Alexandra Park is a park situated between Wood Green and Muswell Hill in the London Borough of Haringey. It is the grounds of Alexandra Palace.
In its hill-top position with commanding views across the city centre and the Thames flood plain makes this park a productive but under-watched area 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 re-opened 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 remained until its closure in 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 re-opened 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 lay derelict or unloved.
An ice rink opened in 1990 and remains to this day.
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 Tottenham to Finsbury Park, runs through Wood Green and then Alexandra Park itself. The nearest Tube station is Wood Green (Piccadilly Line), but closer still is Alexandra Palace station, which is served by Great Northern services to Moorgate via Finsbury Park (both of which connect with the Underground network). There are public car parks in The Grove and next to the ice rink, 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).
The park can be walked to but is atop a steep 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 here which has a cafe and toilets. To the northwest of the park there is a community cafe and an information centre, while in the palace itself there is a pub, cafe, the 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 climb up to Alexandra Palace.
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. 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 known locally as the cricket scrub, and in migration times this is best part of the park to search for warblers (including Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat), chats (Whinchat and Northern Wheatear are regular), and other migrants.
There is the aforementioned boating pond close to the palace on the top of the hill, but the main area of water 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 gulls in winter, wagtails year-round (Grey breeds locally), and 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. Reed Bunting and Bullfinch are among the species possible here.
As of 28 December 2006, the park's year list stands at 106 species, a record 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 Alan Gibson, Andrew Gardener, Dominic Mitchell, John Murray, James Oates, Gareth Richards and Bob Watts.
Alexandra Park is represented in the PatchList 2006 competition by Dominic Mitchell, whose 2006 year list to date comprises the following 92 species:
Little Grebe; Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Canada Goose; Shelduck; Gadwall; Mallard; Northern Shoveler; Common Pochard; Tufted Duck; Ruddy Duck; Sparrowhawk; Eurasian Kestrel; Hobby; Water Rail; Moorhen; Coot; Eurasian Curlew; Mediterranean Gull; Black-headed Gull; Common Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Herring Gull; Common Tern; Feral Rock Dove; Stock Dove; Woodpigeon; Collared Dove; Ring-necked Parakeet; Eurasian Cuckoo; Tawny Owl; Common Swift; Common Kingfisher; Green Woodpecker; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Lesser Spotted Woodpecker; Skylark; Sand Martin; Barn Swallow; House Martin; Meadow Pipit; Tree Pipit; Grey Wagtail; Yellow Wagtail; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Common Redstart; Black Redstart; European Stonechat; Whinchat; Northern Wheatear; Ring Ouzel; Blackbird; Fieldfare; Song Thrush; Redwing; Mistle Thrush; Sedge Warbler; Reed Warbler; Lesser Whitethroat; Common Whitethroat; Blackcap; Common Chiffchaff; Willow Warbler; Goldcrest; Spotted Flycatcher; Long-tailed Tit; Coal Tit; Blue Tit; Great Tit; Eurasian Nuthatch; Jay; Magpie; Jackdaw; Carrion Crow; Common Starling; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Brambling; Greenfinch; Goldfinch; Siskin; Linnet; Mealy Redpoll; Lesser Redpoll; Bullfinch; Reed Bunting.