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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Glorious green spaces

After recently moving to East London, I now have the pleasure of waking up every morning to a view comprising a canal, a selection of weeping willows and an expanse of green space. Having spent a significant period of time in London, I am most certainly a city dweller and, for a very long time, I didn’t realise the importance of green space. Now I most certainly do, so here are my favourite green spaces in London.

Victoria Park
This is the park that I wake up to every morning and for which I have a bit of a soft spot. Victoria Park is very much a recreational area, with three cricket pitches, a skate park, a children’s adventure playground, a smattering of deer and a few lakes. It has the feel of a local park, which its more famous cousins, Hyde Park and Regents Park, cannot equal.

Opened in 1845, Victoria Park is one of the few large expanses of green space in East London and it is full of history. During the late 19th century it became a meeting point for political groups and was famous for its lively speakers’ corners. Less than a hundred years later, during the Second World War it became home to a huge anti-aircraft battery, attacking the Luftwaffe intent on bombing the docks of London.

History aside, the Pavilion is now considered to serve one of the best breakfasts in East London. Grab a seat outside, as well as world-class eggs Benedict, and take in a wonderful view over the lake. Do be warned, however, this place is absolutely heaving on a hot summer’s day.

Highgate Wood and the Parkland Walk
One of the few parts of the ancient Forest of Middlesex that still survives today. Once you are just a few steps into Highgate Wood you feel a million miles from the city of London. The wood is a joy to walk through at any time of the year, and has been owned and managed by the Corporation of London since the Lord Mayor pronounced it “an open space forever” in 1886. Abundant with hornbeam and oak, Highgate Wood has many a fallen tree providing makeshift seats to rest awhile.

More or less cutting through Highgate Wood is the Parkland Walk. This path was once the route of part of the London and North Eastern Railway line from Finsbury Park to Edgware, constructed in 1867 and finally closing in 1970. Starting from Highgate Wood you can take a very secluded but also very linear stroll to Finsbury Park. A couple of platforms are all that survive of the various stations, but the Parkland Walk does have the honour of being London’s longest Local Nature Reserve. There are a few nice patches of graffiti en-route, too.

Greenwich Park
Not wanting to alienate south-Londoners, Greenwich Park offers one of the most spectacular views across London. The top of the hill, near the Observatory, provides the best vantage point with views across the River Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Isle of Dogs and more in-between.

Greenwich-lovers mourning the damage done to the Cutty Sark have also had to face the removal of the Henry Moore statue ‘Standing Figure: Knife Edge’. Recent news has been more positive, though: when London hosts the 2012 Olympics, Greenwich Park will be the venue for the equestrian events and cross-country disciplines of the modern pentathlon.

The park is part of the Greenwich World Heritage Site marking the site of the Greenwich Meridian — the base point for world time and the location of longitude zero. Greenwich is most famous for being associated with time and space. As you walk across this wonderful park, you get an incredible sense of both.

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Recommended film
Stranger Than Fiction
Any film that includes the line: “Have you ever had a girlfriend?” followed by: “Yes, once, but she left me for an actuary” has to rank highly in my list of favourites. I live with a CFA charterholder and he didn’t laugh at this joke, but they only sit three exams so what do they know..?

Stranger Than Fiction stars Will Ferrell as an IRS auditor who wakes up one day to find his actions narrated by a voice only he can hear. While this is undoubtedly the most moving performance I’ve seen by Will Ferrell — albeit not a high benchmark — the supporting roles played by Emma Thomson and Dustin Hoffman really bring this joyous little film to life.