Copyright © 2011 by Eric Kaufman

A London Walk
By Eric Kaufman

It’s five pm. Clouds above as usual, but looking to the west I see the sky break open at the horizon. We will chase the sun. Our walk begins on Stoke Newington High and marches west along Stoke Newington Church Street. The latter holds the title, Greater London’s longest street name. Resting currently with this name it went through several iterations, the oldest being Newington in 1329.
Let’s stop in at the Jolly Butcher to take a look at their selection of quality beers and real ales. Deep red exterior marks the location for easy identification. Inside voices rumble with chatter. This pub is no secret-spot. My recommendation: BrewDog’s Punk IPA, a high quality sweet and hoppy craft beer. The food looks good, but we’ll try it another time. Off we go down Church Street.
Datte Foco, a beautiful pizzeria serves traditional-style square cookie sheet slices by weight. I choose bianca with spinach and spicy sausage. A surprisingly delicious crust – chewy, crunchy, garlic and oil. I’ll be back.
Whole Foods Market for natural and organic food flourishes with business. Originally opened in Austin, Texas in 1980, it has become an American chain that now reaches into the U.K. It feels more like a neighborhood market than a successful chain. A café advertises a cupcake decorating class. Thirty pounds for an hour. Pass.
Crossing the street back and forth to peer into boutiques, vintage clothing shops, cafes and bakeries requires caution. Cyclists fly past with great speed and near silence. We bounce out of their way at the last moment and take a satisfying breath devoid of exhaust fumes.
We come to a small entrance to Abney Park Cemetery that parts the succession of shops. Why would someone enter a cemetery that is the resting place for nobody they know? To get their goth on of course. There is great appeal among some to enter environments rich with history, mystery and spookiness. London makes an amazing backdrop for creepy-seekers. Taking a short detour we loop through the cemetery. Before becoming a cemetery in 1840, the site was used as a Quaker school for girls. With some imagination we are lead into the darkness and quietly make our way through this historical park. The central point marked by Abney Park Chapel was intended as a monument to racial tolerance. I wonder if some of the souls buried here were victims of intolerance.
Popping back out of the shadows and onto the street, The Auld Shillelagh comes up on the left and we peek in through the window. A traditional pub, cozy with a fire place and candle light. It runs long and narrow along-side a twig of an alley. The owner of the cycle shop a few doors beyond will recommend we stop in. “The best Guinness in London”, he tells us. Dreaming of it he makes his own mouth water as he twists his handlebar mustache. “So creamy.” A likable man, he welcomes us to the neighborhood. We learn about his photography book in its final stages and his hopes for gallery attention.
Further west we reach the street’s namesake which comes in two parts -- St. Mary’s Church on the right built in 1563 and rebuilt after major bomb damage in World War II; and St. Mary’s New Church on the left with its 250 foot steeple that marks the end of our walk. The pink horizon bleeds through a silhouette of vine-like trees in the distance as we approach the steeple at sunset. The closer we get the more dramatic the perspective looking up against the dusk.