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Community split 50-50 after 'iconic' Parkland Walk skate ramp removed by Islington Council

PUBLISHED: 14:03 17 April 2019

Parkland Walk skate ramp. Picture: Flikr Creative Commons/ Graham C99

Parkland Walk skate ramp. Picture: Flikr Creative Commons/ Graham C99

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The community is "split 50-50" after an "iconic" skateboard ramp was ripped out of the abandoned railway track linking Finsbury Park and Highgate by Islington Council earlier this month.

Parkland Walk. Picture: Flikr Creative Commons/ Martin HearnParkland Walk. Picture: Flikr Creative Commons/ Martin Hearn

The ramp, which has served generations of skaters, was fenced off and then removed after a specialist supplier of skateboarding ramps advised the town hall it was too down-at-heel to be used safely. The Gazette understands it will be replaced in some capacity following a consultation, which is still in its planning stages.

But this isn't the first time the ramp's been faced with the bulldozer, as plans were touted in the late '80s to turn the whole walk, which is London's longest nature reserve, into a dual carriageway due to congestion problems on surrounding roads.

According to the former RAD skateboard magazine, skaters kickflipped in solidarity with Friends of Parkland Walk (FPW), a group of neighbours committed to the reserve's welfare, when they held a competition on the half-pipe in 1989.

Clippings from RAD, which was in print between 1987 and 1993, chronicle the event stating: “In December 1986 the Department of Transport produced a report stating that London traffic was too great and claiming public transport was inadequate to cope [...] Once these proposals were made public it came to light that the Parkland Walk was definitely a target.”

Simon Olley former chair of Friends of Parkland Walk at the skateboard rampSimon Olley former chair of Friends of Parkland Walk at the skateboard ramp

The report goes on to describe how 16 skateboarders took part in the event, for which the skate ramp was temporarily made taller, before describing the tricks and flips that characterised each performance. It noted an Aaron Bleasdale, who came second, was “probably the smoothest skater there” on the day, but that Mike Manzour was “ripping” it and deserved his win due to “glimpses of genius” on the ramp.

The piece concluded: “If you want to save the walk – and the ramp – make you voice heard.”

Fast forward 30 years and some members of the skating community are equally concerned by the prospect of the skate ramp, one of the few such facilities in the borough, being removed permanently or replaced with a lesser alternative.

Kristen Dustin, 38, who runs the Double Threats Skates shop in St Pancras Road told the Gazette she's sorry to see the “iconic” ramp go.

Simon Olley former chair of Friends of Parkland Walk at the skateboard rampSimon Olley former chair of Friends of Parkland Walk at the skateboard ramp

“I live in Crouch End,” she said. “I have seen the disappointment about its removal. It was really cool to have something kinda hidden on the Parkland Walk. I took my daughter there when she was two to rollerblade.

“I went on it many times. It wasn't the best quality but it would be great if they could replace it with something new and user-friendly.

“But obviously it was a little gem everyone loved.”

But Cathy Meeus, chair of FPW, told the Gazette the community is “split 50-50” by the decision, which she feels is on balance the right move by Islington Council.

Cathy Meeus at the bat tunnels on the Parkland Walk Nature Reserve. Picture: Nigel SuttonCathy Meeus at the bat tunnels on the Parkland Walk Nature Reserve. Picture: Nigel Sutton

“I would say my history [with the ramp] possibly isn't that affectionate,” she said. “The skateboard ramp that would have been involved in that little event in the '80s was the focus for quite loutish anti-social behaviour in events succeeding that and eventually it was partially destroyed by someone setting fire to a motorbike on it in the early 2000s. As the [FPW] we have always found it particularly intolerable and lots of people were actually upset it came back [after the torched bike incident in 2014] because of the anti-social behaviour.”

At the time FPW thought the facility could be moved away from the Cape youth centre's adjacent adventure playground because it was “out of keeping” with the “nature reserve aspect of the walk”, said Cathy.

But she claims the ramp was replaced in around 2014 without consulting FPW, just as it was last month removed without talking to the group. But Islington Council says this is the culmination of 18 months worth of discussions with stakeholders.

Cathy added: “This new ramp immediately became a focus for graffiti. I'm against graffiti on the lovely old brickwork of the walk, not necessarily against the skateboard ramp which is an uglyness anyway. It has rarely used for skateboarding. It's mostly a slide for children who come out of school and lark about.”

She added: “We will continue to work with Islington on whatever play equipment they decide to replace it with we're sorry people are disappointed but we think on the whole it will probably be a positive decision.”

The railway line itself was originally opened by Great Northern Railway in 1867. The tracks were gradually upgraded from the 1930s onwards to electrify them and link the route up with the Northern Lines, but these works thundered to a halt when the Second World War broke out. The line was subsequently closed to the public in 1954 and by 1970 the tracks were uprooted.

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