The Capital Ring – Hackney Wick to Beckton Part Two

Abbey Mills Pumping Station

Dear Readers, those Victorians certainly liked to make industrial buildings look like temples, or cathedrals, and Abbey Mills Pumping Station is no exception. Built in 1868 it was known as ‘The Temple of Sewage’ during its working life, and was part of Joseph Bazalgette’s plan to rid London of sewage. The interior is apparently like a Byzantine church.

Even the smaller service buildings are ornate.

The pumping station has electric pumps which can be used to assist the new modern pumping station next door (not as pretty, for sure). Sewage is pumped into the Lee Tunnel and then onwards to Beckton Treatment works.

New Abbey Mills Pumping Station (Photo by By Gordon Joly – Own work, CC BY 3.0,

On the other side of the Greenway is an attractive Victorian terrace, which surely used to house the workers for the pumping station. I loved the juxtaposition of those chimneys with the tower blocks beyond.

They seem to have something of a giant hogweed problem though, by the look of it. I saw my first ever giant hogweed over in the Olympic Park, and so it’s not a complete surprise.

Just past the pumping station, a piece of station machinery has been turned into an industrial sculpture. It reminds me of an ammonite.

We cross the Channelsea river, which is tidal. It splits into two creeks here, with Abbey Creek on the right and Channelsea Creek on the left. I wish I’d brought my binoculars to look for wading birds, but alas I am already heavily encumbered with water, camera, nibbles etc etc so something had to give.

From here on, it’s a bit of a slog, through West Ham and Plaistow. The sun beats down relentlessly etc etc and we realise that the benefit of walking on the grassy bit, which is softer our feet, is somewhat overshadowed by the sheer amount of dog poo. Clean up after your hounds, people! What is wrong with you?

On the left, I spy what I think is Ranelagh Primary School. I went to a similar Victorian primary school, and those huge windows and high ceilings let in an enormous amount of light. The windows were opened by a rather complicated metal pulley and lever system, and only the most well-behaved of children were allowed to manipulate it. I think in this school the windows might have been replaced with something more modern, though.

There are good views of Canary Wharf over the playing fields.

A cat pops out to see what s/he can find. Previously we’d seen a black cat look both ways before crossing the path, presumably after a close shave with a speeding cyclist. Cats are not daft, for sure.

A Community Orchard is being built by the side of the Greenway, which is a lovely idea.

The organisation ‘Good Gym’ helps out regularly – they combine a physical workout with actually doing some good in the community. In Coldfall Wood, Good Gym do everything from weeding to planting bulbs. It’s an excellent idea, and one that I hope really catches on.

And then we leave the Greenway, cross a truly terrifying road bridge over the A13, and enter Beckton District Park, which is a true oasis of greenery with the sound of the road rumbling in the background.

Beckton District Park

There is a tree trail with some interesting specimen trees too.

But our path takes us to Royal Albert DLR station, and home. The Docklands Light Railway has driverless trains (such a novelty when the line first opened) and is largely above ground, affording some spectacular views of Docklands.

At this station we are very close to London City Airport, so every so often a plane roars overhead.

And I cannot resist the joy of travelling home via the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail), which you can pick up from Excel West. Oh the comfort! The quietness! The efficiency!

Here comes the Elizabeth Line train!

Seats in regal purple

The Space Age curves at Tottenham Road Station

An empty tunnel…

And so, five-and-a-bit miles later we arrive at East Finchley, after another fine trot around the Capital. The variety of landscapes that the walk passes is so stimulating that it’s reminding me why I love London so much.

Next week, Beckton to Woolwich, and we finally cross the River Thames and go South of the River!

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