The New River has been a feature of London’s manmade landscape for over 400 years, and this year, for the sixth time, it hosts the Hidden River Festival. Run and organised by the Woodberry Down Partnership, the event gets bigger and better every year, drawing in locals and those from further afield alike with its rich promise of live music, fresh food and drink, eclectic stalls and family fun.
Against the background of a shimmering West Reservoir, sailing boats coasting across its glassy surface, the recently opened Spring Park presents a welcome walkway into the festival, where some keen folk are already in their shorts and Lycra to take advantage of the free taster fitness classes. Thankfully, we have the weather for it.
Claire Barnett and Alexander Williams have lived in Woodberry Down for over five years now. Their love of the area inspired them to open Evoke, their new local fitness studio.
Their fitness classes offer a welcome antidote to some of the more indulgent treats on offer at the festival. Café Zer’s food stand on the closed-off Lordship Road beckons with its promise of kofte and burgers, while the scents of roast duck, freshly made pizza and paella from the other stalls offer temptation no matter which side of the street you walk on. And to wash it all down, the Camden Town Brewery have made their way here with their infamous Hells lager and pale ales.
For dessert, there is the delicious homemade ice cream at the Coal House Café on the Wetlands, where you can watch both adolescent swans and human children run wild in their natural environment.
And if all that leaves you full to bursting, the Food Waste Prevention stall offers free advice on portioning your foods and utensils such as a rice portion-size spoon (who knew it was supposed to be that small?) to get you back on the straight and narrow in the days to come.
The stalls snake along the bank of the West Reservoir, and offer the full spectrum of local goods and services. Herbal Haven’s panoply of herbs – some you might well never have heard of before – adds to the verdant greenery of the area, while Alan Briggs’s Bughouses are some of the prettiest little houses in the whole development (even if they are built for bees), and Alan himself is only too happy to share his nature knowledge. When eight-year-old Delilah from nearby Stoke Newington asks for a plant that ‘doesn’t need watering very often’ – eight-year-olds have very busy schedules too, you know – Alan finds her the perfect one.
Further along the stalls, the Silent Disco treatment is meted out and, filled with a group of young children in henna tattoos (from the nearby Family Finches crafts enclosure) wearing their headphones, it comes as a relief that the rap music they’re all dancing to is a daytime-radio edit.
At the Wetlands Stage, singer-songwriter Astrid Brook offers folk music and social consciousness in equal measures to an enraptured crowd, while earlier in the day the sing-a-long Trolls on the Woodfest Stage offer a mite less social consciousness but no shortage of fun for the kids.
And as the day draws to a close and the sun sits low and full in the September sky, Phoebe Coco’s ethereal piano and vocals whisper intimately across the green of Spring Park, while families and friends gather.
“I love the way this festival unites urban dwellers and nature and brims with joy”QUOTE: Phoebe Coco
And as the crowds slowly begin to disperse and the stalls slowly begin to close, and the children continue to play in the park, it’s difficult to argue with those sentiments. Same time again next year?
“This area has a fantastic community and a long and colourful history, and we’re part of the future of that”QUOTE: Claire Barnett