Robin’s Rambles: Gillespie Park

It’s easy to feel trapped in the city when you live in London, especially for those of us who in past lives spent the majority of their time outdoors. Finding escape can be tricky. In response I am going to share some spots around my home in North London where I regularly retreat from life in the smoke. As soon as the rains stop and clouds part it’s time to get outdoors and luckily with 33% of London being vegetated green space there’s loads of little pockets of weird and wonderful nature to head to. First up Gillespie Park.

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Wedged on a strip of land between Finsbury Park Station and the old Arsenal Stadium at Highbury is Gillespie Park Nature Reserve and Ecology Centre. Having a peaceful oasis 20 metres from one of Zone 2’s busiest transport intersections is an under appreciated blessing. Especially an oasis that seemingly condenses a broad array of British wilderness environments into a tiny space, which up until its re-appropriation in 1980 was warehouses and coal yards left abandoned since the 1960s.

Gillespie Park’s entrance on Seven Sisters Road makes understated sound extravagant. For the first two years of living in the area and regularly passing the steps up to the park I dismissed them entirely. Then one day, looking for a shortcut, I ventured up and in and found the wonderful wild escape inside. This lesson seems to be the key to discovering London’s little gems of green space; ignore innocuous inconspicuous entrances and go in regardless, you’ll often be lead to the more interesting and underused of urban wilderness retreats.

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With a whole world of meadows, copses, ponds and gardens inside Gillespie Park represents a real microcosm of the British Countryside, in the bizarre way that only a city centre nature reserve can. There’s an alarming array of life in the small repurposed space, tallying 244 species of plant, 94 birds and even 24 species of butterfly.

At most times of year the park seems grossly underused, most visitors just taking advantage of the shortcut from Highbury to the station at Finsbury Park or using the meadows as a convenient spot for dogs to relieve themselves. So even on the crispest and brightest of winter days it’s very easy to find peace and solitude waiting here.

My two favourite spots are Astor Meadow and Highbury Copse. The former sits at the top of the park and has a couple of well placed benches. The best of these is positioned perfectly so you can feel the subterranean rumble of trains as they tear along the Piccadilly and Victoria Lines on their way to Highbury & Islington or Kings Cross. Combined with the perpetual chirp of the local bird population and the fluttering shadow cast by Islington Council’s lone wind turbine, the sensation of the Tube trains below creates a very particular and surreal sensorial experience. Occasionally one of British Rail’s finest hurtles down the rail tracks running alongside the meadow, just to remind you that you are in one of the most populous urban areas in Europe, which staring into a glorious mess trees, bramble and wildflowers you might be liable to forget.

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For a more ensconced uninterrupted escape from the hubbub of the capital Highbury Copse and Ambler Wood are the real deal, small tracts of dense woodland. Inside Highbury Copse you are completely cocooned against the usually inescapable throb of traffic on Seven Sisters Road. The sensation of being isolated by nature and the outdoors is prevalent here despite being slap bang in the middle of North London.

If I ever lack the time, energy or money to head out of the city in search of respite then I come and wander about and sit in Gillespie Park. The great outdoors are a magnificent thing but so can be their miniaturised equivalents offered by London’s multitude of green spaces.



Fjällräven Sample Sale

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We are hosting a Fjällräven Sample Sale on the Green outside The Brokedown Palace, Boxpark Shoreditch this weekend – Saturday 28th 11-7, Sunday 29th 12-6. 

Prices will be between 40% and 70% off RRP.

Men’s are mainly size L and women’s size S, but there are a few Ms and XLs in there too.

There is only one of each item and it’s mainly apparel. Bags will be extremely limited – we should warn you now there are only a handful of Kånken backpacks in old colourways. Please come early to avoid disappointment.

RSVP on the Facebook event page now for more info and event updates.


Black Friday – Patagonia Worn Wear Returns to the Palace

This year we decided we wanted to do something positive and sustainable for Black Friday, so we’ve teamed up with our pals at Patagonia to bring their Worn Wear station back to the Palace. Martina will be working her magic and mending any of your outdoor garments for free, and giving advice on how to do repairs too.

See all the details and RSVP for Worn Wear at The Brokedown Palace – Black Friday 25th November.

 


Testing Out Rab’s Microlight Alpine Jacket

This season we were stoked to add Rab to our brand list at the Palace. Rab Carrington founded the brand in 1980s Sheffield – which is a place close to our hearts. My partner and Palace co-founder, Ian, was born in Sheffield, we both went to university there, and I’m a Yorkshire lass too.

Rab Carrington originally hailed from Glasgow, but his growing climbing passion eventually inspired a move to the relatively drier climes of Sheffield, where he joined in the healthy mountaineering scene based there at the time. He started off sewing sleeping bags in his attic, and then opened a factory in Sheffield.

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Mark Wilson, one of Rab’s first employee’s cutting fabric in 1980s Sheffield.

The Microlight Alpine Jacket is one of Rab’s signature pieces, so naturally we had to have it in our collection.  It seemed fitting to take it up to Rab Carrington’s Scottish roots to test it out  – on a hillwalking trip to Corrour in the Highlands.

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The Microlight is not only a great technical jacket, we think it looks pretty damn sweet too.

We were booked in the seats on the sleeper train (no comfy cabin this time), and the Microlight immediately came into its own – as a handy travel pillow! It packs into its own stuff sack  – which makes it the perfect shape on which to rest a weary head.

Once in Corrour, the Microlight formed an essential part of Ian’s Munro bagging kit. Setting off for the summits, it was wet but fairly mild, so he started out just wearing a shell and Rab Merino Baselayer. The Microlight stayed packed in its stuff sack, and took up barely any space in his daypack. However as we neared the peaks and were exposed to the biting Highland wind, out came the Microlight.  We like to hang out on the mountain tops – picnicking, taking photos and generally soaking up the mind-blowing views. The Microlight made the perfect insulating mid-layer, and he felt totally snug even when stationary for a while.

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Soaking up the mind-blowing views

Rab are famous for their quality down, it’s in their heritage – hence the feathers in their logo.  The Microlight is filled with Rab’s special Hydrophobic Goose Down. Hydrophobic down dries faster, absorbs less water and retain its ‘loft’ – the fluffiness which is what makes it warm and cosy!


Rab Carrington and the early Rab logo with iconic feather

The outer fabric is Pertex, which is both breathable and windproof – a feature Ian was certainly glad of on this trip. The Microlight is weather-resistant but not waterproof, so as it was pouring down on our mountain days, he wore it under his waterproof shell.

On the last day we did some lower ground exploring, and it was dryer with just a few light showers. It felt colder without the hilly exertion, and the Microlight over the Merino base layer was a winning combo. He didn’t wear a shell and the Microlight stood up to the occasional light rain. Even the hood is down-filled which really does make it feel like you’re under your duvet, whilst enjoying the great outdoors!

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On the bridge behind Corrour Station – made famous in Trainspotting.

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Rab Corrour

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Walking along the train tracks at Corrour Summit.

Whether you’re braving the wilds of Scotland or Shoreditch this winter, Rab’s Microlight Alpine Jacket is an essential piece of kit!

Ethics

Rab’s Hydrophobic Down is Fluorocarbon free and developed in conjunction with Nikwax. Fluorocarbons are often used to make garments water repellent but they are toxic to humans and the environment. Nikwax and Rab have developed a safe alternative.

All Rab’s down is ethically sourced and traceable under the European Down and Feather Association Code of Conduct, this stipulates that no down harvested in a way that inflicts pain upon animals may be used.