Walk from Leytonstone to the Thames

Been meaning to do this walk for a while – heading south in a straight line from Leytonstone across Stratford and Abbey Marshes bound for the Plaistow Levels beside the river Thames.

 Leyton High Road –

 

“Local history is the cradle of true patriotism, and local patriotism is the best stimulant to efficiency and progress”

Fifty Years A Borough 1886-1936 – The Story of West Ham by Donald McDougall, 1936

 

 “There seems to be no doubt that the name comes from the Saxon, indicating the Street by the ford, or Stratford”.

 Old Stratford looks down upon the arrivistes

“It is quite likely that the area was a centre of communal life of the (pre-Roman) period and that it saw Druid ceremonial at its best”

The Greenway

East Ham and West Ham were simply known as Hamme at the time of Edward the Confessor.

Alfred the Great is said to be responsible for the creation of some of the watercourses around Stratford such as the Channelsea River which he created to drain water from the Danish ships moored in the River Lea.

Channelsea River 2
a home at Bromley-by-Bow – note the jacket hung up left of the bed

Limehouse Cut

“These streams had for many years been deteriorating, silting up, and at times giving off very offensive smells.”

another unofficial home
the marsh monster

“But before there were small clustered villages, and before the unassailable fortress stood sentinel on the bank of the river, what people lived in the forests and marshy lands? What did they do in the struggle to live?
The first great work of these unrecorded hands was to build a wall of earth all along the north bank of the river so tha a great belt of swampy land was made fertile and flourished into meadows and pastures.”
The Story of Tower Hamlets, 1967

West Ham Abbey “stood on the banks of the Channelsea River, one of the waterways created by Alfred the Great, in a very low-lying area now almost entirely covered by factories, warehouse and gasometers.”
Fifty Years a Borough

Westfield Stratford City drift (with rotting meat and Olympic village vertical slum)

Yesterday evening I got a call from artist Bob and Roberta Smith asking if I fancied exploring the new Westfield Stratford City that had just opened that day down the road from Leytonstone. I quickly grabbed my minidisc recorder and a mic and off we went.
Bob then played out the entire disc live and unedited on his Resonance fm show, Make Your Own Damn Music. This is a sample of the broadcast.

Walk to Stratford

Yesterday took a late afternoon wander down to Stratford under sludge grey skies


Turn off Cathall Road into Hollydown Way taking in the view across St. Patrick’s Cemetery towards the cranes of Stratford. Iain Sinclair made this journey in reverse in Lights Out For the Territory describing St. Pat’s as “that slumberland development with its forest of white statues”. The eastern gates are padlocked as they were when Sinclair passed by, so I continue.

The Olympic development looms large now from Draper’s Fields playing grounds, scene of midweek 5-a-side heroics

Wilson’s Bar hanging on for dear life – the antithesis of the supposed Olympic dream of the developers

I still can’t get my head around the idea that the Olympic Village is going to be down on Angel Lane Stratford. Will we find pole-vaulters popping over the road for a pint in the Railway Tavern.

Saturday afternoon perambulation

From Cathall Road there is a near perfect view cleared by the M11 Link Road. At an height level with the steeple of St. John’s you can scan across the speculative skyline from Canary Wharf to St. Mary Axe (it’s an alignment that the London Psychogeographical Society could conjure something from: St John = Baphomet/Isis, pyramids, obelisks). Late afternoon full moon. Across the top of St. Pat’s tombstones Lea Valley pylons against a red sunset. On Water Lane there’s ‘The Brothers Fish Bar est. 1966’ chips and cheer wrapped in greasy paper, in my imagination opened to commemorate West Ham winning the World Cup. I wander into the porch of Ithaca House on Romford Road – The Working Men’s Hall and Club Rooms 1865. A lady tells me that it’s now all martial arts, body mind and spirit etc. She was unaware of its age or original purpose. Old Labour replaced by the New Age Brigade. In her work-out gear she views me with suspicion through the door, me a working man, son of a gardener, grandson of a miner. A quick google shows it to have been bought for £1 by the Independent Newham Users Forum.
Wind up in the gentrified King Eddie. My cheese and onion crisps arrive as Double Gloucester and Red Onion Kettle Chips. The saloon bar where we sat on the floor in 1989 has distressed wooden tables, floorboards, smoochy tunes and a Heston Blumenthal inspired menu.