68/ A fairway to walk in Mill Hill (3 miles/5 km)

Start and Finish:  Mill Hill East underground station, Northern Line, fare zone 4, London borough of Barnet

Distance: 3 miles / 5 km (7,462 steps)

Time: 2 hours (max)

Map: OS Explorer 173 London North.

Introduction

Chambers dictionary defines a fairway as “in golf, the smooth turf between tee and putting green, distinguished from the uncut rough and from hazards.” This circular route from Mill Hill East tube station twice comes close to a fairway; we can see it and hear it but we can’t legally walk on it. Other parts of the route run along the edge of playing fields, where, if a match is in progress we can linger and watch a bit of soccer, rugby or cricket. However, most of this walk runs through broad strips of woodland which have no connections with sport at all. A small part of it might even be classified as “uncut rough”.

When the sun is shining through the oak leaves it can impart a certain magical quality to the light. For much of the way this walk is beautifully quiet and relaxing, with bluetits chirruping, kestrels hovering and butterflies flitting. It should be noted that there are no benches, toilets or shops on this walk.

If you are in a wheel chair then this route is just made for you: what could be flatter and smoother than a disused railway line?  BUT, sadly, access is a problem. There are steps a foot high as you join and leave the ‘Old Railway.’ If you have a good pusher with you then you may be able to make it. They should definitely walk ahead on the sections by the two bridges then come back and let you know what they think. An alternative would be not to use the tube at all but to come by car to the car park at the point where we leave the railway. This is off Champions Way.

Let’s walk!

Mill Hill East station is on a branch line of its own. If you are coming out of London get the Northern Line that ends in High Barnet, and change at Finchley Central. There are  no steps there and you emerge at your destination at street level too. Mill Hill East station has no loos. Turn left along a main road called Bittacy Hill. (Unless you want some provisions, in which case turn right under the railway bridge to  Waitrose [loos: yes; café: no.])

Walk from the station up to the first bus stop and turn left into Sanders Lane. Soon turn right up a cul-de-sac called Brownsea Walk (not shown in my street atlas). Instead of going ahead up into Bittacy Hill Park turn left between a nursery and an allotment. At the grassy patch keep right, close to the allotment fence/hedge.

Follow the path into the wood and down some sleeper steps to a disused railway line where we turn right. (Possibly problematic for wheel chair users – see note in Introduction.)

[Mill Hill Old Railway was opened in 1867 and discontinued in 1964. It connected Edgware to Highgate on the Parkland Walk (walk no. 4 on this blog).It is now a 2.3 hectare Grade II Nature Reserve, and is noted for its slow-worms.]

Pass under the Devonshire Road bridge. About 15 paces on the left after the bridge, a couple of steps lead to a pavement which goes up to road level. (I only mention this because there is a convenience store over the bridge across the road and turn right.) If you are in a wheel-chair and this incline is a no-no for you then stick to the railway track: both paths end up in the  same place anyway.

We follow the tarmac footpath which goes up the bank from the railway line and turns right parallel to it. We shortly reach a wooden kissing gate and a seven-bar metal gate where we turn right and carry on parallel to the railway lines. (We shall be coming back through the gate later in the walk.) After about 100 steps notice a 5 bar wooden gate on your left. Make a detour through here: the path is reasonably clear and we shall shortly be back on the main track as the path veers to the right. For me this plantation of young oaks is one of the most attractive parts of the walk. You can hear, if not see, a fairway on the left.

We continue in the same direction until the disused railway line is crossed by a tarmac road with metal gates and gate posts. A car park can be seen to the left. Head towards it looking for a dirt track a few feet along on the right. This is our patch of “uncut rough”! Follow it, and on reaching what appears to be an abandoned car park turn left into the playing fields of Mill Hill Rugby Club. (By the way the disused railway line ends a short way on, at a busy main road.) Head along the edge of the field to the club house on the right and go through the gap in the hedge on the other side, i.e. on the left, that is in line with the building. Cross the brand new road, called Champions Way, which isn’t named in my street atlas. Its name presumably has something to do with the Saracens rugby team, whose stadium, Allianz Park, which opened in 2013, is along here. Cross the road at the speed hump and turn left along the pavement.

100 metres or so along on the right is a field entrance with bollards, planters and a 6-bar gate. Go down into this meadow and follow the mown swathe of grass along to the left, keeping close to the hedge. In the second field where another path comes up from the right go through the hedge on the left to the Copthall playing fields beyond. Pleasant as those meadows were they are rather blighted by the racket coming up from the elevated M1 not far away. In the playing fields go right along the boundary footpath then left at the corner. At the next field the path’s surface is paved as it leads down to Greenlands Lane. Keep close to the hedge on your right all the way and on reaching the lane cross over and go to the right a little to follow the next line of trees in the same general direction. At the far right hand corner of this playing field turn left and follow the course of Dollis Brook, now on your right, along to the left corner of the field.

A clear earth path leads up to the stadium entrance and, our route, a car park to the right. Passing the electric car charging points arrive at a strip of woodland featuring a wide earthen track. The number of golf balls lying about indicates two things: we’re close to a fairway again and some of the players can’t aim very straight. When did golf balls stop being white and turn yellow anyway? Out of curiosity I checked out where the path to the right ran. I was a bit surprised to find it ended at an allotment with a sign on the gate warning trespassers to keep out. Another sign on a tree said there was no unauthorised access to the golf course. So we’re stuck with the wide path to the left which is fine because it’s a pleasant enough path and it leads us back to the tube station, joining the disused railway line by the seven bar metal gate we passed earlier.

When you reach that point turn right and retrace your steps along the railway. However do not turn left up the access path we used earlier but carry straight on. On reaching a disused railway arch don’t go under it but bear left up the bank then right onto a road with bollards on it. This is Sanders Lane again. Go out to the left past the houses to Bittacy Hill and turn right down to the tube station.

Returning to the subject of dictionaries, this walk reminds me of Dr Johnson’s famous definition of a net as “anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances with interstices between the intersections.”

“I hope you enjoyed this walk around the interstices as much as I did!”

Peter Turner (September 2020)

Message: Hi Peter,
Last Sunday my friends and I did the above walk in Mill Hill and the whole way we were complimenting you on the excellent directions, details, pieces of information and just helpful hints to enhance the walk. Everything we needed to know about directions, turnings, even finding yellow golf balls was so well thought out.
I am, therefore, writing to thank you for going to such trouble to ensure our enjoyment of the area we live in – none of us knew about this particular walk, so we learnt something.
We’re determined to follow some of your others.
Wishing you well and thanking you again for helping to expand our knowledge.
Kind regards,
Esther Shuker & friends
“Woah! I’m really digging the template/theme of this website. It’s simple yet effective. A lot of times it’s  really difficult to get that ‘perfect balance’  between user friendliness  and visual appeal. I must say you have done an excellent job with this. Also the blog loads extremely fast for me on Opera. Superb Blog!”
Kizzy Amill (August 2021)

(Photos to follow)

Where to now?

I personally won’t be using public transport for quite a while. I may use a bicycle or a car, or both together, to access some new routes. Any walk that’s circular, i.e. starts and finishes at the same tube station can be accessed by car. By carrying a bike inside your car you can access linear walks, i.e. those that start and end at different stations. If you have any suggestions for new Green Tube Walks, then please email me at peterturner1942@yahoo.co.uk.

Please see corona virus notice at the start of the Introduction to this blog.

Planned new routes:

Ongar to Epping
Wimbledon Common
Chorley Wood to Chalfont & Latimer
River Wandle
Duke of Northumberlands River
South London Parks used by Silver Fit groups
London’s Nature Reserves
Amersham to Misbourne
Clapham Common

Walks to re-visit:

28 (blocked), 35 (ploughed up), 63 (path gated), 66 (seasonal)

Walks to repeat because number of steps was not recorded properly:

19, 20, 21, 37, 47, 48,  49, 63,

Steps  to recount, as tally seems erratic:

7, 9, 24, 30, 43,

Stay well!

Peter Turner  (20/3/2020)

peters green tube walks

67/ The wick-ed alternative route along the Lee valley (5.5 miles/9km)

Start: Hackney Wick Overground station, Fare zone 2, London Borough of Hackney
Finish: Tottenham Hale underground station, Victoria line, Fare zone 3, London Borough of Haringey
Distance:  5½  miles / 9 km, (13,374 steps)
Time:
3 hours, 15 minutes (max) + 1 hr in Waterworks Nature Reserve
Maps:
O.S. Explorer sheet 173 (London North)

Introduction

In walk no. 10 of this blog (“Down the Lea from Tottenham Hale to Tower Hamlets”) I described a route which slavishly followed the river bank all the way. Today I offer you a parallel route which avoids the banks of the Lee, well, for most of the walk anyway. It also goes in the opposite direction: south to north, not north to south, and it calls in at Wick Wood, Waterworks nature reserve, Aqueduct path and Springfield park, where the bird song is amazing. Along the way we shall see some of  East London’s best preserved marsh land.

The ‘wick-ed’ in the title is a reference to Wick wood, Wick field and Hackney Wick where we kick off. This usefully located London Overground station can easily be reached from the tube stations of Stratford (Central and Jubilee lines) or Highbury & Islington (Victoria line).

Toilets cafés and shops are surprisingly frequent on this walk and where they occur will be mentioned in the text. There are quite a few benches to sit on and there are no steep bits to climb, except for Springfield Park and this can easily be by-passed. The surface is suitable for wheel chairs and baby buggies/pushchairs as it is tarmac for a good part of the way. It’s a bit rough on the Haringey stretch of the Lee as we approach the end of the walk. However, the Lee Valley Park is such an attractive area you may want to return to it again and again even if you can’t manage the entire route.

Let’s walk!

Use the lift or walk down the steps to reach street level at Hackney Wick Overground Station. Pass the ticket office on your right and go out into the little piazza with its benches and planters. Turn right along White Post Lane to Hepscott Road and, under the railway bridge, to Wallis Road, which has a convenience store on the left. The street curves round to the right and ends up at Wallis Bridge which crosses over the River Lee Navigation. There is a lift up and a ramp down on the other side. The river is flowing from your left to your right, i.e. from north to south. Our way is left, i.e. north up the towpath for a short while before we turn off.

You will soon see two roads running over the canal side by side. The second, higher, one is the 20 year old A12 Link Road which brought a lot of noise and pollution to the area when it was built. As a consequence of this the 30,000 trees of Wick Wood were planted as a kind of compensation to local people.

[There’s another River Lea (notice the different spelling) which we shall see later. It is much wilder and has no narrow boats on it. The valley of these two related rivers is wide enough for us to be able to walk along for at least half our route without seeing either of them. Instead we get woodland, bird hides, hedges full of flowers and butterflies, and glimpses of marshland.]

Passing some brand new shops and restaurants on the right of the towpath, and passing under the busy but well decorated road bridges mentioned above we reach the young Wick Woodland, still shown on maps by its old name of Wick Field.

Turn into the wood by the large concrete block and turn left alongside the iron railings which separate it from the towpath.

Wick Wood is roughly triangular in shape. It is bounded by the River Lee on one side, the elevated A12 on another, and a road called Homerton Road on the far third side. It would help if you could visualise this layout, as we are heading for an exit from the wood half way along Homerton Road, and there’s no one clear footpath through the wood that goes there. Start by walking parallel to the river, along the footpath separated from the towpath only by an iron fence. After about 200 metres turn right away from the river along a clear earth track. Though this is the right direction for the exit it doesn’t go directly to it. Take the second turning on the left, and look and listen for the road in front. Stay on clear paths as far as possible and in a couple of minutes – the wood is only 12 hectares in size – you reach Homerton Road. Follow the fence to the ramp going up to the road.

Cross the road to one of the most astonishing buildings you’ll ever see – the football changing rooms for the Hackney Marshes playing fields. Its walls consist of wire boxes of stones and rusty iron sheets. Walk between it and the carpark, passing the entrance as you do so (café or toilets, anyone?) and carry on along a short tarmac path in the same direction to the line of trees in front.

Here we join the original River Lea: this is the natural one – the twin River Lee Navigation which we have just left behind is man-made; basically a canal with lock gates made for boats. The two rivers run parallel for most of the Lee Valley. Turn left and follow the tarmac path along the line of trees on the river bank, or the earth path nearer the water’s edge. Ignore the first metal bridge ( White Bridge or White House Bridge). (It has a bizarre information panel which is all about Dick Turpin, a highwayman who never even operated in this area.) Even more bizarre is the next bridge, what I call the ‘Hot Lips’ bridge. It always brings a smile to my lips! What do you think – a waste of steel that could have been put to some better use, or a brilliant art installation? Its real name is ‘Friends Bridge’.

Cross ‘Hot Lips’ bridge. (If I push this name enough perhaps they’ll adopt it.) Immediately turn right into the corner of a large field which is full of grass and bordered with mature trees. It’s popular with dog walkers and has a number of clear tracks across and around it. Walk back alongside the Lea (this side) and on around the whole perimeter of the field in an anti-clockwise direction. On eventually reaching a line of young beeches on your left and a brick wall on your right, bear left to the green flag flying at the left hand end of the white building in front. A gateway and a footbridge over the flood relief channel mark the entrance to Water Works Nature Reserve, an abandoned set of filter beds which were built in the 19th century to take deadly cholera germs out of the water. This is an ideal spot for watching water birds and has many hides to help you do so without the birds spotting you. Note the closing times on the way in as this is the only entrance and the whole reserve is  enclosed by high fences.

[I have allowed an hour in my estimate of how long this diversion into the reserve should add to the total time needed to complete this walk, but I have not added any miles or paces to my final tally for this walk given at the top of the post. This is because I could quite happily spend an hour on the bench just inside the gate, admiring the view.

To explore every corner of the reserve I recommend proceeding in an anti-clockwise direction.]

On emerging from the reserve turn left and follow the boundary fence to the busy Lea Bridge Road. Turn left over the flood relief channel in its concrete culvert and look out for the riding school on the opposite side and head up its drive. If you miss the sign, look out for the life-size statue of a horse on the roof; that’s a dead giveaway that it’s not the ice rink next door. Before reaching the stables turn left and shortly arrive at a T junction of tarmac footpaths, also open to bikes and horses. Turn right and stride ahead up the Lea valley to Walthamstow Marshes. You may see the Lee Navigation way over the fields on the left, but there’s no sign of the Lea. That’s because after Hot Lips Bridge it merged with the Lee.

[You may have noticed Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve mentioned on a signpost. I cover it in walk 10, but there’s nothing to stop you following the signpost and visiting it today.]

The hedgerows on both sides of the path are a haven for small nesting birds as well as wild flowers and insects. There’s also some remarkably attractive wild life graffiti where you pass under a railway bridge.

Don’t turn off along any of the tempting side paths, but stay on the Aqueduct Path, as it is known, until the way ahead is blocked by the boundary fence to Walthamstow Wetlands. Here you go through a car park and turn left and duck under the train tracks and follow the road down to Springfield Marina, keeping the Wetlands’ fence on your right.

[You may see real cormorants as well!]

Narrow boats park up here for the winter. Some are permanently occupied and their owners have made attractive little gardens on their tiny patch of bank. The downside is the smell of burning coal that comes from their chimneys.

There are two footbridges across the Lee, and being a wheelchair-friendly blog, or at least attempting to be, we take the one with no steps, i.e. the left-hand, down-river one. To reach it turn left before the gates of the marina. It is called Horseshoe Bridge. Turn left on the far towpath for a short distance and when you have passed the tennis courts and Wilson Gate, continue to the River Lea Gate where you enter Springfield Park and start climbing Wilson Hill. There are two good reasons for diverting up here. One is the view from the top of the bank and the other one is the birdsong. In February 2020 I heard more birds in Springfield Park than on any other section of this walk, which is pretty astonishing.

Walk along the top of the bank, to the right, noticing the benches set in thick hedges to protect people sitting on them from the wind. Fork left at the top for the Pavilion café and WCs. Ignoring side paths make your way back down to river level just inside the boundary fence with Spring Hill road, passing a gate with a lodge on the way. Leave the park at Marina Gate close by the other footbridge (the one with the steps) and head north up the gravel towpath. There’s a white brick cafe on your left and a rowing centre. Soon you reach Markfield Park whose contribution to Tottenham’s industrial archaeology is a magnificent old beam engine. Unfortunately the engine house is not open to the public every day but the friendly and atmospheric cafe is.

After passing under some railway bridges you reach the busy Forest Road where you walk up the scorcher to the pavement and turn left for Tottenham Hale tube station.

If you enjoyed this walk then you might like other walks in this blog which cover the same area:

10/ Down the Lee from Tottenham Hale to Tower Hamlets
53/ Dog-free in Walthamstow Wetlands
65/ Exploring the green legacy of the Olympic Park

“I hope you enjoyed this walk as much as I did.”

Peter Turner (February 2020)

66/ The green oasis inside the Barbican (draft)

Start & Finish: Barbican underground station, Circular line, Metropolitan line, Hammersmith & City line, Fare zone 1, City of London
Distance: N/A
Time: N/A
Map: N/A

Introduction

I always knew there was an attractive pond with reed beds inside the Barbican, as I go to concerts there sometimes and I had seen it. It was only when I saw the September 2019 programme with its cover photo of what looked like a jungle that I became aware of more of the other green spaces in that concrete bastion. The head gardener, Marta Lowcewicz, rhapsodises about the Conservatory and the Beech Gardens as well as Lakeside. I next went on a guided tour of the place and discovered a fourth green space – the sculpture courtyard, which lacks sculptures but is full of raised beds of flowers. This is a very quiet spot as most visitors don’t know it’s there.

So this post will be unique in this blog: an oasis of 4 green parts with no specific route to join them up: you will have to explore a concrete jungle to find them. I shall briefly describe what each one has to offer and say what level it is on. The rest is up to you! How far you end up walking or how long you will linger in each one is also up to you.

Photos will be added at a later date. Spring 2020 perhaps.

First a word about this place. It has two parts: the Barbican Estate and the Barbican Centre  which I shall describe separately.

The Barbican Estate covers some 40 acres (16 ha) and houses some 4000 tenants, many of them working in nearby financial institutions in The City. The owner is the City of London corporation and they charge commercial rents, the top floors costing more because the views are better. The tallest towers are 42 floors high (400 feet) and rate as among the highest residences in London. They were built in the 60s and 70s and have been described as the ugliest buildings in London. The style is known as brutalism. The estate has its own police force – the City of London police.

It is compulsory for residents to have window boxes and plants on their balconies. They are given a list of plants from which they may choose.

Thee Barbican Centre is Europe’s largest centre for performing arts and also has bars and 3 restaurants. It is built in a ziggurat style. The name ‘Barbican’ means a fortified gatehouse of the sort that would have been on the wall of the City in bygone days. The gate’s name has been preserved in the name of the old church still standing by lakeside: St Giles Cripplegate.

Let’s walk!

Before stepping down onto the street outside, look for a flight of steps going up on the left hand side of the Barbican underground station. This takes us to a highwalk over the busy street below and straight into the Barbican. The signage is quite good and there are lifts and steps everywhere to take you to any level. Certain areas are quite clearly for residents only, including some parkland which we are only able to observe from above.

Lakeside
The rustling reeds and the sound of fountains and waterfalls make this quite a soothing place to relax. The sounds of traffic are blocked by the buildings. There are plenty of places to sit, and the nearby Barbican Kitchen serves food and coffee. Above the glistening water peregrines teach their young to hunt and little ducklings jump from residents’ window boxes and learn to fly.

The conservatory
This is the second largest conservatory in London and contains 1800 species of temperate and succulent plants. It is open to the public on Saturdays (12-4) and Sundays (12-6) only.

Beech Gardens
The planting is naturalistic, and every few weeks it explodes with new colour depending on the season.

The Sculpture Courtyard
The least frequented of the Barbican’s public spaces. There are benches between the raised beds of flowers where you may read or doze in the sun. A real oasis in a concrete desert.

More details will be added in due course.

Meanwhile, here’s a similar walk you might be interested in:
58/ 35 floors up – the highest green walk in London.

“I hope you find this ‘oasis’ as enjoyable as I did.”

Peter Turner (November 2019)

65/ Exploring the Olympic Games’ green legacy (3 miles/4 km)

Start and Finish: Hackney Wick Overground station, Fare Zone 2, London Borough of Hackney
Distance: 3 miles / 4 km, (10,800 paces)
Time: hours (max);
Maps: O.S. Explorer sheets: 162 (Greenwich & Gravesend),
173 (London North),
174 (Epping Forest & Lee Valley).

 

Introduction

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was opened in 2012 when London hosted the games. London residents  were promised a “legacy”, some sign that this was not just a nationalistic vanity project but something that would bring long term benefits to the community. Seven years on, I decided, after a preliminary investigative walk, that I would see for myself if there was a detectable green dividend. In particular I wanted to find out two things:

  • Was there a footpath through the park that could qualify in any way as ‘green’, and was it enjoyable to walk along?
  • Secondly was the environment being sensitively managed so that wild life would thrive?

 

After a thorough exploration my  feelings were positive on both counts. Just look at some of the photos – can you believe they were taken in the heart of London?

I think the planners, builders and architects did a splendid job. To let you see the place for yourselves, I have worked out the following route which stays close to water most of the time. (It was only when I entered the park that I realised how many picturesque rivers there were running through it.)

There are loads of benches  throughout the walk, but hardly any food outlets or toilets. The surface is firm and flat – excellent for wheel chairs and baby buggies alike. Where there are steps there is always a gentle ramp not too far away.

Let’s walk!

Hackney Wick station is not an Underground station, it’s an Overground station, but it’s on the tube map (square B7) and it’s only one stop from Stratford Underground station (Central line and Jubilee line) and five stops from Highbury and Islington Underground station (Victoria line.) Hackney Wick station has lifts but no loos. Pass the ticket office on the way out – it is the last bit of brickwork not covered in graffiti you are likely to see for quite some time!

Go straight ahead out of the station into White Post Lane which turns left to the bridge over the River Lee (Navigation). From here we get our first glimpse of the stadium and the art installation -cum-helterskelter known as the ArcelorMittal Orbit. Don’t cross the bridge but nip down the ramp to the river bank, then ahead to the river’s junction with the Hertford Union Canal, where we have to turn right. A little way along here is a canal lock with its two gates which allow a barge to climb or descend a gradient. It can be manually operated, unlike the newer radial lockgate which we shall  pass later. Before the lock we go up the ramp to the footbridge over this man-made water way and pass over to Roach Street which is on Fish Island. Pass a convenience store on your left and follow the road right and then left until to come to an imposing edifice labelled ‘H. Forman & Son’. They smoke salmon here and there’s a restaurant too. We turn left over a rusty looking new bridge just before Forman’s.

Leaving the Lee Navigation with all its narrow boats behind, walk towards the Olympic Stadium, passing the Bobby Moore Academy Sport Centre on the left. Remember what it looks like, as it will act as a landmark later in the walk when we come back this way. Cross a new road called Marshgate Terrace and bear left before the stadium, looking on the right for our first splash of green – the ‘Great British Garden‘. Just beyond the steps down to it there is a ramp for those who need one for access. An information panel explains that the idea behind this lovely little garden is to display as many plants as possible that have the colours of Olympic medals: gold, silver and bronze. The habitat has also been shaped to make wildlife feel at home, especially bats, newts and dragonflies.

Leaving the willow arches and the swinging bench behind, follow the wooden footbridge under the road bridge to the junction of the City Mill River and the River Lea. Here you can see the electrically operated radial lock gates. The so-called Diamond Bridge in front has shiny mirror panels under it which reflect the sun on the water. On reaching Carpenters Road bridge, don’t go left under it but cross by the zebra and climb the steps (there’s a ramp behind you if you prefer.) At the top of the steps go straight ahead, keeping close to the metal railing on the right until you reach a double-gated gap in it which lets you get  back down to the riverside walk, which has an excellent surface for anyone on wheels.

The River Lea’s banks are beautifully green along here, and even though the route passes under several bridges there is little traffic noise. That all changes at Temple Mills Bridge  where our footpath appears to end at a busy roadside. (The East Cross Route on our left divides into the Eastway and the A12 on the right.) Turn right over the river and walk as far as the lights. Cross the road and, ignoring the steps on the right, follow the flat gravel path that leads towards the river bank on your left.

We have left the Olympic Park and are now in Hackney Marshes, where the new Spitalfields fruit and vegetable market forms a backdrop to football pitches. On reaching the White House bridge cross the river and walk back down the other side. There’s a tarmac track at the top of the bank and a muddy track lower down, which I prefer.

[In case you are confused by the two spellings of the  river’s name: Lea and Lee, this is the story: Originally there was only the Lea, which was a bit wild and unreliable as a carrier of goods on boats. Using its water, a parallel, canalised river with lock gates was built which worked perfectly. It was called the River Lee, a.k.a. the River Lee (Navigation). The Lea is tidal, and at low tide there is a four metre difference in their heights which you can observe at Three Mills (Walk #63).]

As you draw close to the noisy Eastway again, climb the bank onto Homerton Road and cross back at the lights. A track going back into the Olympic Park conveniently leads down to the side of the river we didn’t walk along before. Let’s head south towards the stadium with the river and its reed beds on our right. On reaching a kind of wooden amphitheatre read the info panel on the ‘Wetland Bowl’. These guys have really gone all out to encourage wildlife. I’m impressed. The next panel on ‘Wet Woodland’ is equally encouraging – they even get Kingfishers here.

Fork left away from the river between two halves of an old red phone box. (No, you can’t ring your mum, it’s an art installation!) Loop around in an anti-clockwise direction past the ponds, then climb the steps on the left. (Or turn right for a gentle ramp up to the top of the bank.) The Timber Lodge across the way is open from  9 – 5, 7 days a week. The coffee’s good and the views are terrific whether you sit inside or out. Besides loos it has a multi faith room, like an airport.

Cross the Lea by Eastcross Bridge, the left of two parallel bridges. On the other side don’t go down the tarmac track through the bushes to the riverside walk but stay in the open on top and turn left towards the stadium. You are in Middlesex Way and on your right is the eye-catching Copper Box, a gym complex with R.U.N. spelt out in large capitals. Cross a main road (Westfield Avenue) and pass grass roundabouts on the left. There is a good view of both the stadium and the Orbit from this point, and we head south towards them, crossing the Diamond Bridge by either of its two branches. Look out for the City Mill River on the right and the Waterworks River on the left which between them create an island on which the Orbit, but not the stadium, stands. There should be an outdoor gym on the right and a small wooden café on the left. According to my map this narrow pedestrianised road is called ‘2012 Walk’, but the signs call it ‘Tessa Jowell Boulevard’.

[As Culture Secretary, the late Tessa Jowell was the driving force behind the 2012 games. This, the most popular walkway in the park, was named after her in May 2019.]

A number of delightful international flower gardens embrace the river bank on our left, each representing a different part of the planet. That must have helped overseas contestants feel more at home when they saw them during the games. As we draw alongside the ArcelorMittal Orbit the precise route you take next depends on the state of the building works going on here. In November 2019 you could either circle right round the Orbit, which is fine, or (my preference) walk on till you’re level with the blue Iron Bridge on the left, and before you reach Sidings Street which runs left-right in front. From here you can just about make out the route of the Jubilee Greenway a.k.a. the Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment, which is described in another walk (No. 60) in this collection. Turn right across a carpark parallel to Sidings Street and when the banks of the City Mill River soon come into view don’t go down to the water’s edge but stay on top and head back towards the right hand extremity of the stadium. Cross the bridge on your left level with the Orbit, and, passing the stadium store, ‘circumnavigate’ the stadium in a clockwise direction.

Look out for the Bobby Moore Sport Centre we passed before. Turn left before it and make your way down to the nearest bank of the Lee Navigation. Turn right along the towpath and make your way up to White Post Lane at the first bridge. Be careful not to stub your toes on the scorchers – raised ridges in the cobbles designed to help the horses that pulled barges get a grip. Turn left for Hackney Wick station.

[ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel company. The Orbit has the world’s longest and highest slide built into it. You can also abseil down the outside or just go up to enjoy the view. Check on line for details.]

Other ‘Peter’s Green Tube Walks’ in the area that you might enjoy are:-
10/ Down the Lee from Tottenham Hale to Tower Hamlets
60/ Follow the Greenway from Fish Island to Beckton
63/ It’s two tings on the towpath by the backwaters of Bow
64/ Walk a mile in Mile End Park

A useful A4 map of the park is available from the Information Centre in Endeavour Square, near the entrance to Westfield Mall, across the bridge from the stadium.

“I hope you are as impressed with this side of the Olympic legacy as I was!”

Peter Turner (November 2019)