Walk around the London Olympic Park during Lockdown

On Friday 8th May I decided to take a walk around the London Olympic Park (Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park) to see what it was like during lockdown. The park is just a 15-minute walk from my home, but crossing the junction of Ruckholt Road and Orient Way felt like breaching a major boundary. Temple Mills Lane, a rare survivor of the old pre-Olympic streetplan, was quiet. Two people hit balls against the wall of the Lea Valley Tennis and Hockey Centre.  The Velodrome was closed but a dribble of cyclists were taking advantage of the outdoor track. The ghosts of the Eton Manor Sports Club and Eastway Cycle Track wafted in the air. Groups of people had socially distant kickarounds and some bold souls threw frisbees. A solitary security guard/park ranger went up to speak to clusters of people blatantly flouting the government restrictions which, were relaxed slightly 3 days later.  The walk then continued beside the River Lea and pass back towards Hackney Marsh via East Wick and Here East.

Olympic Park lockdown

You can also watch my most recent lockdown walk here.

What’s Happening Here? Olympic Park survey

Pudding Mill Lane

 Pudding Mill Lane

The no-show of a herb forager for a walk around Pudding Mill Lane gave me the opportunity to log developments around the site as part of my on-going obsession with the Olympic zone. It appears as if not a great deal has changed around Pudding Mill Lane over the last five years or so other than the appearance of this signage. ‘What’s Happening Here?’ seems to capture the mood perfectly.

Pudding Mill Lane

“Pudding Mill Lane is one of the five new neighbourhoods being created as part of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. In total, 33,000 new homes will be created on or around the Park by 2036.

Over the two Pudding Mill sites (including this one at Pudding Mill Lane) we’ll be creating:

  • 1,500 new homes
  • 36,000 sqm of employment space
  • A nursery
  • A health centre
  • Community spaces.”

https://www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/

IMG_2668

UCL East

UCL East – East Bank Stratford

 East Bank / Stratford Waterfront

Heading back towards the Olympic Stadium the hoardings have gone up around the East Bank development. Here’s the official description of East Bank:

“East Bank is a new powerhouse for innovation, creativity and learning on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It is a unique collaboration between world-leading universities, arts and culture institution that opens up opportunities for everyone who visits, lives and works in east London.”

It’s divided into two sections – UCL East (pictured above), and Stratford Waterside which will contain:

  • Sadler’s Wells East, a 550-seat theatre and hip hop academy
  • UAL London College of Fashion campus for 6,500 students
  • V&A East a new museum at Stratford Waterfront  (V&A will also have space at Here East)
  • The Smithsonian Institution will have presence on the site in partnership with the V&A
  • ‘State of the art’ BBC music studios

Olympic Park

Waterden Road

Last night walking through the Olympic Park towards the London Stadium along Middlesex Way the footpath was closed – a regular feature in the Park since it opened after the Olympics. The ‘What’s Happening Here’ signage explained that this was due to changes to the road layout that will connect the South of the park to Waterden Road – presumably as a consequence of the developments around East Bank and Pudding Mill Lane. This potentially means a significant increase in traffic cutting through the park from the West disecting the parkland leaving the area between Waterden Road and the Eastway as the last remaining open space in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (see map below). And I believe the area marked as Hopkins’ Field is earmarked for housing development (although that could be incorrect).

London Olympic Park Map

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

London Olympic Park

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright

A walk around the London Olympic Park, Stratford (2018)

This was an unintentional although overdue video. I’d caught the 339 bus to Stratford Station with the intention of getting a train to Harold Wood and going in search of Stukeley’s earthworks on Navestock Common. But alighting the bus on Montfichet Road, I was drawn in by the view of the evolving skyline around Stratford – something that has become a bit of an obsession over the last 8 years or so, as regular readers of this blog will have noticed. So once I’d switched my camera on and turned into Westfield Avenue and then through the newly completed sections of the International Quarter, I was hooked.

Here are links to some of the news articles and videos referenced in the video and also some further reading:

Videos

The Quito Papers: Towards an Open City

Is the London Olympic Park a bit Crap (Sept 2015)

Post -Olympic London – Welcome to Ikea Town

London Olympic Park playlist

 

Links to screenshots

Olympicopolis halves towers’ height and leaves V&A looking for extra space
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-halves-towers-height-and-leaves-va-looking-for-extra-space/10024263.article

Latest vision revealed for Olympicopolis arts quarter in east London
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/27/latest-vision-olympic-park-olympicopolis-arts-quarter-east-london

Olympicopolis architects on their £1.3 billion vision for E20
https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/olympicopolis-architects-on-their-13-billion-vision-for-e20-a3198041.html

Olympicopolis mark II: reworked plans for east London cultural hub revealed
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-mark-ii-reworked-plans-for-east-london-cultural-hub-revealed/10031732.article

Olympic Village sold to Qatari developers for £557m in deal that costs taxpayer £225m
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2025367/Olympic-Village-sold-Qatari-developers-557m-deal-costs-taxpayer-225m.html

Qataris strike Olympic gold: Sheikhs who snapped up cheap flats in the Athletes Village set to rake in £1billion profit
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2586458/Qataris-strike-Olympic-gold-Sheikhs-snapped-cheap-flats-Athletes-Village-set-rake-1billion-profit.html

“So which narrative is correct? The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is managed as a private site by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), a mayoral development corporation established in 2012”
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/27/london-olympic-park-success-five-years-depends

“When the athletes’ village was sold off in 2011 around half, or nearly 1,500 apartments, was sold to QDD, a joint venture between Qatari Diar, a property arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and British property developer Delancey, to be sold or rented on the private market.
The remaining apartments were sold to Triathlon Homes, a joint venture between a developer and two non-profit housing providers, to become the “affordable” housing quota, funded by nearly 50 million pounds from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.”
https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/29/07/2017/Five-years-after-London-Olympics,-Games%E2%80%99-legacy-is-off-track-for-locals

 

Other references

City Mill River originally called St. Thomas’ Creek
http://thelostbyway.com/2017/02/pudding-mill-lane-sugar-house-lane-ikea-city.html#comments

Pudding Mill River – the lost river that runs under the Stadium
http://www.londonslostrivers.com/pudding-mill-river.html

Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap
http://www.thewansteadtap.com/buy-tickets/

Fun Fair in the Olympic Park

Olympic Park Fun Fair

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 23

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 50

‘Roll Up Roll Up for all the fun of the fair in the Olympic Park’, nobody said. A pound each just to enter. Barely a soul around, like one of those ghost theme parks somewhere out in the American midwest, or a scene in a zombie movie. Loitering too long at one of the amusements meant being descended upon by eager, underemployed staff. My son didn’t really fancy much apart from the mini-Zorbs bobbing in a paddling pool in the corner that I managed to persuade him away from. Three arrows for £3.50 to win a wan-looking soft toy. £3 for a bag of pink candyfloss that was mostly air, my son wanted a fresh one on a stick, ‘the lady who does that ent ere’, the girl behind the counter said eyes glued to her phone. The burgers were solid black like discs of coal, the sausages resembled greasy truncheons. The dodgems sat idling remembering better times. The Ghost Ride was in good company this evening. The deserted Fun Fair should become a permanent fixture in the Olympic Park, an Olympic Legacy.

We left with the bag of pink sugar vapour and made our way to East Village in search of food that wouldn’t kill us. The illuminated apartments seemed to be far outnumbered by those in darkness, whether this indicates a large number of vacant flats or the late working hours of the inhabitants I wouldn’t want to say.

There was some sign of life at street level along Victory Parade, even a posse of teenage boys ambling along and a smattering of people in the bars and restaurants. I’m told militant vegans were out in force protesting at the cheese and wine fayre at the weekend, noisily picketing the Gelateria until the police were called. That’s an event that needs adding to the social history of the site.

It’s nearly 4 years since I was given a tour of East Village before the first residents moved in, a tour that focused almost entirely on the impressive environmental sensitivity of the landscaping missing out any mention of the 51% stake owned by the Qatari government purchased at a £275 million loss to the British taxpayer – an interesting idea when looking at skyrocketing property prices in London and an ever-worsening housing crisis.

I tried to point out to my son some of the things I remembered from the tour, but he was distracted by his hunger with his heart set on pizza. I was about to tell him we might have to settle for fish and chips when he spotted what turned out to be really good pizzeria that allowed us to park my son’s bike inside and served a favourite pizza from my Modena years.

I’m determined not to give up on East Village and the Olympic Park, to not let the cynicism ringing in my ears even louder than my tinnitus completely cloud my view. Nor do I want to be seduced into a SOMA daze of compliance by good pizza and swan pedalos. The deserted fun fair and the good pizza seemed to provide a decent balance on this occasion.

The ever changing face of the London Olympic Park

swan pedalos olympic park

The Olympic Park was abuzz with summer this afternoon. The BBQ area was puking out plumes of smoke like an Outback bushfire, a couple sat dripping wet on a wooden jetty after a swim in the River Lea. I enjoyed a drink by the boats on Stratford Waterfront wondering what Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair will make of the Swan pedalo rides that start next weekend.

manhattan lofts stratford

Stratford International Quarter

But of course the shadow of constant development looms over the surrounding area. The Manhattan Loft Gardens are finally rising into the Stratford sky – after existing solely as a series of projected images outside Stratford International Station for the last 5 years.

And the International Quarter will consume a large chunk of land between Westfield, the Aquatics Centre, and the Waterfront.

London Olympic Park map

The grey areas on this map mark out the development sites that will be completed over the next 3 years. By 2020 London’s newest park will be encircled by high-rise blocks.

Celebration Walk Stratford E20 IMG_2476Back in January this year I snapped the new blocks going up on the edge of Victory Park – on Celebration Avenue. It was a nice scene around Victory Park this evening. A few cafes and restaurants have opened and were busy, people played ping-pong on the outdoor tables, children ran down the Telly Tubbies mound. The development will cast one side of the park in shadow.

Opposite, the site next to Sainsburys is being developed – not part of East Village I was told.

celebration avenue Stratford E20

When I first became, if not quite obsessed then preoccupied by East Village and the Olympic Park about 6 years ago, I offset the creeping horror I felt by telling myself that it would take time to become ‘a place’, that people would have to annotate the newly laid streets with their narratives before we would could really know what it was. But until then it was a land-grab, a year zero scheme with a fictional E20 postcode borrowed from EastEnders, the erasure of the Europe’s largest tenant owned housing co-op at Clays Lane, an outpost of the Qatari Royal Family.

walk olympic park

However, we did have a good time in the Olympic Park today. I plan to go back and try the new cafes. And we’ll be riding the Swan Pedalos on the Waterworks River next week in honour of Andrew and Iain’s Swandown incursion.

 

Olympic Park – East Village: first wander along new London streets

Passing through East Village in the Olympic Park today I was overjoyed to find two new roads (re) open – Honour Lea Avenue  and Olympic Park Avenue, apparently opened to the public yesterday, 7th March.

I seem to be developing am ongoing relationship with East Village and the wider Olympic Park (to a slightly lesser degree) which started when I sent a frustrated tweet to the East Village admin people about the naming. This led to me being invited to a tour of the site last July by the charming PR team and somebody from the construction firm.

I think my blossoming obsession perhaps comes from my interest in researching and exploring London suburbs of the past, so to witness a new neighbourhood come into being in front of your eyes is a unique opportunity. The horror I feel at times might be what people felt when they saw the first streets laid out in the fields of Perivale and Sudbury Hill. I’m now trying (really) hard to dispassionately document but it’s a struggle at times.

I wonder where all this is heading.