Green Flags for Lea Valley

The Lea Valley has won several Green Flag Awards both inside and outside the regional park boundary.

There are now flags from Wardown Park near the River Lea source to Bow Creek Ecology Park.

In between Rye House, Waltham Abbey Gardens, Tottenham Marshes, Walthamstow Marsh, Hackney Marshes and Millfields are among the winners.

Also included is Cedars Park, the former Theobalds royal residence, near Waltham Cross.

The Green Flag Awards, begun twenty years ago, are administered by Keep Britain Tidy.

Princess of Wales reopening for Bank Holiday weekend

The Princess of Wales pub at Lea Bridge near Clapton is reopening on Friday 26 May at the start of Spring Bank Holiday weekend.

The riverside pub has been closed since the start of May for refurbishment.

Despite closure The Princess of Wales was still the gathering point on Rogation Sunday for Beating the Bounds of the Leyton and Walthamstow Marshes. Willows for beating the boundary markers were prepared on the outside tables.

This year’s walk, revived by the Lammas Lands Defence Committee, was organised by the Save Lea Marshes campaign.

Virginia Quay path closure

Virginia Quay’s memorial to those who sailed to Virginia in 1606

Virginia Quay is on the route from the end of Lea Valley Walk at East India Dock to East India Dock DLR Station.

However, the west end of Virginia Quay remains closed for repair work.

The best way to the station is to go behind the Virginia founders memorial, up the steps and left along Jamestown Way. This bears right. Go  left into Newport Avenue and right along Prime Meridian Walk.

Lea Valley path exhibition

Lea River Park exhibition at the Building Centre

Lea Valley Park: a new landscape for London exhibition at New London Architecture looks at the land along the last three miles of the River Lea which is being called the Lea River Park.

The new park’s main feature is a plan to improve the Lea Valley Walk’s climax from Bow to the River Thames.

The is being branded The Leaway as it is part of a local route out of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It dovetails with the Lea Valley Walk at Three Mills.

The key link highlighted in the exhibition is between Cody Dock and Canning Town where an isolated length of riverside path exists at Electra Wharf.

The Lea River Park has been developed by London Legacy Development Corporation and the London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets

Available at the exhibition are free copies of three Odd Guides to the Leaway highlighting history and nature. The booklets can also be collected by walkers at Three Mills and other key points along the Lea Valley Walk to the south.

The New London Architecture exhibition on the Leaway is at the Building Centre, 26 Store Street (opposite the Co-op), London WC1E 7BT until Thursday 27 April; open Mon–Fri 9am-6pm; Sat 10am-5pm; admission free.

Green dots indicate the immediate path plan. Red is a longer term objective.

  • 5th Studio director Tom Holbrook, who is heading the Lea River Park design team, is leading a walk along the route  on Saturday 22 April 2pm-4.30pm.

Pocahontas 400: Virginia monument listed

Virginia monument (Historic England © Julian Walker)

The climax of the Lea Valley Walk is East India Dock opposite the O2.

The way to the DLR station is across Virginia Quay from where adventurers, including Captain John Smith, set out for America in 1606.

Captain John Smith went on to establish Jamestown. Princess Pocahontas is said to have saved his life when he was captured by Indians. She died at Gravesend four hundred years ago,

Virginia Quay’s massive Settlers Monument, dating from 1928, has been listed Grade II by Historic England as part of the Pocahontas 2017 celebrations.

All About the Lea: Peter Marshall photography

Peter Marshall at his exhibition opening

Peter Marshall has been photographing the Lea Valley since 1981.

He has recorded the source as well as the Lower Lea and Bow Creek.

An exhibition of just some of Peter’s black and white photographs is now at Cody Dock.

The pictures chosen for his exhibition show the valley just before any change.

His views of an inaccessible river bring to mind Prince Charles’ claim just over forty years ago that the Lea Valley was “a classic example of what could be done with derelict land if impetus and determination was there”.

Now Cody Dock itself is leading the way in opening up the Lea at its southern end and engaging so many local and artistic people.

Peter Marshall‘s pictures are a very rare record and worth seeing to understand what we now enjoy and what still needs to be safeguarded.

The exhibition is open free from Friday to Monday 10am (Sun 2pm) to 5pm until Sunday 23 April.

Nadia’s Cody Dock Cafe is open daily.

Cody Dock is on the Lea Valley Walk. Go south from Three Mills and Twelvetrees Bridge; nearest station Bromley-by-Bow (Underground). Or to walk upstream go to Star Lane (DLR).

Ware: William Godwin’s chapel to be flats

The Old Independent Chapel in Ware associated with William Godwin is to be converted into five flats.

The building in Church Street was completed in 1778 as the date above the front door records.

William, now best known as the husband of pioneer feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, was the first minister of the brand new chapel.

When William arrived in Ware in June 1778 he was still single and would not even meet Mary for over a decade.

Ware was a brewing town with the smell of malt blowing along the high street where there were substantial inns with large gates at their archway entrances.

The Great Bed of Ware, mentioned by William Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, was still at The Bull Inn.

William stayed two years before moving to Stowmarket and worship continued until 1918. The frontage was slightly altered in 1859 when the doorway was enhanced with a Norman-style arch.

During the last century the building has been used as a hall, Masonic hall, club, auction room and printing works.

Wiiliam eventually met Mary Wollstonecraft in 1791 but they did not get to know each other well until 1796. They married the following year and soon after Mary died giving birth to a daughter, later to be known as Mary Shelley.

Pudding Mill Lane Station

Turning off the towpath at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to follow The Greenway can be handy for Pudding Mill Lane Station, on the Docklands Light Railway.

Note that Pudding Mill Station is likely to be closed during most weekends until September.

This is due to Crossrail workings in the area.

Planned closure dates:

18-19 March

25-26 March

1-2 April

8-9 April

Easter weekend

May Holiday weekend

20-21 May

27-29 May

3-4 June

27-28 August

2-3 September

16-17 September

23-24 September

Ponders End: Wright’s flour milling is 150 years old

The high modern mill can be seen from the towpath opposite the millstream entrance

There has been milling at Ponders End for a thousand years. The mill was there when Domesday Book was compiled in 1086.

The house and weatherboarded watermill date from 1789 when wheat was arriving by barge.

Now the Wright famiiy is about to celebrate 150 years running the mill.

George Wright came to Ponders End in 1867. His descendant David Wright is now the chairman of G R Wright & Sons Ltd whose home baking flour products are found in supermarkets.

David’s son James is the sixth generation to be at the mill.

Two waterwheels drove seven pairs of stones into the 20th century. Electricity was only introduced in 1909 because the main flow of River Lea water was being reduced to serve the vast new reservoirs.

The mill lodge next to Ponders End Station footbridge

London City Island

Existing signpost at ‘island’ entrance

London City Island was once called Goodluck Hope Peninsula.

The land, shaped by the River Lea looping dramatically, is a peninsula rather than an island.

From 1845 to 1874 it was occupied by the Thames Plate Glass Company producing mirrors and employing a large number of women. More recently the site was a margarine factory.

Now it is  becoming a residential community with tall blocks taking its inspiration apparently from skyscrapers in Chicago and Manhattan.

There is water on three sides with just a narrow neck of land as an entrance.

That entrance is opposite Orchard Place and the gateway of West India Dock where the Lea Valley Walk has its climax with a view of the O2 Dome.

At present walkers approaching the end of their walk usually go up a wide passage for a last look at the River Lea before it turns to join the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Now it is possible to walk, not yet round the island, but up the middle into the new Botanic Square and along the west side to a bridge which links to Canning Town Station.

The island is still largely a building site with towers under construction including  the English National Ballet centre.

But the first shop has opened selling Sicilian food along with Bisto and Hovis. It is also a cafe with good coffee and cakes.

Slowly a length of lost Lea is being revealed. It will one day become the final surprise and another dimension of the Lea Valley Walk.

Bridge link at north end to Canning Town Station

A short length of completed path on west side

View north up the east side as seen from present route

East side path