Having passed through the King’s Cross development quite frequently over the past few years to meet clients, I know that the changes there have been immense – what was formerly an extremely run down area of the city is being transformed, with renovations of many of the old Victorian structures, new buildings going up at speed, and the creation of a significant number of new public spaces.
The biggest of these is Granary Square, bounded by the canal to the south and by Lewis Cubitt’s Goods Yard complex to the North (now the University of the Arts in London), and with 1080 ‘dancing’ fountains in its centre. It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the sun with a coffee.
You can go for a free walk around the area organised by the visitor centre and see for yourself what’s changed and what’s being planned – it’s almost worth going on the walk every six months just to see how quickly things are progressing.
For me though, the most wonderful part of the development isn’t new or modernised. It’s two acres of green space tucked over towards St Pancras International where at times you can imagine yourself in the middle of English woodland.
Camley Street Natural Park opened in 1984, “built” on an old coal yard which had become wild and overgrown. Plans to turn it into a lorry park were successfully fought by local residents and the London Wildlife Trust and its semi-official status was recognised formally when the Trust, supported by the London Borough of Camden, took it over in 1985.
Back then the whole Goods Yard area of King’s Cross was a tangle of redundant rail tracks, derelict and semi-derelict buildings, and was notorious as a site for prostitution and kerb-crawling.
To walk through the Park on a sunny spring day is to be transported out of the city, as the couple of photos here show. The birds sing, the air is still, not even Eurostar revving its engines as it pulls out of St Pancras can disturb the peace.
There are plans to link the Park to Granary Square with a bridge over the canal, which will mean that more people will discover this wonderful green space. That – objectively – is obviously a good thing, but at present the fact that it’s front gate is slightly off the main road means that the place is often almost empty. Selfishly, I’d like it to remain that way rather than be invaded by office workers picnicking on Pret a Manger sandwiches.
Camley Street Natural Park is open seven days a week 1000-1700 during the summer and 1000-1600 in winter time. Click here to find it on Google maps.