Alexandra Park lies between Wood Green and Muswell Hill in the London Borough of Haringey. The park is the grounds of Alexandra Palace.
Its hill-top position with commanding views across the city and the Thames flood plain makes this park a productive location in north London. Far-ranging views of the London skyline can be had from the palace itself and on a clear day the Crystal Palace Transmitter, some 13 miles away in south London, can be seen.
Address: Alexandra Palace Way, London, N22 7AY (Map)
Alexandra Palace and its grounds were constructed as "The Palace of the People" and were opened to the public on 23 July 1863. The project was named after the Princess of Wales Alexandra of Denmark. Some 16 days after opening Alexandra Palace was destroyed by fire, but was swiftly rebuilt and reopened on 1 May 1875. At this time an open-air swimming pool was constructed in the park at the base of the hill, but this is now long gone. A more enduring facility was Alexandra Park Racecourse, which was operational until 1970. The site of the racecourse is now a cricket pitch, but the area retains its original oval shape which can be seen on a satellite view.
In 1900 the owners of Alexandra Palace and Park threatened to sell the site for development, but a quick-thinking consortium of locals managed to raise enough money to purchase the grounds in the nick of time and preserve them for future generations. The committee was formed by Mr Henry Burt J.P. and a plaque honouring his efforts was erected on the South Terrace in 1921.
During World War I the park was closed and used as a refugee camp for displaced Belgians and then later as an internment camp for German and Austrian civilians.
In 1935 the BBC broadcast the world's first "high definition" television broadcast from Alexandra Palace. The BBC continued broadcasting all television from here until 1956, after which it was used exclusively for news programmes. Production continued for the Open University until ending completely in 1981.
On 10 July 1980 the Palace once again caught fire and the devastation was immense. Only the Palm Court and the area used by the BBC escaped damage. Restoration work began soon after and the Palace was reopened on 17 March 1988, but Haringey council overspent on the works and there was a deficit of £30 million. As such, some parts of the building still lie derelict or unused.
An ice rink opened in 1990 and remains to this day. In 2018, having lain derelict for around 80 years, the Victorian theatre in the east of the Palace was re-opened and continues to show performances.
Access and facilitiesEdit
The park is bordered by Muswell Hill to the north-west, Crouch End/Hornsey to the south, and Wood Green to the east, all of which are located on major bus routes. The W3 bus, from Northumberland Park to Finsbury Park, runs through Wood Green and then up to Alexandra Park itself. The nearest Tube station is Wood Green (Piccadilly Line), but closer still is Alexandra Palace overground station, which is served by Great Northern services to Moorgate via Finsbury Park (both of which connect with the Underground network). However, accessing the top of the site from the overground station involves walking up a steep hill, and for those with difficulty walking it is far easier to catch the W3 bus and ride to the stops at the top of the hill.
There are public car parks in The Grove and next to the ice rink on the east side of the Palace building, and some on-street parking is available close to the park's boundaries and on South Terrace (the road that goes up and over the hill).
Play spaces inside the park consist of a skate park and large childrens' play area in the northern part of the park next to The Avenue. There is also a boating lake in the same area which has a café and toilets. In the north-west area of the park, known as The Grove, there is another café and an information centre, while in the Palace itself there is a pub, café, ice-skating rink, and toilets.
Note that there are no facilities on the lower southern slopes of the park below the South Terrace, and it is a steep walk uphill to the Palace.
Habitat and birdsEdit
The site covers some 180 acres (72 ha) in total, with habitat mainly comprising tightly mown grassland with scattered trees and hedges, and pockets of woodland and rougher grassland. Stock Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Eurasian Nuthatch all breed in the more wooded areas.
A small area of sports pitches is enclosed by a circular perimeter hedge and ditch, which are all that remain of the racecourse constructed here many years ago. Next to the pavilion is an area of trees and shrubs known locally as the cricket scrub, and during migration times this is the best part of the park in which to search for warblers (including Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat), chats (Whinchat and Northern Wheatear are regular), and other migrants.
The boating lake close to the Palace on the top of the hill attracts most wildfowl, with numerous Tufted Duck, small numbers of Common Pochard, and surprisingly regular appearances of hybrids between the two species; a few Northern Shoveler are sometimes also present in winter. The main area of water, however, is Wood Green Reservoir and the adjacent filter bed complex in the south-east corner at the lowest part of the park. Fed by the New River, these small water bodies are attractive to wildfowl and especially gulls in winter, wagtails year-round (Grey and Pied both breed locally), and very occasionally to passage waders such as Common Sandpiper in spring and autumn. Just north of the reservoir, a managed area of woodland with a man-made, natural-sided pond has been designated as a conservation area.
As at 31 March 2019, the total number of bird species recorded in the park is 180, with an Avocet seen on that date being the latest addition. The most species recorded in a year is 106 species in 2006, a total that just surpassed the all-time high of 105 species which was reached in 1987, a year with highlights which included Jack Snipe, Willow Tit and Ortolan and Corn Buntings (per Neil Bowman).
Currently, the park is being covered regularly by a small but dedicated group of observers, including Bruce Carson, Alan Gibson, Dominic Mitchell, Gerry Rawcliffe, Gareth Richards and Bob Watts.