Hidden Treasure

Nestled in among the new development of Woodberry Down, just behind Manor House tube station in North London, lies the New River. The name however is rather inaccurate since it is actually a 400 year old viaduct so not ‘new’ or a in fact a river at all.  Completedin 1613, it was built to supply London with fresh drinking water from Hertfordshire. Originally terminating in Islington, the New River was extended into the East and West Reservoirs in Stoke Newington in 1833.

In this beautiful natural setting the Hidden River Festivalhas been held for the last 5 years. A family-friendly day festival aimed at connecting local communities for a day of fun is the result of a collaborative effort between the regeneration partnership at Woodberry Down including Manor House Development Trust, the Woodberry Down Community Organisation, the London Borough of Hackney, Genesis Housing and Berkeley Homes which have collectively regenerated and managed the area around the reservoirs.

Having only just found out about this tucked away local gathering, a group of us descended upon the festival to kick off a friend’s birthday celebration last weekend. The dramatic sky (and occasional sharp showers) could not dampen or detract from the relaxed atmosphere and gorgeous green setting for the afternoon.

Making our way through the buildings leading up to the reservoir, the first sight we saw was the ‘main stage’ – a solar powered bus hosting the first of a few bands playing a variety of music. This started with a chilled yet groovy reggae vibe from the group playing when we arrived; followed by a foot stomping folk flavoured band with added strings which livened up the crowd as we were caught in a brief downpour.

Music to suit all tastes

Adventuring out from the trees we had ducked under for cover – the band playing for some brave souls that continued to dance rejoicing in the rain – we ventured down the path to investigate the stalls. There was a fantastic array to browse through including trendy vintage clothing, locally grown herbs, activities for kids and adults’ alike including crafts and face painting. I was of course drawn to a story telling tent, especially after my own recent attempt at this skill at The Moth.

Casual shopping accompaniment

We also came across a tent hosted by the local Castle Canoe Club. I was excited to learn that on the reservoir one could canoe, kayak and paddleboard weekly with other adventurers at a very affordable price.  It felt a small shame that we were just discovering this as the weather had started to turn grey and chilly, my personal feelings being that water activities are more of a summertime venture. Since the club is open all year round I’m encouraged to give the obligation free introductory course a go anyway and see how I find it. Watch this space.

Out on the water
Venturing further into the festivities we found a beautiful manicured garden to stroll through as well as another tent playing drum and bass tunes, much to the delight of a crowd of enthusiastic dancing kids in front of the stage making the most of a window of warm sunshine. Tucked away in a corner nearby was a tree with a sign hanging from it telling those who saw it to ‘hang a wish’.

Wishing tree

Upon closer inspection I found a Styrofoam cup wedged into a nook among the branches which was full of cardboard tags. Felt tip pens were also balanced on another branch below and people had been writing wishes and tying them to branches which fluttered about in the breeze. Feeling motivated by the fantastic atmosphere I added my own wish to the collection.

A wish for all
As we say back in SA, ‘local is lekker’ and I’m so pleased to have found a lovely new natural space so close to home as well as feeling a bit more connected to my local environment and community. A fantastic uplift for the spirits, despite the rain, and a heart-warming way to spend a Saturday afternoon.