Urban walk with Magid Magid


As activist and former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Magid Magid, settles into London life he shares his review of “the ultimate trek” – Streatham to Crystal Palace

As I set off on my latest urban adventure, my thoughts turned to the great wanderers of our time: Wordsworth, Thoreau, and of course, Forrest Gump. But today, I was following in the footsteps of a different kind of icon: the great British walker. Yes, I was embarking on the ultimate trek from Streatham to Crystal Palace.

First things first, let’s talk about the name Streatham. Is it just me or does it sound like a verb? Like, “I was feeling a bit down, so I decided to Streatham my way through it.” Or maybe it could be a noun, like “I need to pick up some Streatham from the chemist.” Who knows!

Streatham is known for its diverse community, and the high street reflects that with a range of different shops and restaurants. As you walk down the street, you might hear the sounds of reggae music blasting from a Caribbean restaurant or catch a whiff of delicious Ethiopian cuisine wafting from a nearby eatery. Whatever your taste, you’re bound to find something that tickles your fancy.

As we continue on our way, we pass by a few notable landmarks, such as the Odeon Cinema, which has been standing since 1932. Fun fact: it’s said to be haunted by the ghost of a former manager, who likes to move things around and generally cause mischief. I like to think of him as the Casper of Streatham.

As we cross over into Norwood, we start to ascend the hill towards Crystal Palace. This is where things get interesting. For one, I started to see more and more dogs being walked by their owners. And not just any dogs, mind you — we’re talking Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, and other breeds that are the size of small ponies. It’s like a canine version of Jurassic Park.

Speaking of animals, we will also be passing by the famous Crystal Palace Park, which is home to a menagerie of exotic creatures such as parrots, flamingos, and emus. And let’s not forget about the dinosaurs. Yes, you read that right. There are “life-size” models of prehistoric creatures scattered throughout the park, including a 90-foot-long replica of a diplodocus — something I’m sure children would love.

As you make your way towards Crystal Palace, the city begins to fade away, replaced by lush greenery. Trees are tall and majestic, their leaves rustling gently in the breeze. It is a natural oasis, a place to escape the hustle and bustle and find peace.

But this peace is short-lived, as the greenery begins to give way to the urban jungle once more. The streets are narrow and winding, lined with row houses and small shops. The people are friendly, but wary, as if they know something you don’t. And they do — this is a place where anything can happen, like witnessing a man walking three ferrets on a leash or being asked to help move a sofa into a house, which I of course agreed to.

As I continued northward, the surroundings gradually shifted again, becoming more suburban and residential in character. The houses became smaller and more modest, but no less charming for it.

Whether you’re a lifelong Londoner or a visitor looking for a taste of the city’s unique magic, a walk from Streatham to Crystal Palace is an experience not to be missed

And then, suddenly, I was there — Crystal Palace. In the past it would have risen before you, a majestic structure of glass and steel, a testament to human ingenuity and creativity. The view is breathtaking, a panorama of the city that stretches out to the horizon. It’s the perfect place to catch your breath, have a drink and take it all in. And who knows, maybe you’ll even spot a ghostly figure or two lurking around.

It was a fitting end to a truly delightful walk. I had begun my journey with some trepidation, unsure of what lay ahead. But what I found was a London that was full of surprises and delights, full of character and charm at every turn. Whether you’re a lifelong Londoner or a visitor looking for a taste of the city’s unique magic, a walk from Streatham to Crystal Palace is an experience not to be missed.

Have a look at Magid’s first ever Slow Ways walk from Sheffield to Swallownest here.

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