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


Twelvetrees Ramp and new steps open

Ramp meets bridge

The Twelvetrees Ramp opened quietly just before Christmas.

This is the link just below Three Mills in London which allows the walker to follow the tidal River Lea rather than the made-made final stretch of navigation which ends at Limehouse, on the wrong side of the Isle of Dogs.

The link from the towpath up on to the bridge of Twelvetrees Crescent was on the cusp of being created in 2010. Its opening was planned for Olympic Year 2012. The quango missed the deadline.

It has been claimed that the building of a lift, now just a ramp, has taken almost as long as the Empire State Building.

A recent plan to use an existing foot crossing immediately upstream of the road bridge was not pursued so the latest directions in the Cicerone guide book, top of page 112, should now read:

“…The path now has water on both sides. Go under the London Fenchurch Street – Southend and District lines bridge and pass the Gasworks Bridge (left). Here the towpath is temporarily on a pontoon running under Twelvetrees Bridge. At the end go up the zig-zag ramp to reach the top of the bridge. Go right and right again down steps to join a promenade.”

It will get better. The pontoon will go when the original line of towpath reopens.

The main ramp

But this is a huge improvement and saves walkers having to briefly join a very unpleasant main road. It also creates an easy walk from Three Mills to Cody Dock.

It could be said that this was the last major barrier.

But for those who like to stay the water as much as possible and walk every inch of riverbank available there will be the opening soon of London City Island in Bow Creek. More on this shortly.

New steps on east bank by promenade walk to Cody Dock

Adventures in the Lea Valley photo book

Adventures in the Lea Valley by Polly Braden and David Campany is a photo book looking at pre-Olympic Lea Valley.

Just over a decade ago the pair roamed the edge of what has become the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Their photographs bring back my memories of visiting in 2005 just after it was designated as a potential Olympic site.

As I got off of the train at Pudding Mill Lane Station I saw a rat. Soon I was passing between abandoned cars.

Spanning City Mill River was a lovely light blue bridge with a rude slogan about Seb Coe.

One of the book’s photographs shows the bridge pre-games as a duck is crossing. This structure is rare in having survived the brutal landscaping and can still be seen repainted at the confluence of the Old River Lea on the north side of the stadium.

This book is a rare record of an a lost area of scattered workplaces and cafes in rubbish strewn streets with occasional remnants of waterside countryside threatened by Japanese knotweed.

“Go and see the area now so that you can compare it later,” said Ken Livingstone on the day that London won its bid to stage the Games. Few did which makes this book so important.

Adventures in the Lea Valley by Polly Braden and David Campan is part of the East London Photo Stories series published by Hoxton Mini Press.

***Walking Lea Valley Walk guidebook includes a route around the Olympic Park which passes the blue footbridge.

A image of the navigation from Adventures in the Lea Valley

A image of the navigation from Adventures in the Lea Valley

Waltham Abbey’s 1066 anniversary events

King Harold at his January 1066 coronation

King Harold at his January 1066 coronation

The 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in October will have a resonance in the Lea Valley.

King Harold came down the valley from victory over Norway at the Battle of Stamford Bridge to confront William of Normandy on the south coast.

He stopped at Waltham Abbey church which he knew well and prayed before its ‘miraculous cross’. The town has long been known as Waltham Holy Cross.

King Harold praying before the Holy Cross as depicted by Daniel Maclise in 1866

King Harold praying before the Holy Cross as depicted by Daniel Maclise in 1866

His army’s later defeat along with his death caused by an arrow are well known. William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings.

But what happened to Harold’s body? It is believed to have been quietly brought back to Waltham Abbey by two monks and buried behind the church’s high altar.

His tomb is now in the open air since the abbey church was shortened following the dissolution of the monastery in 1540.

King Harold's grave

King Harold’s grave

1066 March
King Harold’s march south from Yorkshire is being recalled now by a small group of ‘1066 warriors’ with horses who are tracing the route south.

They will be on the towpath from Broxbourne on Thursday afternoon 6 October. Arrival at Waltham Abbey’s Town Lock is expected just before 5pm. The next stop will be the gateway to Waltham Abbey.

Waltham Abbey's monastery gateway

Waltham Abbey’s monastery gateway

On Friday morning the re-enactors will continue south on the River Lea towpath and stay on the Lea Valley Walk route as far as Tottenham Lock.

The party is due arrive at Battle in Sussex on Friday 14 October, the eve of the battle anniversary.

King Harold Day
Waltham Abbey will marking the Battle of Hastings anniversary with a King Harold Day on Saturday 8 October.

1066 Exhibition
EFD Museum in Sun Street at Waltham Abbey has a special exhibition called Harold II: The Life, Legend and Legacy of England’s last Anglo-Saxon king.

Waltham Abbey church west end

Waltham Abbey church west end

Twelvetrees Ramp opens soon

The River Lea divides at Three Mills as the navigation with the towpath goes into the man-made Limehouse Cut leaving the natural tidal river to wind down to the Thames as Bow Creek.

Later this month it will be possible to join this dramatic tidal stretch without having to take a diversion along the very noisy A12 Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach road.

A ramp up from the towpath to Twelvetrees Bridge is now in place and railings are being fitted.

Also, steps are being made from the bridge’s east end down to the existing riverside path to Cody Dock on the tidal river.

This is a huge improvement. The link has been planned for at least 15 years and should have been in place four years ago. This is the third design. Look at this blog for more news mid September.

Artist's impression of Twelvetrees Ramp

Artist’s impression of Twelvetrees Ramp

Work in progress

Work in progress

Queen Victoria and Brocket Hall

ITV’s Victoria featured mention of Brocket Hall within the first few minutes of the first episode.

Queen Victoria’s diaries reveal that she was asking her prime minister Lord Melbourne almost daily about his country home.

On the 13 Feb 1838 Victoria received at Buckingham Palace “a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Lord Melbourne from Brocket”. Was he aware that it was the eve of St Valentine’s Day?

In her diary, Victoria always referred to her prime minister’s country home as ‘Brocket’ rather than Brocket Hall or Brocket Park.

Later that month she wrote again: “Got a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Lord Melbourne from Brocket. How kind of him to think of sending me flowers! The Daphnes (my favourite flowers, for they do smell so exquisitely) are quite delicious.”

In August the Queen received Melbourne at Windsor and told him: “I do so hope to see Brocket some day.” Without promising anything, the premier replied “Oh! I hope you will”.

A few days later he sent her some peaches grown at Brocket Park.

When back in Buckingham Palace at the end of October, Victoria expressed a desire “to see Brocket one day” during Melbourne’s audience of the Queen.

“I should like very much to show it you,” he replied. “But I don’t know how to manage it.” –

“It must be managed,” replied the Queen who had been frustrated when passing Brocket Park without stopping on her way to Yorkshire. She noted that it was only three miles beyond Hatfield.

It was as a married woman that Victoria at last saw the house. She and Albert went for lunch on a summer day and stayed for two hours.

“I can’t say how pleased I was to see Brocket, the place belonging to my good, kind Ld Melbourn.” wrote Victoria afterwards. It was just a month before his defeat in Parliament and forced resignation by the Tories.

The Queen hated the Tories but contact with her preferred prime minister was quickly lost as the Queen began to rely on her husband for advice.

This Sunday on ITV at 9pm we should see how this story is portrayed in episode 3 which called Brocket Hall.

How much shall we see of Brocket Park which today is crossed by Stage 3 of the Lea Valley Walk?