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12 December – Ally Pally, Highgate and Hampstead Heath, London

Event led by Andy H & Khris R (2 groups)
Attendance: 8 men
Distance: 8.88 miles (14.3 km)
Time: start 11:15, end 15:00, lunch 24 minutes
Terrain: gravel track, grass, field, road on footpath and access roads.
Elevation: start 57m, high 125m, low 34.8m
Weather: low clouds with the occasional rays of sunlight, 9°C, light winds from west
Number of sewage works: 1
Number of churches: 3
Number of golf courses: 0

This was a figure of eight walk of 8.88 miles (14.3 km) from Alexandra Palace Station via Highgate Village to Parliament Hill. The Highgate/Hampstead area is steeped in history with some notable individuals.

The walk started with a short climb to Alexandra Palace to capture the panoramic views of the city of London. Alexandra Palace is a Grade II listed Victorian development to serve as a public centre of recreation, education and entertainment and originally named "The Palace of the People"; it was renamed to commemorate the popular new Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark, who had married Prince Edward in 1863. Two weeks after is opening it sustained major damage due to fire and rebuilt. In 1900 an Act of Parliament created the Alexandra Palace and Park Trust. The Act required the Trustees to maintain the Palace and Park and make them available for the free use and recreation of the public forever.

More recently, Alexandra Palace television station is one of the oldest television transmitters in the world. What was at the time called "high definition" TV broadcasts on VHF were beamed from this mast from 1936 until the outbreak of World War II. It then lay dormant until it was used very successfully during the last stages of the Battle of Britian. After the war, it was reused for television until 1956. Another fire caused major damage in 1980. In 1982 Alexandra Palace became an active transmitting station again, with the opening of a relay transmitter to provide UHF television service. Presently, an event hall with ice rink and some renovations.

Useful fact: The grounds included a horse racing course with grandstand (named Alexandra Park Racecourse and nicknamed the "Frying Pan" and the "Pan Handle"), which was London's only racecourse from 1868 until its closure in 1970.

We then transitioned onto the Parkland Walk which is the longest linear ‘elevated’ nature reserve in London at approx. 3 miles in length. Dubbed the London version of New York’s High Line walkway. Originally it was part of the London and North Eastern Railway running from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace which opened in 1873. Some magnificent views of the city.

Fun fact: A local artist created a hidden art trail along this walkway (look like painted tokens.)

We then enter two ancient woodland’s: Highgate Wood a 70 acre area and Queens Wood (named of Queen Victoria) with an area of 52 acres. Originally part of the ancient Forest of Middlesex which covered much of London, Hertfordshire and Essex, mentioned in the Domesday book. Presently, owned and managed by the City of London Corporation.

We then enter Highgate, until late Victorian times it was a distinct village outside London, sitting astride the main road to the north. The area retains many green expanses including the infamous Hampstead Heath. The only performance was the Parakeets flying passed with their distinctive plumage and cheerful chirps. It is documented that Highgate was a stopover for drovers/farmers bringing their life-stock especially pigs and sheep to the markets in the city. Hence, the reason for the high volume of pubs/coaching inns in the area. Latest data for N6 is 16 pubs in operation. The most famous is the Gatehouse Inn (dated 1670) – which was a toll gate. Furthermore, it is located at 129 metres above sea level a top North Hill making it the highest point. Subsequently, Highgate was named. Highgate have their own conservation community to maintain Highgate’s character. At the centre of Highgate village, are a collection of largely Georgian shops, pubs, restaurants and residential streets, interspersed with diverse landmarks such as St Michael's Church and steeple, St. Joseph's Church and its green copper dome and Berthold Lubetkins  1930s Highpoint buildings (famous in The Avenger’s TV series of the late ‘60’s with Emma Peel aka Diana Rigg) the entrance are adorned with large statues.

Highgate also contains the world famous Victorian cemetery in which the legendary George Michael is buried, along with many other notable people. There are approximately 170,000 people buried in the West Cemetery and the East Cemetery. The Cemetery is designated Grade I listed historical park and garden.To enter this expansive site there is an admission fee. We gazed in awe of the magnitude of tombstone/graves been embraced by mother nature.

At the bottom of the hill was one of the most magnificent properties – Holly Village. Holly Village consists of a group of eight buildings built around a green – potentially one of the first gated communities. It is private property and the gate was slightly ajar. We entered quietly to find this village within a village. The design is called Victorian Gothic with hints of Italian design. No expense was spared in the materials, which included fine quality teak wood and Portland stone, and Italian craftsmen were employed for the wood carving. Both in the stonework and the woodcarving there are many "picturesque and fanciful" details from gargoyles and intricate carvings on the wooden gates. We were fortunate to meet an ex-resident of property. They informed us that Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts (the grand-daughter of Thomas Coutt’s, founder of the famous London bank. The Baroness was one of the wealthiest woman in Victorian England and one of the busiest as well, not only helping to manage the bank, but also engaging herself very actively in an enormous range of philanthropic projects. Due to the monies she inherited and being from a wealthy family she had many connections with influential people like Disraeli and Gladstone which provided her a great many opportunities. She founded NSPCC and was made president of RSPCA.She worked with Charles Dickens in setting of schools in East end of London for the poor children and shelters for prostitutes. She was crowned Queen of the Poor. She married at the age of 67 to a 29 year old American. The husband took her family name. Furthermore, she lost 50% of her inheritance due to marrying a foreigner. She invested in fresh drinking water/pumps for the poor in UK and abroad; invested in Cancer treatment/research at Royal Marsden Hospital and sent supplies to Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War. Incidentally, the properties in Holly Village where for her closest friends. She lived into her 90’s and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

Highgate has many notable celebrities; George Michael house on the Grove was sold earlier this year to a fan for approx. 19 million. The neighbour is Kate Moss. Jude Law lives in the area.

Two notable blue plaques were observed: at the top of North Hill notes that Charles Dickens stayed there in 1832, when he was 20 years old and Peter Sellers lived as a boy in a cottage in Muswell Hill Road, where his mother had moved in order to send him to school.


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