diamond geezer

 Wednesday, November 21, 2012

London 2012  Around the post-Olympic Park
  b) Leyton to Pudding Mill Lane
  45 photographs here; map here

A circumnavigation of the post-Olympic Park
(There are 45 photographs altogether) [slideshow]

The people of Leyton have had to make do without Drapers Field since September last year. A few acres of all weather football pitch and playing fields, it had the misfortune to be immediately adjacent to the Olympic Village and so was requisitioned by LOCOG "for operational reasons" to store toilet rolls and the like. Now all that remains is excess fencing and excess tarmac, as Waltham Forest prepare to take yet more months to turn the place into a better facility than before. Security guards no longer gaze intently if you linger at the end of Crownfield Road, but the park still hangs somewhat unwelcomely over these perimeter streets.

Direct pedestrian access from the east to Westfield has at last been opened up. You'd never guess from the blue sign that still directs those on foot via the previous loopy detour, but ignore that, walk up the direct pavement and you'll save five minutes. Penny Brookes Street is more a conduit for big-booted cars, even on a Sunday morning when most of the shops aren't even open. You can see hundreds of premature arrivals wandering the malls before noon, staring through the big stores' shuttered doors, wishing they'd stayed at home a bit longer.

At the northern end of Westfield an ice rink has appeared where Santa's house was last year, and Santa's house has reappeared alongside the station. Stratford International has returned to being a woefully overstaffed nomansland, even though it's now finally been connected to the public road network. A new road has opened, unimaginitively named International Way, which I appeared to be the only person using at the weekend. It's five and a half years since I first saw a road sign pointing towards this station, and only post-Olympics is this unwanted link finally possible.

The road along the boundary between Westfield and the Olympic Park is now a conduit for traffic heading multi-storey-ward. Gone are the queues of spectators clutching tickets, and gone are all the tents where the army stood to frisk them down. Few places scream "The Olympics are over" quite as much as this utterly empty plaza. Where people once streamed to the horizon, now it only takes two security guards to stand by the fence and keep nobody at bay. That was Sunday, anyway. On Monday Rihanna turned up on a temporary stage and pouted her way through her new album, then switched on the mall's Christmas lights, and the place was rammed. Some wit at Westfield has named this featureless tarmac "Cherry Park". Not yet it's not, nowhere even close.

The best views of Olympic Central are still from Montfichet Road, the street on stilts snaking down to the railway. Look, the wings on the Aquatic Centre are coming down. It's a slow process, but the steep seats have now been exposed sufficiently to create a wind tunnel from one end to the other. All the wrap's been removed from the exterior of the Olympic Stadium, as it sits there waiting for someone, anyone, to finally decide what to do with it. And the Orbit, probably still a year and a half off taking its next paying customer, stands inert and useless above a grey desert. One day, honest, it'll be amazing again around here. That day remains some way off.

Warton Road's security checkpoint has finally been dismantled, which would be to motorists' joy had not temporary traffic lights been installed instead. One dilapidated brick office block with smashed windows has somehow survived Olympic rehabilitation, while everything else around it has become flats flats flats. A 43 storey residential tower screams "Stratford has changed" to the surrounding boroughs, and looks down haughtily upon local residents who'll never be able to afford to live in it. The footbridge over Stratford High Street isn't long for this world. The stairs at each end have already been removed, then the weekend after next a crane arrives to loosen it and cart it away. Recyclable, sustainable, forgettable.

Let's end by diverting up Marshgate Lane to Pudding Mill Lane station. Once a main route in for Olympic construction traffic, then an entrance for VIPs, now the engineers at Crossrail hold sway. They're diverting the Docklands Light Railway south to make way for trains emerging from underground, which means a new viaduct and a relocated station. The latter's coming on, in a concrete cuboid way, while the new tracks doesn't seem to have extended since worked paused in the summer. From the existing platforms the stadium's clearly seen, while the warmup-tracks across the Greenway have now been wholly and utterly wiped away. More flats are going there, obviously, eventually, although it remains questionable how few of them will be affordable. And there's the View Tube, access beneath the mainline still sealed off, but maybe opening again in ten days. Knock hard enough, and they'll have to let us back in eventually.

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