The Other East End – Pudding Mill & Bow

A walk from the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park through the medieval settlement of Bow

This walk starts near the London Stadium afer an amble down from Leytonstone. The Olympic Park was busier than my last visit while still deep in lockdown in early May. Now cyclists and joggers buzzed in all directions, families enjoyed the playgrounds by the banks of the City Mill River. I passed the East Bank development, with construction now seemingly back in full swing, and crossed the Greenway to Pudding Mill Lane.

The development around Pudding Mill is still in skeletal form at best with much of the site still blank plots where once a range of industries thrived. Cooks Lane takes on to Stratford High Street and the Bow Flyover. Crossing the River Lea we find ourselves on Bow Road, over the border by Bow Church. There’s an interesting historic building at 223 Bow Road which turned out to be a 17th Century shop.
We then go through Bow Arts Alley to Grove Hall Park, once a Victorian private Asylum that features in Charles Dickens Nicholas Nickleby. The walk then goes back past Bow Church and along Bow High Street to St. Leonard’s Priory, an 11th Century Nunnery. From here we go down St. Leonard’s Street to Bruce Road and to Kingsley Hall in Powis Road. Kingsley Hall is where Mahatma Gandhi stayed when visiting Britain in 1931. He would take morning walks along the Sewerbank (Greenway) to Stratford and through Plaistow and West Ham. Following the A12 Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road we find Bromley Hall, an early Tudor Manor House built in around 1485 and believed to be the oldest brick house in London.

This is where the video ends.

Bow

St. Thomas’s Creek Stratford

Off camera I doubled back along the A12 then crossed the Lea Navigation to Three Mills and back along past evening fishermen, beneath the road barely noticing and along the Hackney Cut. I then picked up the course of the Old River Lea around the back of the Olympic Stadium and a return to the Park. I chatted to a charming couple who watch my YouTube videos as we walked through the sunset to Leyton. A great end to a memorable stroll.

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

Turing Street, London E20

Turing Street E20

On a recent wander through the Olympic Park in Stratford, I noticed this new street off Westfield Avenue – Turing Street, London E20 – in the International Quarter.

I don’t know if Turing has any links to the area. According to his Wikipedia page he was born in Maida Vale and went to school in St. Leonards-on-Sea. But it’s great to see the father of modern computing and AI being honoured. It’s the least that can be done given the way he was treated during his lifetime.

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.

Pudding Mill Lane, Sugar House Lane & IKEA City

Pudding Mill Lane

I hadn’t been back to Pudding Mill Lane on the edge of Stratford for at least a year and the area around Sugar House Lane for around 2, so I was keen to see what was happening there now.

Pudding Mill Lane Station is all slick and new, seemingly fully completed and you can now exit without walking through a tight tunnel of plastic fencing, although construction around the station appears to be still at an early stage of development.

 Marshgate Lane Stratford P1040006

The Lost River

Marshgate Business Centre is still intact – a final reminder of the old industrial Stratford. Digging out copies of ‘Your Park’ from 2007 & 2008, the glossy pamphlets that were dropped through our doors in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, there is an update in September 2007 about the relocation of newts from the Pudding Mill River before the river can be drained. It was ultimately filled in and I believe the Olympic Stadium was built on the site.

City Mill River

It is also curious to note that on a ‘Walk the Olympic Park’ map published in July 2007 the section of the City Mill River where it crosses Marshgate Lane is marked as the St Thomas Creek. The most detailed description I’ve found of the network of rivers that branch off from the River Lea once it passes through Leyton, is in a 1936 publication celebrating the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Borough of West Ham. ‘Fifty Years a Borough’ published by the County Borough Council West Ham, makes no mention of the St Thomas Creek, so it raises the question of where the Olympic Park cartographers got the name from.

 Danes Yard Stratford

The Ikea City

Crossing Stratford High Street I pass down Sugar House Lane into a vast building site. The former light industrial zone has been flattened to the ground. Diggers move back and forth flattening the muddy earth creating a blank slate from which the property development arm of flatpack furniture retail giant IKEA can build what has been dubbed as ‘IKEA City’. So far the only visible sign of what’s to come is a peculiar wicker-looking sculpture rising into the sky from Danes Yard. The rest of Strand East will consist of 1,200 new homes, workspaces and a designer hotel. Insert your own jokes here about allen keys and flatpack construction nightmares. One of the many security guards on site told me the ground preparation work will continue for another year before a 3 year building period.

Strand East Stratford London P1040102

Three Mills

I cross an iron bridge onto Three Mills Island where the Bow Creek, River Lea and Three Mills Wall River meet – an auspicious spot. Three Mills Studios continues to form a vital function in the London production sector and over recent years has been the location for Tim Burton animations, Big Brother, 28 Days Later, among others. In the week that London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced his intention to make London the most film-friendly city in the world the future of Three Mills must surely look bright.

Three Mills Island London P1040162

The Prescott Channel

The sunset attempts to crack through the hard cloud shell and signals that it’s time to head home. The path along the edge of Three Mills Green gives a final cross-section view of the Strand East site, the only two standing structures a late Victorian brick building and a tall chimney on the West of Sugar House Lane. The Prescott Channel branches off from the Three Mills Wall River at the far end of Three Mills Green and what appear to be geese make a noisy crash landing on the waterway startling a bunch of gently drifting ducks.