Did you know Tottenham has its very own book of walks? We chatted to Mareeni Raymond, one of the authors of Tottenham Walks, about the book and where the idea came from. Mareeni and her husband, Edward Richards, produced the book together which was released in early 2017.
Where did the idea to write a Tottenham walks book come from?
I was pregnant at the time and had taken a lot of maternity leave, so I had a lot of time on my hands, and started getting into walking in London. At the same time, a heritage champion programme for North Tottenham came up. It was based at Bruce Castle Museum which is close to where I live. It was a year long course where you got to learn how to take aural histories, how to examine the High Road and look at the history of one particular building such as 810 High Road.
I thought, ‘there’s loads of amazing buildings in Tottenham and loads of interesting people that have lived here, why not write some walks?’ I started off doing some walking on my own and looking into particular buildings using lots of already existing resources to look into the history of Tottenham. For instance, the Summerhill Road website had lots of really great information on the area and Bruce Castle Museum has loads of archived material.
What can readers expect from the book?
There are four walks. Two cover North Tottenham and two cover South Tottenham. It’s everything ranging from buildings to famous or important people that live in the area. There’s some information about things like old trees, anecdotes about local people, detailed information about what’s inside and outside buildings. It’s for people to appreciate what’s been there in the past as well as what’s going on now.
If someone wants to just dip in and take a leisurely stroll and learn some fun facts about the area, it’s that kind of book, almost a touristy book but also a book to make you feel proud of the area.
It was a difficult book to write because so much is changing in Tottenham and the regeneration had to be covered as we’re in the middle of it. For example, a lot of the buildings around the Spurs ground were in the middle of being removed and that’s obviously caused a lot of upset for some people, so we had to carefully put some of that in as well.
How long have you lived in Tottenham?
I’ve lived here since just before the riots. I was in South Tottenham and we moved to North Tottenham a year ago. My husband was brought up here though. I was a bit nervous about moving here at the time because it has had so much negative press but I very quickly discovered that I had the friendliest street I’d ever lived in. All the neighbours look out for each other and it’s a really positive place to be.
I used to live near Markfield Park before moving to Bruce Grove. I loved going down to the river and my husband was involved in the Friends of Tottenham Marshes so we used to go on walks with them, as well as doing walks and cycles of our own in the area.
I think we’re lucky to live in Tottenham because there are so many community groups and there’s lots of activities going on here run by volunteers. Ed and I were both really interested in getting involved in the community. We were inspired by the area and thought it would be nice to celebrate it. I really take pride in showing people around Tottenham and showing how beautiful and vibrant it is.
How long do the walks take?
They’re between one and a half to three and a half miles. They’re meant to be leisurely strolls with lots of stops along the way for coffee, pubs and that sort of thing.
So you can really make an afternoon of it?
Yeah. When I’ve walked around Bruce Castle Park I’ve seen, a couple of times, couples walking around holding their book, looking a little bit lost and trying to find the next spot on the walk which has been so lovely.
How does your husband Ed’s role fit in with the book?
He works in regeneration for Haringey Council for the North Tottenham area. He’s lived here since he was born and he cares a lot about the area.
He’s sometimes in a difficult position, I think, having to talk about regeneration and protect some of the heritage at the same time as moving things forward.
He had a useful perspective on the regeneration plans and was able to give up to date information about what was going on when writing the book.
What’s your favourite part in the book?
One part I really like is the Markfield Park walk. That was one of the first walks I did around Tottenham. Particularly the walk going to the marshes and seeing some of the wildlife so close to the High Road. I also love the Beam Engine – when it’s running on steam it’s great – the whole atmosphere is really nice.
We have an exclusive extract from one of the walks below.
Parks and Marshes
Start: South Tottenham overground station
Finish: Tottenham Hale station
A pretty walk which takes you to Markfield Park’s beam engine and the hidden urban garden of the Lea Valley.
Starting from South Tottenham overground station turn left onto the High Road. Keep heading south until you see the imposing towers of St. Ignatius church on the right, at the junction with St Ann’s Road. This Roman Catholic Church is a huge cruciform Grade II listed building with twin east towers, which dates from between 1894 and 1902. The Romanesque building, designed by Father Benedict Williamson in a late 12th Century transitional style, is so tall that it can be seen from many spots throughout South Tottenham. Filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock went to school at the nearby St Ignatius College and his family were parishioners at the church between 1910 and 1913. It is said that Hitchcock’s film Vertigo was inspired by the dominant church towers.
Turn round and head north back towards South Tottenham station until you get to Gladesmore Road on the right hand side. Walk to the end of Gladesmore Road where you will find the gates to Markfield Park, a small local park and home to the famous Markfield Park Beam Engine which pumped sewage in the area continuously until 1988. The beam engine, seven-foot high and twenty-one foot long, is housed in the big glass windowed original pump house.
If you really want to appreciate this impressive beam engine in action, go along on any bank holiday Monday, which are Steam days. Steaming goes on for a few hours on these days (for an up to date timetable, go to http://www.mbeam.org/). It is also open on some Sundays, and there are friendly local guides around on those days to answer your questions. In action, the sound and the steam combined are a powerful experience. The cast iron wheel and columns are beautiful and you will notice the leaf designs on the Doric style columns. (Doric is one of three ancient Greek styles of architecture typified by simple circular capitals at the top of columns). The engine was built by Wood Brothers, of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, between 1886 and 1888. It was used until 1964. It is a compound rotative free-standing engine with 100 horse power, driving two pumps.
Leave via the gates just to the east of the beam engine to find yourself on a stretch of the River Lea. Turn left along the river to enjoy a peaceful stroll on the path, with resident birds and barges. Although be warned that on pleasant days, cyclists and joggers can make it very busy.
The River Lea is a natural river which runs from Hertfordshire past Stratford and down to the Thames. Although sometimes spelt Lee, it is generally agreed that the river is spelt Lea and the navigation is known as the River Lee Navigation. This part of the river forms the boundary between Tottenham (Haringey) and Waltham Forest. Continue under the bridge at Ferry Lane until you come to Stonebridge Lock and the Waterside Cafe…
If you’d like to purchase the book as a gift, or for yourself to explore Tottenham, copies are available at:
Have you got a copy of the book already? Have you completed a walk and have some feedback? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below and they’ll be passed along to Mareeni and Ed.