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.

Meridian Water wins government support

A possible view of the completed Meridian Water looking north

Meridian Water, a new village on the Lea, moves a step nearer with £170m Housing Infrastructure Fund cash from the government.

The former Stonehill Business Park and bus garage will see 10,000 new homes and shops each side of the navigation linked by new bridges.

The infrastructure grant will enable the construction of the bridges over the Lea and Pymmes Brook to go ahead as well as flood alleviation measures.

The new Meridian Station has already opened in advance of work on the £6bn village project starting next year. Completion is expected by 2040.

Immediately to the south the Lea Valley Walk will pass out of Meridian Water on to rural Tottenham Marsh.

Possible view of the completed Meridian Water looking west. The Lea Valley Walk runs north-south through the buildings

Truman’s stays in Lea Valley

Sir Benjamin Truman returns

Truman’s Brewery has just moved its main site up the Lea Valley from Fish Island opposite the Olympic Park to Walthamstow.

This may not be as handy but it’s good news that the brewery is staying in the Lea Valley.

Indeed, having left Fish Island, Truman’s has been brewing at Crate Brewery’s riverside Queen’s Yard in nearby Hackney Wick.

Truman’s was founded in 1666 when the Great Fire of London fortunately missed the East End and allowed the brewery to became famous. Especially recognisable was its ale with Ben Truman’s portrait on the label.

Sir Benjamin (1699-1780) was third generation Truman and greatly expanded the company after winning royal approval from George II and George III who knighted him. Sir Benjamin’s portrait was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Gainsborough.

The brewery closed in 1989 but the name was reborn on Fish Island in 2013.

Lea Valley walkers come across Sir Benjamin Truman at Hertingfordbury where he lies in the churchyard. He is said to have worshipped there for years to avoid meeting Samuel Whitbread at Essenden Church although it was nearer home.

The popular Bow Bells Citrus Pale Ale brewed on Fish Island by the new Truman’s must surely have owed something to nearby Bow and its bells as well as Cheapside’s.

Truman’s Social Club, as the new brewhouse and bar is being called, is at 1 Priestley Way E17 6AL, east of Tottenham Hale Lock and near Blackhorse Road Station.

Hertingfordbury Church on the Lea Valley Walk near Hertford

Welwyn Garden City 100 walk legacy

Today Wednesday 29 May 2020 is the centenary of Welwyn Garden City. Sadly all celebrations are cancelled.

Ebenezer Howard launched Welwyn Garden City Limited on 29 April 1920 having successfully created nearby Letchworth Garden City.

The Lea Valley Walk first meets the garden city at Stanborough Park where the River Lea feeds the lakes.

Beyond Mill Green on the edge of Hatfield there is a return to Welwyn by way of Gipsy Lane, Hall Grove and Holwell Hyde.

Part of a just launched way marked circular Centenary Walk coincides with the LVW from Lemsford to Mill Green. This exciting new permanent route, which reduces road walking in the Hall Grove area, is likely to determine the line of LVW path east of Mill Green in future.

*** Mill Green’s mill has recommenced operations. Stoneground organic wholemeal flour can be ordered by email ([email protected]) and collected by appointment.

New way mark

Luton’s rare font canopy

Font cover in St Mary’s Church Luton

A new book mentions the extraordinary font canopy in Luton’s ancient parish church.

Church Fonts is by Matthew Byrne who has spent nearly forty years exploring churches.

Font canopies are rare and Matthew has found only five in England.

Luton’s is even more dramatic than the one at Trunch in Norfolk which is shown in the book.

At Luton one has the feeling of a ‘building within a building’ as one might in Loreto or Assisi.

Philippa of Hainault, queen consort of Edward III, gave the canopy to surround the Purbeck marble font in about 1335.

St Mary’s, on the Lea Valley Walk route, is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Ring the bell at the office door if the main entrance is locked.

Entrance on the east side

Inside the canopy
Looking out into the church

Old Moat House roast lunch

Cross a bridge to the thatched Old Moat House

On a damp winter Monday in Luton is was a pleasure to stop off at The Moat House for lunch.

The moated and thatched Tudor building is near the start of the Lea Valley Walk and handy if you need the ‘eat as much as you like’ breakfast for £4.69 including fried bread (9-11.30am). Coffee is £1.99. It sets you up to get south to Harpenden.

Today I had arrived in Leagrave at 1.30pm so I was in need of the £9.49 roast. As at breakfast portions were generous.

Opening the Old Moat House front door I was greeted by a real log fire.

It is extraordinary that the oldest pub on the Lea Valley route is at the beginning. There is much more to Luton than many realise. Wardown House, a little further on, serves teas in its recently redecorated dining room.

The Old Moat House front door.