Like so many green spaces in London, Gillespie Park is a small triangle of forest and fields wedged between a road and a railway. A small brick archway, set between a row of terraced houses, marks its entrance. Inside, pathways weave through the trees and grass, flanked by a metal-mesh fence, designed to keep animals in or people out - I couldn’t work out which.
This is a tranquil patch in the middle of a suburban sprawl. A rare haven for wildlife, peace, and quiet. Close your ears to passing trains and you almost forget that you’re in Zone 2.
So much of London can only be discovered if you walk. In an unfamiliar city, tourists use the tube as their guide. Hot, sweaty, and dark, they ride from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly, from Waterloo to Embankment, from Charing Cross to Covent Garden; with each trip, missing sights that most would pay good money to see.
The gate to Gillespie Park stands between two tube stations along an unassuming road. Each day a million people must pass by, easily, rushing between work and home, meetings and more meetings, pubs and cafes. Only a small handful will visit in a week, let alone in a day.
I hadn’t planned to visit. I didn’t even know the park was there. A discovery I made as we wandered the streets of Highbury.
Two of us, with cameras in hand, winding our way to The Emirates Stadium, to photography boots lent to me by The Original Muck Boot Company. A park seemed a little more appropriate though. Some mud to wallow in, some water to splash in, a chance to scuff up the boots and make us both look like old hand at this walking lark.
It didn’t last long. Gillespie Park, with it’s wooden boards and chipped-wood paths was too neat to add any authenticity to our new rubber. So, we moved on.
London, you would think, is as good a place as any to find puddles. Nope, a burst water main aside, there wasn’t a drop to be found around Arsenal’s ground. Instead, we spent our time bewildering (read: annoying) tourists with our Lucozade bottle keep-ups and brave leaps between concrete seats. Well, the boots had to be tested somehow.
Then the darkness set in. The light sapped from the sky and our energy sapped by a lunch of pie and beer - I’d burned some calories, so I’d earned it. Back through another dry park to a Starbucks’ coffee, a list of planned track closures, and the tube ride back South - sat there wondering just what I might be missing above ground.
Thanks to The Original Muck Boot Company for lending us the boots!
Images: Me and Julia.