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14 February 2015: Legacy: Walthamstow to Stratford QE Olympic Park

Event route planned and designed by John T  in 2014.

Weather: overcast, occasional light shower, 8°C, wind 9mph NE.

Attendance: 17 men.

Distance: 8.93mi.

Time: start 11:22, end 16:17.  Walking time 03h54m.  Average walking speed 2.3mph.

Terrain: pavement, towpath, marsh footpath.

Elevation: low 5m, high 29m, start 27m, end 6m.

Number of sewage works on the route: 1 (mega water treatment works)


This was a point-to-point walk of 8.93 miles from Walthamstow Central tube station to Westfield Stratford City.  The route started WSW through Walthamstow market to Walthamstow Marshes, SE to Lea Bridge, around Hackney Marsh, SW to Victoria Park, then E to the Queen Olympic Park.

Having struggled to meet at the starting point, we eventually hoiked northbound from Walthamstow Bus Station and westbound into the extensive Walthamstow Market.

For us provincial types, the market was a full-on sensory assault.  Noises, smells, colours all differed from our normal view of our local markets.  A dazzling variety of street foods filled the air with inviting aromas.  Vegetable stalls, all of which were three-times the size of a typical stall in the northern home counties, radiated with benches of bright colours.  Music stalls broadcast their wares.  All very cosmopolitan, as befits London.

We left the market and entered a Victorian housing estate.  Once reasonably specified properties for working and lower-middle classes, today the houses are sometimes converted to flats and often hidden behind rows of parked cars.  Over the years, some houses have been ‘improved’ by mock-leaded-lights within uPVC-framed double-glazing.

Leaving the housing estate, we walked through the most mega of water works.  Coppermills Water Treatment Works is huge.  We always like to have a sewage farm on our walks, because it just seems so inevitable that we’ll find one.  But this one was so big that we felt our entire annual ration of sewage farms had been exhausted in one go.

From this point, we started to enjoy the long views of the City of London and the Docklands.  Tall buildings were readily identifiable: Shard, Gherkin, Cheese Grater, Walkie Talkie and Canary Wharf.

Leaving the water works, we crawled underneath a really low railway bridge to enter the Walthamstow Marshes, part of the Lee Valley Park and itself a site of special scientific interest, cited for being a semi-natural wetland.  The bridge was so low that even the shortest of us had to duck.

The River Lee Navigation accompanied us during the next phase of the route, including a coffee stop at the Princess of Wales at Lea Bridge.  Leaving the Lee shortly thereafter, we walked through the now-disused Middlesex Filter Beds into the Hackney Marshes and alongside the River Lea.  This was a rich place for wildlife: we saw cormorants, gulls, mallards, coots, moorhens, magpies, crows and Canada geese.

After walking underneath the A12, where we saw a skatepark decorated with graffiti, we saw St Mary of Eton church - noticeable for its physical size - and then walked into Victoria Park.  The park is festooned with London Plane trees and had some sort of jogging contest going on.  We ambled our way through the park, avoiding being run-over by a highway of crazy joggers going nuts in the cold.  For sanctuary, we opted for lunch, with half the group sitting in the outdoors, goggling at joggers, and half the group diving into a pub, the People’s Park Tavern.  The pub is also a microbrewery and screams its ideological perspective loudly through the name of its beers, one of which was a 7% beer called “Bourgeois Scum”.  Elegantly, the pub has converted its garden into a covered area with sofas more comfortable than those you’d find indoors.  How very bourgeois.

Leaving Victoria Park, we walked alongside the Hertford Union Canal to enter the Olympic Park.  The stadium was mid-way through its partial dismantling, its conversion from an Olympic stadium to something slightly more commercially useful.  We saw the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the velodrome building, the Olympic Rings, the Stratford Waterfront, the last few decorated buses (part of the Year of the Bus New Routemaster bus sculptures exhibition) and the park wetlands (being preserved as a nature reserve).

The walked ended the Cow pub in Stratford City, next to the shopping centre.  We agreed that we should re-walk this route in the summer.  Overall, the walk was a fascinating view of London, offering lots to see during bleak winter lighting.  With better lighting in summer, the route should offer a lot more.


Pictures by Martin Thornhill.  Words by Peter O'Connor and Martin Thornhil.

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