· Exploring London’s lesser known areas ·
Sprawling over 600 square miles, London is undoubtedly full of unique spots around every corner. Unfortunately, so many people only see popular tourist areas like Westminster, Covent Garden, and St Paul’s. While these pockets of London certainly have their charms, London has so much more to offer. Samuel Johnson did, after all, once famously remark, “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” That’s why we hope you’ll get out of the center of London and on to places like Victoria Park and Highgate Cemetery; places that may not be on the list of top ten things to do in London but are certainly worth a visit. One of those places is the little former parish of Stoke Newington.
One of the quietest and most charming places in London, once you’re there, you’ll wonder if you are, in fact, still in London proper. Located in Zone 3, Stokey (as the locals call it) is very much a part of London, but because it can’t be reached by Tube, it retains a slightly removed feel. Don’t be put off by the lack of Underground access: the Overground will drop you off at Stoke Newington High Street and several buses will get you where you need to go. In fact, it’s because it’s slightly harder to get to that creates much of Stoke Newington’s charm.
To get to Stoke Newington, head from popular Shoreditch up through Dalston on Kingsland Road. Just north of the two hipster enclaves, Stokey is part of the borough of Hackney and just five miles from central London, though when you’re there, you wouldn’t know it. The quiet area feels like it’s own village within the city, a feeling it’s managed to keep over the years and despite (or perhaps because of) gentrification. As you head north, Kingsland Road turns into Stoke Newington High Street, and while there are some worthy cafes, restaurants, and pubs along the High Street, it’s Stoke Newington Church Street that you really want.
Quaint little Stoke Newington Church Street heads west off the High Street curving and leading to (surprise, surprise) St Mary’s Church and Clissold Park. Restaurants, bookshops, flower shops, bars, and pubs line the street with delightful interiors and many with pleasant back gardens ideal for summer afternoons. Quiet and friendly, it’s a great place to study, read, or work from during the day, and imbibe during the night.
Georgian mansions and colorful storefronts mix along the road and just wandering it is fun enough. Just along the road, there is a side entrance to Abney Park Cemetery, though the regal entrance is located around the corner on the High Street. One of the “Magnificent Seven” Victorian cemeteries (see Highgate Cemetery, above, too), it is now a delightfully overgrown and sprawling park. A nature reserve, gravestones are covered in foliage and trees create a canopy so that if it weren’t for the markers, you might believe you were in woods far from London.
But Abney Park is not the only outdoor space to enjoy in Stokey. Continue down Stoke Newington Church Street, past the stores and restaurants, the town hall and (two) St Mary’s churches to Clissold Park. Much more manicured and maintained than its neighbor, Clissold Park is a beautiful park with paved paths, a lake, and tennis courts. The original 18th century Clissold House is now a cafe and we can assure you that there’s nothing better than an iced coffee in Clissold Park on a hot London day.
Beyond picturesque Church Street and the parks, the beauty of Stoke Newington lies in its rich array of things to do. Just north of Clissold Park, two reservoirs point to the area’s role in the upkeep of London’s water supply dating back to Hugh Myddleton’s New River. The West Reservoir is now home to many water sports and it’s not unusual to see sailboats or canoes out on the water. At the edge of the reservoir, the Castle Climbing Centre is another place for recreation built in a former pumping station that was meant to look like a Scottish Castle. With all the activities to do, it’s clear Stoke Newington isn’t just a pretty face.
But pretty it is, too, and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you make the trek to the village within the city. Small enough to tackle in one day, it will still leave you wanting more. You’ll realize just how close to Central London it actually is, but how refreshing it is to be in a pretty part of the city without the masses of tourists. It truly is the best of both worlds.