Inventory Site Record

New River Walk including Astey's Row Rock Gardens/Astey's Row Playground (Islington)

Brief Description

New River Walk follows part of the former waterway of the New River, constructed in 1609-1613 to bring fresh water from springs in Hertfordshire to supply London’s growing population. The section of the route through Islington is formed into a series of linear parks, preserved as a nature trail, although the continuous stretch of water in these gardens is actually formed by ponds landscaped to resemble the former river. It was first planted as a garden in the 1860s by the New River Company but remained open water until 1946. It was transferred to Islington Council in 1951, who undertook re-landscaping and opened the public gardens in 1954. Astey's Row Rock Gardens are at the southern end of the New River Walk where the river had been enclosed in pipes in 1892-93 when the area was built over. In the 1950s the pipes were removed and the rock gardens laid out by Vanstone's of Much Hadham. Additional re-landscaping took place in 1996-98, and the gardens were re-opened by Princess Alexandra on 18 June 1998.

Practical Information
Site location:
St Paul's Road/Canonbury Grove, Canonbury Villas & Astey's Row
N1 2PU
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
8am - dusk
Special conditions:
no fishing, no dogs
Astey's Row Playground: children's playground, tarmac ball court
Public transport:
Rail: Essex Road. London Overground: Canonbury. Rail/London Overground/Tube (Victoria): Highbury & Islington. Bus: 4, 19, 30, 38, 43, 56, 73, 271, 277, 341, 390, 476
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.islington.gov.uk/services/parks-environment/parks/your_parks/greenspace_az

Full Site Description

New River Walk is a stretch of linear park, recalling the former riverbed of the New River, which had disappeared from view by 1861 when it was enclosed in underground pipes. Part of the New River is still in use today under the ownership of Thames Water but in 1946 the working watercourse was terminated at Stoke Newington where the East and West Reservoirs remain (q.v.). Canonbury Grove, which overlooks the New River Walk, was built c.1825 by Richard Laycock and was originally called Willow Cottages and Willow Terrace. The last loop of the New River was in the fields near Astey's Row and it had been straightened in the 1820s to enable building development; on the south side is a circular Watch-house built in the 1820s when it was realigned.

The water that runs through New River Walk is actually formed by ponds landscaped to resemble the former river. It had first been planted as a garden by the New River Company in the 1860s and ownership was then transferred in 1951 to Islington Borough Council, for whom it was one of a number of open spaces planned as post WWII improvements. Re-landscaped in 1952, the gardens were re-opened on 29 May 1954 by Herbert Morrison MP. It forms the western boundary of the Marquess Estate (q.v.). Along the section opposite Canonbury Grove are substantial C19th railings. Astey's Row at the south end of New River Walk is a narrow canyon-like space, well-planted and adorned with rockwork, known to some as 'Islington's Cheddar Gorge'. The section of the New River by Astey's Row was enclosed in pipes in 1892/3 but later the pipes were removed and gardens laid out here by Vanstone's of Much Hadham. Re-landscaping works to New River Walk and Astey's Row Rock Gardens took place in 1996-98, and they were re-opened by Princess Alexandra on 18 June 1998. The works were funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Islington Council, Bridge House Estates Trust Fund, Corporation of London and Friends of the New River Walk. South of Canonbury Road the landscaped area widens out with grass, ponds and rose bushes south of the path, and playgrounds to the north.

Sources consulted:

Mary Cosh, The Squares of Islington Part II: Islington Parish, (London, 1993); Andrew Duncan, 'Walking London' (New Holland, London, 1999 ed); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ323847 (north)/ TQ320841 (Astey's Row) (532170,184410)
Size in hectares:
2.09 (1.41+0.68)
Site ownership:
LB Islington
Site management:
Greenspace; Friends of New River Walk
C18th; 1860s; 1952-4
Asty's Row Rock Gardens: Vanstone's of Much Hadham
Listed structures:
LBII: Watchman's Hut. LB: Nos. 1 - 30 Canonbury Grove; 2 bollards at 20 Astey's Row; railings west of junction with Astey's Row
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Borough Importance I
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Other LA designation:

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.