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.

Meridian Water in 2040

There is an opportunity to see Meridian Water in two decade’s time from the air.

The £6bn development will be on both banks of the Lea just above Tottenham Marshes.

The ambitious project, which already has a new railway station, is now occupied on the towpath side (east) by the demolished Stonehill Park Business Estate. Even the Leaside Cafe has gone. Expect a more expensive replacement in the new ’24 hour neighbourhood’.

The inaccessible west bank has some overgrown ground but is best known for IKEA which will stay.

Stonehill Business Park will be Meridian Water.

Olympic Park Tour: New version

Three Mills

The final extra section in The Lea Valley Walk guide since London won the Olympics has been the slow walk around the London Olympic main site.

At first it was to encourage readers to look before it changed.

After the London Olympics the transformed and greened area became the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Olympic Arena is now the London Stadium and home to West Ham Football Club.

The walk is surprisingly green with lots of blackberries in the late summer near the start. The paths are also very quiet seven years on from the international focus.

The Olympic legacy has worked slowly so it is only now that it is possible to walk again much of that original pre-Olympic route. The planned temporary closure of the The Greenway highlighted in the current Cicerone edition lasted longer than expected.

The historic notes are of course in the book but below are improved directions for the figure of 8 route.

Memorial to victims of 1901 well rescue

Tour of the Olympic Park

At Three Mills walk in front of the Mill House (left) and turn left to pass a bridge (left) and reach Three Mills Green. Here by Three Mills Wall River (left) there is a modern memorial to men killed in a well rescue in 1901. Continue ahead by the water (left) to cross the end of Prescott Channel.

Continue alongside Three Mills Wall River with a view of Strand East Tower and the red ArcelorMittal Orbit ahead. At the far end is the bridge carrying the main road confusingly called Stratford High Street.

Turn right to pass the end of Abbey Lane (right) and cross the main road at the pedestrian crossing. On the far side go right for a short distance to find The Greenway (left) just before the former Yardley soap building, decorated with a lady and two children carrying lavender.

Turn left on to the at first wide Greenway where there is a first view of the London Stadium.

The path crosses Waterworks River and later the unseen City Mill River before turning sharp left downhill to avoid a railway line. Ahead is Pudding Mill Station. At the road go right to pass under the railway and take a path (right) running uphill to rejoin The Greenway. To the right on the path is the View Tube Cafe.

Go left to continue along The Greenway with the view to the right dominated by the London Stadium. To the left are central London landmarks such as The Shard and The Gherkin. Before the path crosses the River Lea, and where a railing starts, bear half left on a path running down to the river. Go right under The Greenway to follow the towpath upstream towards Old Ford Lock.

Do not cross the footbridge to the lock on the Lea Navigation but stay on the path to follow the Old River Lea. There is a long brick wall to the right. Pass under low pipes and a park road. Soon there is an inlet marking the old entry to Pudding Mill River which was lost as a waterway when the Stadium (right) was built for the Olympics. After two more bridges there is a confluence of Bow Back Rivers.

Cross the blue pre-Olympic footbridge spanning City Mill River. Turn right to walk with the water on the right. The Stadium is across the water. Pass under two bridges. Here the riverside has been turned into a flower meadow. At the third bridge do not go under but take the steps (left) up to a park road. At the top bear right to cross the river and, as the road begins to run downhill, go over the pedestrian crossing to walk up a slope to The Greenway.

Walk straight over The Greenway to retrace the way downhill and under the railway. To the right is Pudding Mill Station. The walk continues left up a rising path to rejoin The Greenway. Follow the path back to the main road. Use the pedestrian crossing ahead to continue along The Greenway and pass Abbey Mills Pumping Station (right).

Just as the path bends to cross Abbey Creek go right through gates to follow a high concrete path with water below (left). After a short distance bear left on to the concrete zig-zag path and follow a further narrrow path which runs down to the water.

Stay on the rough and wooded waterside path. This eventually and suddenly bears right to a firm path running up Prescott Channel. Pass the lock and cross the long footbridge to Three Mills Green. Stay on path to the left of the grass and at the end go left to reach Three Mills.

Old Pudding Mill River entry

Pre-Olympic bridge survived Games
City Mill River
The London Stadium site as seen in the 2007 edition
Abbey Creek path

Canning Town improvement

Tunnel (left) and slope to Canning Town Station (ahead)

A short new path signed Leaway has improved the link from the Lea Valley Walk to Canning Town Station.

There is now no need to cross the very busy main road.

When walking down Stephenson Street, which is alongside the Jubilee Line running into Stratford, everyone should go right into Bidder Street.

After a short distance go left into a gated road. Stay on the right side to follow the way through a short tunnel. At the far end go right to stay on the Lea Valley Walk.

But to reach Canning Town Station bear left up a new slope alongside the DLR line. At the main road go right for the station.

At top of the slope you can go right for Canning Town Station

Food & drink industry in Lea Valley

Jim Lewis has managed to reveal more history to add to the extraordinary heritage of the Lea Valley.

Prolific Lea Valley historian Dr Lewis continues to investigate the sites then and now associated with great names and inventions.

London’s Lea Valley: Home of Britain’s Growing Food and Drink Industry and a Little Bit More! embraces Hertford to Three Mills.

Why is McMullen’s brewery in Hertford now a supermarket? This book has the latest news on the brewery.

It also has the history of the Ponders End mill and the surprising news that since the present occupants, Wright’s, celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2017 there is expansion.

Entering the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park we are reminded that the grass around the former media centre was in the 1870s covered by a factory with two high riverside chimneys announcing CLARNICO. Its production was at first marmalade and jam before sweets became dominant. The sugar arrived by barge.

A look at the old picture of the factory tells how successful the re-greening of the Lea Valley has been.

Nearby is a view of smoked salmon merchant H Foreman & Son whose new building on Fish Island is a legacy of the 2012 London Olympics.

At the south-west corner of the park is Bow which can now claim to be where in the 1790s India Pale Ale was invented.

Three Mills, with its 1750 clock tower, was the home of Nicholson’s gin distillery. The building is now occupied by TV studios where Master Chef is filmed. The food and drink tradition continues.

The 144 page illustrated paperback is published by Redshank Books; £16.

Clarnico jam and sweet factory on the towpath