Boxing Day Walk

Antelope Leyton

I start with no fixed plan and follow my feet along Midland Road, Leyton then down Farmer Road to Church Road and the still boarded up Antelope pub. There’s been online chatter about getting this place open again and despite the success of other revived pubs in the area the Antelope continues to lie dormant.

Etloe House, Leyton
Etloe House with its secret water sources of legend in the grounds

I contemplate heading towards the Angel or wonder whether to turn towards Walthamstow. We’re spoilt for choice.

Dagenham Brook, Leyton
All Hail the Dagenham Brook
Marsh Lane Leyton
Marsh Lane

It’s cold and my beanie is still damp from being caught in Christmas Day rain. My pate is chilled. Walking down Marsh Lane reminds me of the pre-Olympic protests of 2006 and 2007 (filmed for BBC documentaries) when it was feared this ancient open space would be gobbled up by the land-grab.

railway bridge at Leyton
Lee Navigation
boat on Lee Navigation

I miss the old Waterworks Pitch and Putt.
Cross the Friends Bridge to Hackney Marshes and then onto the towpath for a short section to Leyton Marsh.
Woodsmoke on the towpath. Bohemian London is afloat.
People walking in big Boxing Day family groups. People up from the country. Clean wellies.

I’ll save the walk from here into the City for a tracing of the Black Path that I’ll shoot for YouTube.

Lea Valley Riding Centre
Lea Valley Riding Centre
bridge from Walthamstow Marsh to Argall Industrial Area
the bridge of flies
Argall Industrial Area
Argall Industrial Area
Excalibur House Argall Industrial Area
Excalibur Works
Excalibur House Argall Industrial Area

Into Argall Industrial Area. I love it here for some reason. Excalibur Works appears as almost the perfect brick unit – a gorgeous monument to industrial modernism. I want a studio/ workspace here. The light is incredible. I get a flood of happy memories of walks that’ve taken me through industrial estates around the fringe of London, often at sunset in glowing light.
There’s a strong smell of bread in the air.

Low Hall Woodland

People are working out to music at Low Hall Recreation Ground.
I take the path up through the woodland – like a country lane. A small dog tries to pick up a stick that’s far too big. A toddler waves goodbye to a particularly large puddle.

Walthamstow High Street
Walthamstow High Street
Ricco's Walthamstow High Street

The vibe in Ricco’s coffee bar on Walthamstow High Street has changed since my school-run days. This was my go-to place on the High Street on laps from Leytonstone. But the coffee and sandwiches are still good.

Walthamstow Mall Tower building site

The town centre tower as viewed from the viewing terrace in the Mall – seemingly constructed to offer a platform to watch the never-ending building works.
I emerge from the Mall into the gloom of 4.15pm.
There’s magic in the gloaming.

Path through St Mary's Walthamstow
St Mary’s Walthamstow

Up Church Hill then through St Mary’s Churchyard to the Village, which seems unusually quiet. I’m starting to feel tired. Turn down Eden Road to Leyton High Road. Over Leyton Green into Essex Road and the straight path to the Red Lion for restorative pints with Joe.

Kebab shop on Leyton High Road
Leyton High Road
Greenwich Meridian, Leyton
Essex Road, Leyton

Record Shop Dreaming

Back in my Bondi years (mid-90s) I dreamed of opening a record shop and coffee bar with Formica tables, wooden chairs and a large vinyl sofa (vinyl + vinyl geddit). Dreamhouse Records on Francis Road, Leyton has a similar vibe to that place of my imagination. Great spot to sit on a grey afternoon with a coffee listening to music then browse the racks of records. (Must go back for that Andrew Bird album).

East London Walk in Search of a Mystery

A few years ago I was sent an incredible email that contained correspondence between two allotment holders concerning the causes of flooding in Leyton. Previously I was completely fixated on the more elaborate stories contained in this exchange. But recently, revisiting the email for research into the fringe of the Olympic Park for my new book, I released that I’d overlooked the mentions of multiple buried watercourses that are claimed to have historically run through Leyton. So I set out on Easter Monday to hunt for these mysterious buried rivers that are said to flow beneath the streets of Leyton, in addition to our much loved (and celebrated on this blog) Philley Brook (Fillebrook / Philly Brook).

Map of buried rivers in Leyton East London.
Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence
Map showing the possible course of buried rivers in Leyton that could cause flooding in the area
Open Street Map “© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence
‘Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland’

I continued my walk north, passing Etloe House which seems to have had its own stream or ditch. And then progressed along Markhouse Road where I started to shadow the Dagenham Brook until I encountered an accessible open stretch in the new development off Blackhorse Lane around Vanguard Way. It was a fascinating walk that opened up so many new avenues of intrigue in the topography and folklore of Leyton and Walthamstow.

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook is lost no more

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook - Leytonstone's lost river
The Philley Brook / Fillebrook

It was great to get a really clear view of Leytonstone’s lost river, the Philley Brook (Fillebrook) down beside Auckland Road allotments at the weekend. I’d only previously caught glimpses of dark water through the weeds obscuring the culvert. But now with the undergrowth cleared away the river can be clearly seen flowing above ground. To my knowledge this is the only point where the Philley Brook can be seen, although it can be heard in a number of locations running beneath the streets of Leytonstone and Leyton (I didn’t really hear it in the upper Walthamstow reaches).

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook - Leytonstone's lost river which is prone to cause flooding in Leyton, Leytonstone and Waltamstow
The Philley Brook
The Philley Brook beside Auckland Road allotments Leyton
The Philley Brook goes back underground

Moments before this glorious sighting I’d bumped into Claire while filming a Q&A video for my YouTube channel. I mentioned that I felt I hadn’t resolved the question of where the Philley Brook (Fillebrook) made its confluence with the River Lea or if it merged with the Dagenham Brook first somewhere beneath the Eurostar railway sidings. Being a water professional, Claire recommended taking a look at the Environment Agency Long Term Flood Risk maps. And my word, what a revelation. The course of the buried rivers of the area is marked out in dark blue. Thank you Claire!

Flood Risk map Leyton
Flood Risk map Leyton - Philley Brook / Fillebrook

A stroll along Lea Bridge Road

Sometimes local strolls are the most gratifying. Particularly on late Sunday afternoons. If I don’t engage with my immediate territory for a while, I feel a sense of absence – a disconnection. So a couple of weeks ago I took off along Lea Bridge Road, half-planning to turn through Argall Way industrial estate then head across the marshes for Walthamstow. But in the end I got waylaid by the melancholy air hanging around the derelict stands of the Hare and Hounds Ground, once home to Leyton F.C – founded in 1868 and going out of business in 2011. I first stumbled across this relic in 2015 and since posting those photos here on this blog a number of clubs have come forward willing to take on the ground, with the funds to do so. However it continues to lie dormant, the undergrowth slowly consuming the seating, the pitch still a car park.

Abandoned Leyton F.C ground, Lea Bridge Road
Abandoned Leyton F.C ground, Lea Bridge Road
Abandoned Leyton F.C ground, Lea Bridge Road
Abandoned Leyton F.C ground, Lea Bridge Road

After paying homage to the Carnegie Library, George Coles’ Savoy Cinema, the Leyton Borough electricity substation, and the new Lea Bridge Station – my walk fittingly finished by the Lea Bridge itself over the River Lea.

The Leytonstone Beer Mile

Leyton Food Market

Signature Brew at Leyton Food Market

Now that Waltham Forest has followed Bermondsey and launched the Walthamstow Beer Mile, may I propose another ale stroll for the Borough – the Leytonstone Beer Mile. I mean it might be marginally longer than a mile and extend into Leyton, but that just makes for a better walk between venues.

The Walthamstow Beer Mile

Firstly let’s take a look at the Walthamstow Beer Mile. It’s based along Blackhorse Road with its most southerly end starting in St. James Street (a continuation of Blackhorse Road). The first venue is Pillars Brewery The Untraditional Pub at the Crate Building at 35 St James Street. Pillars are based on Shernhall Street, E17 so the beer has just rolled down the hill to this taproom so should be lovely and fresh. Next up heading north are three close together around Uplands Avenue just off Blackhorse Road and Priestly Way. East London Legends, Trumans, have their Trumans Social Club in Priestly Way. Exhale Brewery are in Uplands Avenue. And the brilliant Signature Brew, who were formerly based in Leyton, relocated to Uplands Business Park. From here it’s a socially responsible stagger along Blackhorse Road to another local stalwart, Wildcard Brewery in Lockwood Way. And nearby is Forest Road Brewing Co. – although their taproom seems to be in Hackney.

That all seems like a fine day out – and there’s plenty of food along the way from supermarkets to chicken shops and probably a few stalls catering to drinkers.


The Leytonstone Beer Mile (inc. Leyton)

Leytonstone Beer Mile

The Wanstead Tap

May I now propose the Leytonstone Beer Mile (which extends into Leyton). All but one of these beer emporiums is situated within the arches of the Overground railway. This beer trail would start at the fantastic Wanstead Tap, which although most people would consider this Forest Gate, it is within the Borough of Waltham Forest so is technically considered Leytonstone. This amazing venue has the most fantastic selection of beer and also sells merch for Clapton CFC and even books from time to time (mine was on sale there at one point). From here we move along the Overground a short distance to the Pretty Decent Beer Co. – which is far more than a pretty decent microbrewery and tap room.

You could leave the railway and stroll across the corner of Wanstead Flats to pick up the route by Leytonstone High Road Station, cross the Link Road and in a railway arch on the other side you’ll find the Solvay Society, who brew their Belgian beers not far away in Ilford.

Leytonstone Beer Mile

When you get to Grove Green Road (resisting the temptations of the Heathcote and Star) a few yards up on the right is the beguiling and already essential Filly Brook newly established in a fine black wooden hall. They serve up a great selection of locally brewed beers and you can line your stomach with some delicious Yard Sale Pizza. Making your way back along the railway, past Norlington School, and just before Leyton Midland Road Station is the transcendental Gravity Well – who are worth visiting not just for their cosmic beers but the names are out of this world as well. And this is where the Leytonstone Beer Mile (and a half) ends.

Filly Brook Leytonstone Beer Mile

Filly Brook – taken in February 2020

Hopefully I’ll bump into some of you doing the Leytonstone Beer Mile this weekend.