London Parks & Gardens Trust

Self-guided Walks and Rides

A Cycle Ride in Hackney


Directions

Photos

Background

This is a ride around the communal and public open spaces of Hackney. It makes extensive use of Hackney's network of cycle routes.

Although you could do the whole ride in a couple of hours, it will more likely take between half a day and whole day, depending on how many short cuts you take, how many gardens you stop at and for how long. The distance varies between 8.6 and 12.9 km, depending on whether you take the optional loop to Victoria Park. (Section 2).

The ride starts and finishes at Hackney Central Station. It can also be started and finished at London Fields Station (not open on Sundays) or at Hoxton Station (see Section 4). For a longer ride, it can be combined with the Bloomsbury - Shoreditch Ride, which adds 12.7 km to the distance.

Introduction Magnifier
Although Hackney is now engulfed by London's built-up area, 200 years ago it was on the edge of the city and ripe for development. Projects such as the de Beauvoir Estate and Albion Square were up-market developments which included communal gardens. Later development was denser, creating the need for public open spaces such as London Fields, Victoria Park and Well Street Common. More recent times have seen the creation of additional parks and gardens, such as Haggerston Park and Hackney City Farm.

Section 1

Leaving Hackney Central Station on foot, turn right and right again under the railway bridge into Mare Street. Walk 250m up Mare Street, across Graham Road at the crossing and past the Hackney Empire and Town Hall on the right. Turn right into Reading Lane then left into Hackney Grove. Cross Richmond Road and continue under the railway into Martello Street. The Pub on the Park is on the right. London Fields Station is on the left. At the bend into Martello Terrace, enter London Fields. Follow the cycle path south to a point where two cycle paths cross, just after a stone-built house on the left.

From here, there is now a choice of routes:

London Fields
London Fields Magnifier

London Fields are on former Lammas land once owned by Hackney Manor, which was still in strip divisions at the end of the 18th century. It was reputedly a burial place of plague victims in 1665. Cricket was played here as early as c.1820.

The park retains its regular 19th century system of paths, numerous notable 18th and 19th century planes, and is bounded on several sides by fragmentary ranges of 18th and 19th century dwellings. The play area in the south-east corner has a sculptural seating area, described by Pevsner as ‘an endearing pebbly sculpture of flower sellers and sheep’.


Section 2

Pass under the railway and through the passage leading to Mare Street. Use the cycle crossing to cross Mare Street into Well Street. At the end of Well Street, there is a bend to the left before you follow the traffic right through the traffic lights into Cassland Road. Cassland Gardens are on the left.

Cassland Gardens
Cassland Gardens Magnifier

The crescent-shaped Cassland Gardens were laid out in the 1860s between a palace-fronted terrace of 1793 and a crescent of Victorian Italianate villas. The gardens are laid to lawn and surrounded by mature limes and London planes. In recent years the Friends of Cassland Gardens and Hackney Council have been working together on restoring the gardens.


Immediately after Cassland Gardens, turn right into Meynell Road and left at the T-junction facing Well Street Common. Turn right at the traffic lights, keeping the common on your right. (NB This has changed since the original version.)

Well Street Common
Well Street Common Magnifier

Well Street Common was previously known as South Hackney Common and is former Lammas land owned by Hackney Manor which was used for agricultural purposes. The Common was preserved as public open space as a result of a petition raised by local people in the 1860s.


Cross Victoria Park Road to enter Victoria Park through the Queen's Gate. The Inn on the Park is on the left. Tandems, tricycles and other non-standard bikes may not be able to negotiate the Queen's Gate. If that is the case, take Victoria Park Road to the right outside the park and enter the park at the next gate.

If you want a longer ride, you can turn left and follow the carriage road around the edge of the park as far as St Agnes Gate, passing a café and toilet block at the south side of the lake shortly after crossing Grove Road. Otherwise turn right and follow the carriage road to the Royal Gate, with the Royal Inn on the Park on the right. Cross Grove Road and continue along the carriage road to St Agnes Gate, just before the road bends to the left.

Victoria Park
Victoria Park Magnifier

In 1840 the Commission of Woods and Forests gave authorisation for Victoria Park to be created as a 'Memorial to the Sovereign' on an area of 77 ha, previously used as brick fields, market gardens, gravel pits and farmland. It was designed by James Pennethorne, who was also responsible for Battersea Park, and what became Finsbury Park. The original layout included a carriage drive around the perimeter, with belts of trees along most boundaries and numerous areas of formal displays.


Leave Victoria Park at St Agnes Gate. At the end of the approach road, turn left into Victoria Park Road and immediately right into Clermont Road. Take lights at Mare Street.

If you are visiting the gardens of St Joseph's Hospice, turn left at the the second left into King Edward's Road, which you follow as far as the traffic traffic lights. The hospice is on the left. After visiting the gardens, return to the King Edward's Road junction.

St Joseph's Hospice
St Joseph's Hospice Magnifier

A hundred years of garden tradition have provided St Joseph's Hospice, the largest and most modern in Europe, with an award-winning garden to suit the needs of visitors, patients and staff alike. Intended for both recreation and contemplation, seven distinct gardens provide plenty of interest for visitors on Open Garden Squares Weekend. Features include the medal-winning Centenary Garden, which was exhibited in 2005 at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.


Cross Mare Street and pass through The Triangle into Westgate Street. Go straight ahead at the mini roundabout and continue as far as London Fields on the right. Ignore the first path across the Fields and continue along Westgate Street and under the railway, as far as the cycle crossing at the end of Broadway Market. You may wish to pull off the road on the left-hand side in order to use the crossing. Enter London Fields and continue up the cycle path until the point where it crosses another cycle track just after the playground on the right and before the stone-built house. (You have been here before.) Turn left onto the cycle path leading away from the railway towards the west side of the Fields.

London Fields
London Fields Magnifier

London Fields are on former Lammas land once owned by Hackney Manor, which was still in strip divisions at the end of the 18th century. It was reputedly a burial place of plague victims in 1665. Cricket was played here as early as c.1820. The park retains its regular 19th century system of paths, numerous notable 18th and 19th century planes, and is bounded on several sides by fragmentary ranges of 18th and 19th century dwellings. The play area in the south-east corner has a sculptural seating area, described by Pevsner as ‘an endearing pebbly sculpture of flower sellers and sheep’.


Section 3

Those taking the short cut resume here.

Leave London Fields at its most westerly point, farthest from railway, and continue along Middleton Road opposite. Cross Queensbridge Road and take the first left into Albion Square. Turn right at the far side of the square and continue straight ahead, with the gardens on your right into Albion Drive. Pass through the road closure and turn half-right onto Haggerston Road. Pass under the railway, and turn left into Middleton Road shortly before the traffic lights at Kingsland Road.

Albion Square
Albion Square Magnifier

Albion Square celebrated its centenary in 1999 by winning first prize in the Small Publicly Maintained Garden section of the London Garden Squares Competition. The gardens were restored by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association in 1899 and are now cared for and owned by Hackney Council. It is a public, elegantly railed square surrounded by a satisfying and complete picturesque Italianate composition of 1846-9, built by Islip Odell.


Cross Kingsland Road into St Peter's Way and continue through the road closure into de Beauvoir Square. Continue around the left side of the Square and pass through another road closure into Northchurch Terrace.

De Beauvoir Square
De Beauvoir Square Magnifier

De Beauvoir Square is at the centre of the mid-19th century de Beauvoir Estate, which has been described as the 'first large-scale building enterprise in Hackney'. The 1830s and '40s saw the main period of development carried out by Richard Benyon, who, having changed his name to Benyon de Beauvoir, gave his name to the new scheme. His 130-acre de Beauvoir Town estate has been praised for its 'conspicuous consistency in the housing stock'. In the 1890s, the then owner, Mr J H Benyon, leased the garden to Hackney Borough Council on an annual basis at a nominal rent allowing public access 'at all reasonable times'.


Turn left at St Peter's Church into de Beauvoir Road. Cross Downham Road (traffic lights) and continue as far as the canal bridge.

If you feel like a longer ride, you can transfer to the Bloomsbury-Shoreditch ride at this point by taking the canal westwards to the right. You can also take a short cut back to Broadway Market by riding along the canal eastwards to the left.

Otherwise cross the canal and continue along Whitmore Road. At the roundabout take Pitfield Street opposite. Shortly before another roundabout you come to St John the Baptist Church on the right.

St John the Baptist
St John the Baptist Magnifier

The gardens of St John the Baptist Church were originally a graveyard. Features include a garden of remembrance, with a sculpture by Mike Chapman, Biblical poetry about gardens engraved along the paths and tiles created by local school children.


Section 4

Those joining from the Bloomsbury-Shoreditch ride do so here.

Take the first right into Crondall Street. At Hoxton Street turn right and immediately left into Falkirk Street, at the end of which is the junction with Kingsland Road (traffic lights). If you are not visiting the Geffrye Museum and St Mary's Garden Project, continue straight across into Cremer Street, passing Hoxton Station and turn left at the end into Hackney Road.

If you are visiting the Geffrye Museum, cross Kingsland Road and then walk northwards towards the left. The museum is on the right, with the entrance to the gardens to the left of the main building.

Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum Magnifier

The Geffrye Museum is set in the former almshouses of the Ironmongers' Company. In 1992 a derelict site adjacent to the museum was transformed into an award-winning herb garden with over 170 different herbs and plants traditionally associated with herb gardens, such as roses, honeysuckle and lilies. In 1998 the gardens behind the almshouses were laid out as a series of period garden rooms to show the changing nature of English town gardens over the last 400 years.


On leaving the Geffrye Museum, turn right and walk northwards along the pavement as far as Pearson Street. Turn right into Pearson Street pass under the railway. St Mary's Secret Garden is at the end of the street on the right.

St Mary's Secret Garden
St Mary's Secret Garden Magnifier

St Mary's Secret Garden is a ¾-acre public garden used for horticultural therapy and training for people with mental health issues, learning disabilities and physical disabilities. There are herbaceous borders, herbs and sensory area, vegetable area, woodland with small pond and greenhouse - all maintained by clients.


Turn right from Pearson Street into Appleby Street. Passing St Chad's Church on the left, continue to the end Appleby Street and along a path across a patch of grass. Turn left along Hackney Road.

Those who took the short cut through Cremer Street or started from Hoxton Station will have reached this point after passing the Citibike shop in Hackney Road.

Go through the junction with Queensbridge Road (traffic lights) as far as a signal-controlled crossing about 150 metres further on. Take the cycle path on the left. This is not the path at a right angle to the road but the one that starts off parallel to the road, along the front of Hackney City Farm.

Hackney City Farm
Hackney City Farm Magnifier

Haggerston Park, one of the few formal landscaped gardens in Hackney, was laid out in 1956 on the site of an filled-in canal basin. Also dating from the 1950s is a long pergola walk on the north side of the park. In the 1980s the park was extended to the south to include a Hackney City Farm, a children's playground and playing fields.


The path bends to the left along the side of Goldsmith's Row, with Haggerston Park on the left. At the end of Goldsmith's Row, cross the canal into Broadway Market. Those who took the short cut along the canal rejoin the route at this point. At the end of Broadway Market, use the cycle crossing of to enter London Fields. Continue along the cycle path to a point where two cycle paths cross. This is just after a children's playground and before a stone-built house both on the right.

From here you have a choice of routes:

London Fields
London Fields Magnifier

London Fields are on former Lammas land once owned by Hackney Manor, which was still in strip divisions at the end of the 18th century. It was reputedly a burial place of plague victims in 1665. Cricket was played here as early as c.1820. The park retains its regular 19th century system of paths, numerous notable 18th and 19th century planes, and is bounded on several sides by fragmentary ranges of 18th and 19th century dwellings. The play area in the south-east corner has a sculptural seating area, described by Pevsner as ‘an endearing pebbly sculpture of flower sellers and sheep’.


Section 5

To visit Fassett Square (private square, open for OGSW), continue westwards across London Fields as far as on the path leading towards houses marked as Rochford Walk on the right. Turn right here and go along the London Fields West Side and its continuation, Greenwood Road. Cross Richmond Road, Wilton Way and Graham Road and then take the first left into Fassett Street (unmarked). Fassett Square is at the end of this short street.

Retrace the route to return to London Fields or turn left into Graham Road for Hackney Central Station.

Fassett Square
Fassett Square Magnifier

Famed for being the inspiration for the design of the stage set for the BBC television series East Enders, the garden of Fassett Square has been lovingly restored to its former glory by local residents. The square has retained its original Victorian layout of paths winding round island beds and lawns, as well as many of the original lime trees around the perimeter. In 1997 a grant from the Arts Council enabled the Square to acquire a beautifully crafted iron barbeque incorporating local children's designs.


Ride prepared by Colin Wing for the London Parks & Gardens Trust, 2006.

Much of the historical information above comes from the London Parks & Gardens Trust's London Inventory of Historic Green Spaces, a database of over 2,300 sites.

The ride is recommended for use in daylight hours only. Please cycle safely. Ensure that your bicycle is roadworthy and that you can be seen. Follow the Highway Code and use lights in poor visibility. Use a detailed cycle map (see www.tfl.gov.uk/cycling) in conjunction with this material.

The Canal & River Trust have a Greenways Code - see http://canalrivertrust.org.uk/see-and-do/cycling/share-the-space-drop-your-pace.

All due care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of information in this ride, which is offered in good faith. Please advise us of any changes or inaccuracies you may encounter by writing to LPGT, Duck Island Cottage, St James's Park, London SW1A 2BJ, or email us.