Cody Dock link closed 25 Dec & 1 Jan

Entrance to Cody Dock at South Crescent

The Cody Dock bridge will be closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

This means that if you are walking south from Three Mills to East India Dock or Trinity Buoy Wharf you must break off at the Amazon building to walk through the industrial estate turning left at the second roundabout to reach Cody Road.

On other Christmas Week days Cody Dock and the bridge will be open from 11am to sunset.

After New Year’s Day the normal opening time will be 9am daily.

SS Robin returns to Leamouth

The lighthouse and Orchard Cafe at Trinity Buoy Wharf

SS Robin was built in 1890 by Mackenzie, MacAlpine & Coat at Orchard Yard on the River Lea at Leamouth.

The 300-ton steam-powered coaster, now part of the National Historic Fleet, is the last of her type still in existence.

Next Sunday 10 December the fully restored SS Robin returns to Leamouth to permanently moor at Trinity Buoy Wharf at the end of Orchard Place and at river’s confluence with the River Thames.

The arrival is expected between 10am and 11am. The Wharf’s Orchard Café will be open from 9am to 4pm serving hot drinks and hot lunches.

The nearest station is East India DLR.

New Jim Lewis book: More than a canal

New background reading on the River Lea comes from Jim Lewis who has written many years writing about the valley.

Although this book claims to look at the river as a canal and has been promoted as being handy for those on the water it brings together Dr Lewis’s latest research.

He stresses that it is the Lea Valley and the River Lea but the navigation when a canal is the Lee. Hence the book’s title London’s Secret Canal: The River Lee Navigation.

There is a summary of the Lea Valley heritage with new information including a very compelling claim that Ponders End is ‘the birthplace of the post industrial revolution’.

Whilst the author is best known for his championing of the valley’s industrial heritage this book also dwells in sections on the remarkable amount of wildlife in the green corridor running down the side of the capital.

The launch of this latest work was appropriately at Myddelton House, HQ of the park authority, but the book rightly embraces the entire flow from Luton to Limehouse.

Waterstones at Enfield, Walthamstow and Liverpool Street, and other branches, are stocking the book.

London’s Secret Canal: The River Lee Navigation (Redshanks Books, £12).

Wassailing at Tottenham Hale

Behind the late 17th-century Ferry Boat Inn at Tottenham Hale is an ancient apple orchard with water on two sides.

The annual wassailing takes place in the orchard on Sunday evening 15 January.

Wassailing, usually associated with Somerset and the west Country, involves singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. The ceremony is often, as at Tottenham, accompanied by much noise to wake up the trees for springtime. So you are invited to bring pots and pans to bang in between enjoying warm spiced cider.

People will gather from 5pm and pub food will be available during the evening.

The Ferry Boat Inn with its stone floor is in Ferry Lane and east of Tottenham Hale Lock. It is just over the border on the Essex bank of the Old Lea.

The pub is a handy and pleasant lunch stop when walking down the valley in summer.

There will also be wassailing the day before, Saturday 14 January, upstream at Waltham Abbey between 3.30pm and 5.30pm.

Wassailing mostly takes place on or near Old Twelfth Night 17 January. The Julian Calendar was replaced by the Gregorian Calendar in 1751 when 11 days were lost in the readjustment.

Lea Valley on pilgrim trail

Waltham Abbey’s monastery gateway

The pilgrim road from London to Walsingham in Norfolk before the Reformation was the for much of the way the road built by the Romans.

The new route being launched this Saturday 3 September avoids that now polluted main road by directing pilgrims up the Lea Valley Walk to Ware with use also being made of the parallel New River.

Highlighted are Waltham Cross and Waltham Abbey, both associated with pilgrimage and travel, and Great Amwell’s 11th-century church.

Walsingham is a draw for its restored shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. This takes the form of a chapel to the dimensions of the outer home of the Virgin Mary in Nazareth -the little house built at the entrance to the cave home. It is similar to the original now reassembled at Loreto in Italy.

Taking a safe car-free route to Ware is significant says Andy Bull who has written the guide. He quotes the rector of Waltham Abbey as claiming that in the past the abbey community, and arriving pilgrims seeking Waltham’s Holy Cross, followed the river for travel.

The riverside town of Ware was a major stop on the way to Walsingham as it was considered to be a day’s journey out of London.

The suppression of the pilgrimage in 1538 under Henry VIII hit Ware badly and, in desperation during the reign of his daughter Elizabeth, the inn keepers resorted to inventing a new tourist attraction. This was the giant Great Bed of Ware which was so successful that it featured in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Ben Jonson’s Epicoene.

Almost three hundred years later it was still attracting tourists to the Lea Valley at downstream Rye House. The bed is now on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The new guide has plenty of good photographs and a clear explanation of the Walsingham heritage.

London to Walsingham Camino by Andy Bull (Trailblazer £17.99).

The riverside gazebos at Ware (Photo: Ware Town Council)

Flooding in Pudding Mill Lane

City Mill River

Reports of flooding on Sunday will raise many questions.

But the much viewed film of water pouring into Pudding Mill Lane Station is particularly interesting.

This is in the Lea valley where the river splits across a floodplain into the Bow Back Rivers.

The station lies between the Lea navigation and City Mill River. But once there would have been the intervening Pudding Mill River which was expunged as a waterway when the Olympic stadium was built.

A legacy of the 2012 Olympics may be a more complicated landscape than the ignored backyard of the 20th century.

Blackwall Yard change

Blackwall Yard graving dock. The trees marking the Greenwich Meridian and leading from Virginia Quay are to the right. (Picture: Glenn Howells Architects, Panter Hudspith and White Arkitekter © Hadley Property Group)

A 900-home development with a riverside path on Blackwall Yard, designed by Glenn Howells Architects, Panter Hudspith and White Artiketer, has been given the go-ahead by Tower Hamlets Council.

This is a location well known to many completing the Lea Valley Walk.

The end of the Lea Valley Walk (unless you choose to follow the Limehouse Cut) is East India Dock.

Some walk a little east to Trinity Buoy Wharf to see the confluence of the Lea with the Thames. But even if you do this you will probably end up making for East India Dock Station.

To reach the Docklands Light Railway station you pass along Virginia Quay, from where the settlers of Virginia set sail, to turn inland up an avenue of trees on the line of the Greenwich Meridian.

You have to turn as the riverside path does not at present continue over Blackwall Yard.

But one day you may be able to keep by the river to enter Blackwall Yard and walk across New Providence Wharf from where the Pilgrim Fathers made their final embarkation for America.


Bow: Gladstone and the Matchgirls

Tanya Landman’s latest novel has an appropriately ‘striking’ cover by Chaaya Prabhat which may encourage an instant purchase.

Lightning Strike seeks to tell to younger readers the true story of the terrible working conditions which led to the Matchgirls Strike in 1888. This was a turning point in Bow and the development of trade unionism.

Today the rebuilt factory is an unmissable outline seen by walkers passing down the Olympic park.

However, it may be a pity if the novel ends up turning a myth into fact in the minds of young people. The matchgirls’ story is dramatic enough without need for embellishment.

The book weaves in the 20th-century myth that the landmark statue of William Gladstone in Bow was paid for by the workers having money deducted fro their wages.

There is no record of this.

The story is linked to the fact that in recent years the former prime minister’s right hand, nearest the factory, has been painted red.

Historian Richard Jones has a looked closely at this myth and explains why the statue was erected. The Gladstone government had responded to public opinion.

Today the Matchgirls Memorial campaign is hoping to erect a Matchgirls statue.

Young people who read the novel should also go and enjoy the Lea Valley around Bow. The factory exterior in Fairfield Road can be seen and a former convent is now a gallery with a handy Nunnery Cafe.

Gladstone stands outside the historic ‘village’ church pointing, not so much at the Bryant & May match factory, but the now closed public conveniences.

Lightning Strike by Tanya Landman (Oxford £7.99)

New bridges at Tottenham Hale

Hale Wharf (left) is now linked to Hale Village (right). Tottenham Lock is seen downstream.

There is a new footbridge spanning the River Lea navigation at Tottenham Hale.

The wood and ‘wood effect’ crossing, found between Stonebridge Lock and Tottenham Lock, links new housing on Hale Wharf on the left bank with Hale Village on the right.

Hale Wharf Bridge spans the Lea, its towpath and parallel Pymmes Brook alongside the new Hale Village on the site of the Harris Lebus furniture factory.

The towpath has its own separate new bridge over Pymmes Brook to allow easy access to the village’s shops, cafe and new church. It also provides a traffic free route to Tottenham Hale Station.

The Hale Wharf 249 new home scheme, being delivered by Waterside Places, is a joint venture between the Canal & River Trust, Muse Developments, the Mayor of London and the London Borough of Haringey’s Green Link initiative.

The towpath runs under Hale Wharf Bridge towards Tottenham Lock.
The extra bridge spanning Pymmes Brook and linking the towpath with Hale Village. Hale Wharf can be seen across the river.
Hale Wharf Bridge with its lift, in addition to steps, seen from Tottenham Lock.

Sweden looks to Waltham’s wild bells on New Year’s Eve

Waltham Abbey’s monastery gateway

Just before midnight tonight, on New Year’s Eve, actress Sofia Helin, star of The Bridge, will read Tennyson’s poem Ring out, Wild Bells live to the Swedish TV audience.

The tradition of reading the poem just before New Year predates the invention of television.

The ‘wild bells’ are those of Waltham Abbey church which Alfred, Lord Tennyson heard in the night when living two miles away at High Beech.

He published the poem in 1850, the year he became poet Laureate, as part of his work In Memoriam.

Waltham Abbey is also associated with the Christmas carol Hark! The herald angels sing. Here William Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s music to fit Charles Wesley’s words.

Sadly not only is it difficult to walk long distances in the Lea Valley at present but Waltham Abbey is closed with live services suspended during the Tier 4 virus lockdown.

The west end of the abbey church which once extended further west to embrace the now exposed tombs.