I walk the line

You’ll have probably have heard of the New York High Line. Indeed many of you, like me, will have walked it. The High Line, also known as the High Line Park is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line.

New York High Line

Repurposing of the railway into an urban park began construction in 2006, with the first phase opening in 2009, and the second phase opening in 2011. The third and final phase officially opened to the public on 21 September 2014. A short stub above Tenth Avenue and 30th Street is due to open by 2017, once the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project is completed. To say the project has spurred real estate development in the neighbourhoods that lie along the line would be a tremendous understatement. And as 2015, the park gets over 5 million visitors annually.

What you might not know is that the New York park was inspired by the 3-mile (4.8-kilometre) Promenade Plantée (tree-lined walkway), a similar project in Paris completed in 1993. Again an elevated linear park built on top of obsolete railway infrastructure this time in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

The Promenade plantée is an extensive green belt that follows the old Vincennes railway line. Beginning just east of the Opéra Bastille with the elevated Viaduc des Arts, it follows a path eastward that ends at a spiral staircase leading to the boulevard Périphérique beltway. At its west end near the Bastille, the parkway rises 10 m above the surrounding area over a line of shops featuring high quality and expensive arts and crafts.

Promenade Plantée the first elevated park in the world

The Peckham Coal Line is a proposal for a high level, urban, linear park connecting communities. As London’s Evening Standard put it last October: “The Peckham Coal Line aims to transform disused coal sidings into a 1km park running between Queens Road Peckham and Peckham Rye stations.” The project is currently still in the scoping phase but the dreamers behind it emphasise that its primary purpose is to link communities and not increase already over-inflated property prices in the area.

Having walked both the Paris and the New York elevated routes (separately and with me) @innerlondondonramb has been inspired to already lead several walks for Inner London Ramblers groups highlighting this ambitious project.

Everyone it seems wants their own urban, linear, high line park. Up in Castlefields, Manchester there are plans afoot for some Hanging Gardens. Plans have been drawn up for the ‘hanging gardens’ to stretch along a derelict Victorian viaduct in Manchester city centre. It is planned the Viaduct Park will connect Potato Wharf with Manchester's Science and Industry Museum and Central Convention Complex along a 400m (1312ft) route.

Meanwhile back on terra firma in London you could do worse than walk the Line London while you’re waiting for the elevated routes to get off the ground. (See what I did there?!) The Line is London's first dedicated modern and contemporary art walk. The route runs between the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the O2, following the waterways and the line of the Meridian.

A Bullet from a Shooting Star by Alex Chinneck 

The majority of the Line lays on the north side of the River Thames but don’t miss Alex Chinneck’s A Bullet from a Shooting Star which can be found on the Greenwich Peninsula. The walk is certainly enhanced by starting at North Greenwich and journeying to the north bank via the cable car. Divided into 3 it’s about 4.6 miles (7 km) in length with a natural break for a cup of tea at Cody Dock.

I wish the Peckham Coal Line and Castlefield’s Hanging Gardens success and look forward to being able to walk these elevated routes in the future as they would both be attractive additions to the routes that already exist in these cities. And if the popularity of those in Paris and New York are anything to go by they would bring extra visitors to the locations.

And while we're talking about the future keep an eye out for the new and updated Ramblers Urban Walking policy due to be published in the autumn.

Norman Jones

After reading a tweet from Inner London Ramblers I followed The Line southwards from Stratford today (23rd July) with a diversion for some buses at West Ham garage. Having got only an outline map from the web site, the cafe at Cody Dock was an unexpected delight. The Art Works were an added interest and the cable car ride (chargeable) was pleasurable. The routes also includes two connecting trains on the Docklands Light Railway.
Thanks for highlighting the art walk, previously unknown to me.