When Nicola Baird from Islington Faces heard about #WalkTheLine2020 she decided to speed around the route on her bike. Here she recalls the highlights…
Islington Giving’s idea to walk the line route following the 12.98 borough boundary is such a fun challenge. It involves stress-free, cheap travel and offers all the pluses of staying close to home, not least my own bed and preferred breakfasts. There was also the chance to rediscover places I’d forgotten or just haven’t been to for a bit. In the end I decided to complete the half marathon route by bike so I could allow myself to detour and explore whenever I wanted. What a treat #WTL2020 turned out to be.
Nicola Baird by Kimi Gill ©
Standing by York Way on the bridge over Regent’s Canal, Islington is gleaming beautiful. At Green Lanes the huge plane trees of Highbury Quadrant estate look like a forest. Not far off the New River hints at the layers of history and thirsty people who’ve lived in the borough before us. Heading east by Southgate Road I was transfixed by the road layout changes that are transforming N1 rat runs into people-friendly low traffic neighbourhoods. At Old Street I stopped to take photos of the huge Stik-figure sprayed on to a building and get a proper sense of Islington as achingly cool.
Stick studio artwork near Old Street by Nicola Baird ©
Pedalling home to Finsbury Park – my start and stop points – I puzzled why Islington is not more of a tourist trap. People come to see the Emirates stadium and Arsenal but we’ve got animals (Freightliners Farm), puppets (Little Angel Theatre), markets (White Cross, Chapel etc), amazing post-war housing estates (Hornsey Lane and the Barbican) and a tonne of history. As an added bonus and thanks to the multicultural diversity of the people who’ve settled here after this Islington-explore I could buy or eat just about any world cuisine – though after my bike ride I wanted something filling like Ethiopian injera or Caribbean roti followed by a Pakistani rice pudding flavoured with cardamom that my friend (and Islington resident) Saira showed me how to make.
I came to Islington partly through luck – flatsharing in N5 – and now Islington has been my home for the past 30 years. It never grows boring, in fact since I began interviewing people who live or work in Islington back in 2012 for www.islingtonfacesblog.com it’s felt like the world’s best village – everywhere I go I meet someone who’s shared their story on Islington Faces (or could!) and probably has time for a quick chat. But despite knowing Islington really well I still found the #WalkTheLine route took me to places I’d never been before such as Giddy Up coffee shop in hidden away Fortune Street Park or the newly opened and beautifully refurbished Archway Tavern.
Cycling is usually the quicker option, but I’ve also walked the route on a previous fundraising campaign by Islington Giving which I also loved. Perhaps the best way to explore is to take one of the four #WalkTheLine chunks – a three or four mile stretch – and then walk it slowly so you can immerse yourself in the areas you don’t know so well. Here’s hoping you have fun.