Dear Readers, after we left the Lea River at the new Ice Skating Centre yesterday, we followed the tow path beside the Lee Navigation, the ‘canal’ part of the Lee/Lea. We were both remarking on how different this whole area was since the last time we did the walk back in 2010. Then, the Olympic Park (of which more soon) was a building site, and so were many of the residential buildings along the Lee. There are now lots of attractive-looking apartments, such as this one over looking the canal. My husband is a balcony connoisseur, and he heartily approved of these for year-round use.
There are still plenty of coots and cootlets around, and this parent saw off two Canada geese who came too close to their youngsters. What fierce, feisty birds they are! I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of a coot.
We pass under a low bridge…
…pass this very attractive cottage on the opposite bank….
and come to Curtain Gate Bridge. Before we cross it, I notice a stream of bubbles, presumably from a device to keep the water oxygenated. There are mats of algae and duckweed all along this stretch – presumably it’s slower moving, and so these things have more of a chance to form.
Immediately on the other side of the river is the site of the Middlesex Filter Beds, which were used to treat water – some of the old concrete architecture still stands.
The filter beds were part of Hackney Marshes, a rather wild place when I was growing up- travellers would camp and graze their horses here, my Mum and Dad both did evening shifts at Hackney Stadium which was used for greyhound races, and it was well known as a place that you didn’t want to frequent at night. Latterly, it’s become the home of 82 football, rugby and cricket pitches, and on Sunday the air is thick with the sounds of hungover footballers desperately trying to get the ball in the back of the net. It was also home to the UK’s largest car boot sale for a while.
Along the navigation the path has turned into a narrow path. There is a very smooth attractive cycle path a few metres away, but some cyclists are still steaming along the tow path. I stop to take a photo of the canal and a cyclist passes me at speed (yes I did check the path before I stopped), coming so close that he literally makes my hair stand on end. Still, I’m here to tell the tale, and most cyclists are very decorous, slowing down and tinkling their bells.
I love how some of the house boats have gardens on the top.
And here is another new-to-me apartment block. Trouble is, I bet most of the people who live around here can’t afford to buy a flat here. I think this is Matchmaker’s Wharf, on the sight of the old Lesney works – they used to make ‘Matchbox’ toys, which were highly collectable. My brother had a whole range of the little cars, including a Batmobile that I coveted greatly. It always seemed so sad to me that the toys that are worth the most are the ones that are still in their boxes, rather than the ones that are battered from being crashed into one another by some boisterous little boy.
A bit further down the navigation, the duckweed is so thick that you’d think you could walk on it.
We pass under the bridge that carries the main A102. Underneath there’s the usual smell of urine and the unusual sight of the concrete supports, wildly decorated not just with grafitti but also with all manner of boxes and objects. Someone (or a group of people) have gone to a lot of time and trouble to construct this strange urban mosaic.
And talking of strange urban objects, the Arcelor Mittal Orbit comes into view. This is both a viewing platform and a helter-skelter. I have been quite tempted to pop up for a look, but have no intention of whooshing down, though I admire those of a daredevil tendency who might.
On the left is ‘Here East’, which was the press centre for the Olympic Games in 2012, and is now something of tech hub, with a vegan cafe and a branch of the ever popular ‘Breakfast Club’. This whole area is now an absolute magnet – last time we were here, there was a viewing platform over the building site, and if we had tumbleweeds in East London there would definitely have been some on the road to the station. But now there are people everywhere, strolling, eating, cycling (precariously), drinking, taking their children to the playgrounds and shopping (though you wouldn’t know it from the very well-timed photo below)
We pass a lovely Dutch sailing boat moored up alongside the canal – called the Gebroeders, she was built in 1879 to ply the canals and inland waterways of the Netherlands, and is now used as a pleasure craft, cruising the east coast of the UK and parts of Northern Europe. And very fine she looks too!
By now we are coming to the end of the walk, and take a last look at the Orbit, and at the rust-coloured tower which is part of the King’s Yard Energy Centre. This was created to provide energy to the various stadiums, swimming pools and residences during the Olympic Games, and has been used subsequently to heat homes and businesses in the local community, using a combination of gas and biofuel.
And finally, here is Hackney Wick station. I couldn’t believe all the crowds outside. This area has certainly become a real draw, which can only be good for business. Let’s hope it benefits everyone who lives in the area.