diamond geezer

 Friday, August 28, 2009

The River Lea Walking the Lea Valley
Waltham Abbey → Tottenham Hale
(6 miles)

Enfield LockBeneath the M25, somewhere near where Junction 25½ ought to be, the Lee Navigation trickles into London. It runs through Rammey Marsh, which is the last vaguely natural bit of valley before Walthamstow, and where there's always a string of brightly painted narrowboats tied up [photo]. But it's not far until Enfield Lock, where housing re-intrudes. Enfield Island used to be home to the Royal Small Arms Factory, where the army manufactured a century's worth of firepower including the Lee Enfield rifle (it's named 'Lee' after its designer, not the river). More recently the island site has been redeveloped as an isolated housing estate, with a number of the original buildings left standing uneasily amidst a sea of bland townhouses [photo]. Some of the riverside cottages I thought were delightful, but the Rifles pub had long been boarded up, and the Swan and Pike Pool seemed to attract far more plastic bags than birds and fish.

And then the reservoirs began. Two of these (King George's and the William Girling) filled the broad gap between river and navigation. They're vast - a total of three miles long, and with a combined capacity of nearly thirty billion litres. I didn't see much of them from the towpath, just a high grassy embankment along which trapped sheep circuitously grazed. Horses nibbled the thin strip of marshland closer to the river, best viewed from a rare footbridge at Mossops Creek. On the opposite bank, a few swans excepted, the view was rather less pastoral. The Brimsdown Industrial Estate clung to the river, wafting the smell of something almost bread-like across the water, close to where a chain of pylons erupted from a power station to stalk the valley. It ought to have been very ugly, but this two mile strip was alluringly disjoint [photo].

Ponders EndDiversion: I guess it had to happen eventually. At Ponders End Lock a sign slapped to some iron railings announced "STOP. Towpath Closed. Diversion ←". There were apparently workmen refurbishing the overhead lines somewhere along the next stretch, even at the weekend, and a few hundred yards ahead the towpath was gated shut. Damn you National Grid, damn you. There was absolutely no indication of how long the diversion would be, nor precisely which route I'd be forced to take, just a series of yellow arrows to follow. A bleak walk alongside the roaring A10 ensued, although there was one bonus which was the additional opportunity to photograph the iconic Ponders End tower blocks from yet more photogenic angles [photo]. Eventually the arrows pointed back towards the river, diverting through the grounds of the Lee Valley Leisure Complex. Last time I was here, five years ago, I found a disused local sports centre, some buddleia-covered tennis courts and a locked-away driving range. Now a gleaming blade-shaped sporting facility had been erected on site - the Lee Valley Athletics Centre [photo] - through whose glassy walls I could spot budding young superstars engaged in pre-Olympic warm-ups. The diversion seemed interminable, trudging past the 400m track then back towards the river down Pickett's Lock Lane. Here there should have been access to Pickett's Lock itself, but no, the car park was full of construction vehicles and walkers were kept well away. Every couple of minutes or so a yellow-jacketed worker whizzed down the lane and back in a tiny electric buggy, just for a laugh, scaring off unseen dragonflies. And as the two mile diversion eventually drew to an end, I heard a distinct 'clink' on the opposite side of the river as a gate was unlocked and the direct route along the towpath reopened. Damn. Pylon-tweaking had finished early for the day, and I'd missed out on a lengthy chunk of the Lea unnecessarily. Never mind, I'm sure I'll see Pickett's Lock properly the next time I'm here.


Only a handful of roads cross London's Lea Valley, and the darkest shadow is cast by the North Circular [photo]. This arterial dual carriageway draws a industrial cluster to the floodplain, including one of the capital's three giant blue IKEA sheds. The Stonehill Business Park takes full advantage of the area's accessibility, its workers fed whilst sitting on assorted plastic chairs outside the Leaside Cafe [photo]. The dead-end towpath road looked like it should be virtually unused, but I discovered a surprisingly large bus garage at the end so had to watch out for approaching bendy 29s. Tottenham Marshes were considerably lovelier, with squelchy green walkspace to either side, and parallel channels which reminded me of the narrower river further upstream. That's where I saw yet another heron, swooping towards the focal point of my latest photograph three seconds after I'd put my camera away.

From here onwards the Lea became a linear village [photo]. A succession of floating narrowboaters had made their homes here, temporary or otherwise, and here they were reading on the towpath, blaring out loud music from astern or wandering back from Tesco with a weekend's provisions. There was a lot more food closer to home. The riverbanks hung low with blackberries and blackcurrants, and two enterprising teenage girls were attempting to sell fruit-filled bags for £1.20 from a makeshift stall on a nearby bench. If they'd managed to stop giggling they might have been more successful. A more successful catering option was the Watersedge Cafe at Stonebridge Lock, home to Lee Valley Canoe Cycle and a wide range of tasty fry-ups. Car-driving families like to park up here and pretend they've visited the river. They've barely scratched the surface.

Note to readers: I'm using the rest of this month to finish off my Lea walk.
Note to self: watch visitor numbers plummet

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream