Park). But it would be nice to keep the reservoir in one piece - and the trees and bushes and the wildlife they harbour. Is that asking too much?
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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