My Camden by Cllr Cotton
I’ve lived in North London for all but four of my 63 years and for half of that time I’ve lived in Camden. I moved here from Muswell Hill in the 1970s, living first in Camden Road and then in Finchley Road. I moved away in 1979 but I was lucky enough to move back in 1994 when I bought a small flat in Camden Town where I still live. At that time, the area was still affordable but it is now all but impossible for young people to buy homes here unless their parents are able to help them financially. The lack of affordable housing is a big problem for our borough but for all its problems it is a fabulous place to live, work and play. I’ve been thinking of my favourite places in Camden and I’ve identified my top ten. Five of them are in the ward I represent, which is no surprise given that it is at the centre of the borough and contains many of its iconic landmarks.
The first is Primrose Hill. (image above) I volunteer at Primrose Hill Community Library and on summer evenings I can think of nothing better than a short climb to the top to watch the sun going down over London. Many places have good views of our great city but no other has the breadth and immediacy of the view from the top of Primrose Hill.
Sticking with a Primrose Hill theme, I have chosen Chalcot Square described as the most sought after street in what is increasingly one of the most exclusive localities in London. This lovely garden square hosts the annual Primrose Hill Festival – a celebration of a unique and vibrant community.
Camley Street Natural Park. This ‘rus in urbe’ is an unexpected haven of wildlife and greenery just behind Kings Cross and St Pancras stations.
Hampstead Heath. As a child I used to walk across playing fields and woods to Hampstead Heath and marvel at what seemed like a slice of countryside near the centre of London.
Kenwood House and grounds. I never tire of the art collection, the concerts and, in summer, the rhododendrons.
Regents Canal and Lawfords Wharf. The shortest walk from Camden Town to Primrose Hill is along the Regents Canal towing path which affords a different perspective. I particularly like the view of Lawfords Wharf with its apartment block built to resemble an ocean liner.
Woburn Walk, Bloomsbury. A street which has hardly changed since Dickens’ time, which is why it is often used for filming costume dramas. A good place for lunch after a recital in St Pancras Church on Euston Road.
Old St Pancras. The church is built on the site of the oldest Christian church in London (the Roman garrison was nearby) and it contains an altar stone which was allegedly used by St Augustine. The churchyard contains a number of celebrity graves, the Soane Family Mausoleum and the Hardy Tree. It’s another urban oasis for quiet contemplation.
Castlehaven Community Centre and Park. This centre is a fantastic tribute to voluntary effort as it provides services for all generations and every part of the community. I love the park, which has sports facilities, a community garden and a wildlife trail.
And finally, Chalk Farm Road. Surely the coolest street in Camden? I still get a buzz from the funky shops, market stalls and youthful exuberance of what is one of the most visited tourist streets in London let alone Camden.
Article and images by Cllr Richard Cotton