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?

Meridian Water on the Lea

The Stonehill Business Park N18 3QX is an odd slightly bleak stretch of Lea Valley Walk between the so-called Lea Valley Viaduct  (or North Circular) and the delightful Tottenham Marshes to the south.

it it best known for the Arriva bus depot.

Now the land on both sides of the river at the business park will be turned into housing. The development is to be called Meridian Water and even have its own railway station (replacing Angel Road).

Expect in  a decade to be able to walk on both banks just as you can at Tottenham Marshes.

The lone Leaside Cafe may have rivals in a decade.

Lea Bridge Station now open

Lea Bridge Station has reopened after a 31 year closure.

Transport Minister Claire Perry MP and Waltham Forest Council leader Chris Robbins arrived by train on Monday morning to declare the station open.

The station is about half a mile east of Lea Bridge and slightly nearer than Clapton Station to the west.

Clapton Station trains run into Liverpool Street Station whilst Lea Bridge Station trains run into Stratford Station. Both have trains running north to Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne.

To reach Lea Bridge Station from the Lea Valley Walk cross Lea Bridge, next to The Princess of Wales, and walk along Lea Bridge Road.

The first train stopped on Sunday evening prior to the official opening.

1888 Match Girls Strike recalled

Walking past the Olympic Park on the way to Bow you see over to the right the Bryant & May match factory.

The Lea Valley contains a lot English history and the match factory was the location of a landmark strike which became part of trade union history.

In 1888 the match girls who worked in very alarming conditions went on strike and won both public support and better workplace safeguards.

An oddly titled exhibition in London E1, The Match Women’s Strike 1988: Alison Marchant’s Wall Paper History, is a re-staging of a centenary show seen at Rochdale Art Gallery.

Included are original prints, photographs, etchings and collages inspired by archival imagery.
New exhibition

The exhibition is at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, 277 Bancroft Road, London E1 4DQ until Friday 6 May.

Open Tue 10am-5pm, Wed 9am-5pm, Thu 9am-8pm, First & third Sat of month 9am-5pm.

Adele loves the River Lea

The River Lea track in Adele’s third album just released is already a proving to be a favourite.

Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian on Saturday about Adele’s ‘River Roots’:

“There’s a new reason for getting excited about Adele’s new album 25. It has loads of vivid psycho-geography. One of the most striking tracks is River Lea, in which Adele finds the mystic source of her inspiration not just in the north London district of Tottenham, where she was born, but in the nearby River Lea itself, which flows from the Chiltern Hills through east and north London before joining the Thames.

“I’ve always found it wonderful: when our son was very little, we used to take him for bike rides by the Lea: it has an eerie rus in urbe feel. Here’s what Adele sings: ‘When I was a child I grew up by the River Lea / There was something in the water, now that something’s in me … But it’s in my roots, it’s in my veins / It’s in my blood.’

“Iain Sinclair is going to love Adele’s song. He is passionate about the Lea. Here’s how he wrote about it in 2002: ‘The earlier spelling … was Ley, which is even better. Lea as ley, it always had that feel. A route out. A river track that walked the walker, a wet road. The Lea fed our Hackney dreaming: a water margin.’ I think Adele should invite Sinclair up on stage to sing a special River Lea duet.”