Over recent months, we’ve covered various horticultural, community and artistic elements coalescing to form the Euston Green Link: a project to create a healthier walk between the station and Regent’s Park, highlighting welcoming neighbourhood businesses and leafy pit-stops along the way.
But only by experiencing the route from start to finish does it become clear what its enduring achievements may be. It certainly traverses challenging terrain.
Not that the 0.7 mile urban hike means negotiating precipitous inclines or perilous tidal systems, but the ever-changing nature of the city certainly carves things up, with numerous construction and demolition sites along the way. And it’s no nature walk – at least not just yet – but don’t fear, as this is exactly what makes this particular Green route exciting, thought-provoking and ultimately heart-warming, too.
On a clement-enough day, we approach via the established King’s Cross to Euston Wellbeing Walk. It was pioneered by local group Urban Partners to promote a cleaner pedestrian alternative to Euston Road, which despite falling under the Mayor’s new ULEZ, still faces a daily air pollution emergency.
Euston Green Link picks up the breathability baton at the other side of the station, via a thin passage of helpfully-branded hoardings that run right through the heart of current HS2 upheavals. We have to wait for road gates to open due to the high number of trucks pulling out of St James’s Gardens, where archaeologists are carefully exploring the remains of up to 60,000 Londoners buried here in the late 1700s.
Down the netherworldly passage, past the gone-any-day-now shell of the revered Bree Louise pub, we find ourselves blinking, emerging into a very different kind of hubbub: the Bengali restaurants of Drummond Street competing for our attention with their bargainous buffet lunch spreads.
Teetering exotic fruit and veg tumble forth outside grocers, while spring blooms frame the street’s handsome Georgian terraces. It’s colourful, aromatic and well worth stopping for a meal, an ice cream at new nitro joint Milkman, or just a drink at one of the remaining watering holes – the recently spruced-up Crown and Anchor, or the tucked-away Exmouth Arms.
The walk then passes Camden People’s Theatre, currently celebrating 25 years as a cultural hub, before plunging into a completely different zone once again when we cross the traffic artery of Hampstead Road.
Regent’s Place, home to the shiny UK HQ’s of Facebook and Santander, is redeveloping one side of our marked path, and building some much-needed affordable homes directly opposite. So our route becomes a chicane of cones and kerb ramps, before emerging from the muddy melee into a spot of contrasting tranquillity.
We’ve arrived at the brand new pocket park, planted by urban horticulturalists Cityscapes outside Westminster Kingsway College. This sun-dappled oasis is beginning to take root on our visit, and its trees, shrubs and flowers should really burst forth in the weeks ahead.
Take a bench here, and a moment to contemplate the towering glass office structures all around, one of which is – somewhat appropriately for our eco-imperative tour – home to the nerve centre of peaceful disruption climate heroes Extinction Rebellion. Their distinctive hourglass logo flutters with gusto on a fluro-hued flag attached to a nearby bicycle.
We up sticks and continue, following the easy-to-spot Green Link signage atop lampposts, as Euston morphs once more: the non-building-site end of Regent’s Place and Melia White House Hotel looking smarter, more efficient, a whirl of uniformed doormen opening swish car doors. This zone offers a range of international food and drink options, or try the Queen’s Head & Artichoke pub on the other corner.
Busy Albany Street bridges a classic Camden juxtaposition of mid-20th century council property rubbing up alongside grand townhouses. As we cross, the Green Link produces its last grand transformation. Chester Terrace offers imposing neo-classical grandeur – the gateway to John Nash’s sweep of crescents and porticos overlooking Regent’s Park.
Glimpsed from our approach, the park looks deliciously lush and inviting as a final, well-earned destination. As well as promoting a healthier, more interesting trail, and introducing neighbourhood traders to the railway crowd, the aim is equally to open up this glorious public open space to the whole community, particularly people who haven’t felt this grandiose side of the tracks is for them.
Traversing such varied terrain, across multiple urban ecosystems in less than a mile, serves to melt these borders of the mind. Euston Green Link is a beacon for our polluted, cacophonous yet ultimately hopeful condition and times. I urge you to walk it, and to feel the possibilities of what our city can be, and might yet become.