The Secret Backyard in North London is a haven of tranquillity


This month we’re asking Time Out writers to share their favorite secret spots around town. First, Chiara Wilkinson on her favorite little-known park.

I live on a very noisy street. Like most places in London, there’s a siren every five minutes and a woman routinely freestyle raps at the bus stop outside my bedroom. It can be a bit much at times – especially for someone who grew up a fifteen minute walk from the tranquil Scottish countryside. That’s why I was so relieved when I stumbled across Gillespie Park: an overgrown oasis of woods, meadows, mud and ponds hidden behind a secret garden gate next to Arsenal tube station.

The park is home to the Islington Ecology Center which reportedly offers educational talks and walks for schools, locals and the like. According to Islington Council’s website, it’s home to 244 species of plants, 94 species of birds and 24 species of butterflies – although I can’t say I’ve seen many fluttering things there at all. However, what I saw is loads of squirrels, goldfish, moisture and dandelions. It’s a far cry from the delicious mummy grass-lined parks of east London. It’s vast and wild, with different trails and places to explore. I like to walk around aimlessly and just think – or sit on the block bench and not think at all.

The best part? Whenever I was there, really all the people were screwed around. I can stare at the pondweed for a little too long, run my fingers through the grass and murmur my thanks to Mother Nature, call back the birdsong and take off. That, or I can just relax and read my book.

Gillespie Park, 10 Tannington Terrace, N5 1LE