diamond geezer

 Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stratford's post-Olympic zone continues to grow and change. Here are some updates from the southern half of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Crossrail's new electricity substation is finished, and the towpath alongside the Lea is back to normal. Pedestrians and pedallers had been forced onto a pontoon floating in the Lea for over a year while construction was underway, but that diversion is now over, and the new spiky-topped wall is already so covered in graffiti that it looks like it's been there for ages. Crossrail trains will be whooshing underneath before emerging from the Pudding Mill Lane Portal, and soon. The electrics down to Whitechapel were switched on (at 25000 volts) three days ago, and the tracks connecting the tunnels into the appropriate platforms at Stratford are already in place.

Since September the western side of the Olympic Park has had a school to cater for the surrounding neighbourhood, and for the occupants of flats yet to be built. It's called Bobby Moore Academy in honour of West Ham's greatest footballer, even if the team's illustrious history includes only 15 months playing in the stadium alongside. There are two sites, one primary and one secondary, the former for 400 pupils and the latter for 1000. Thus far only the primary site has opened, but with a cohort of Year 7 pupils who will transfer to the secondary school next year, and only then do the first reception kids turn up.

The primary school is lowrise and has its back to the River Lea, with frontage on the Loop Road, which weaves through what will one day be the neighbourhood of Sweetwater. A lot of potentially valuable building space has been taken up by the school's football pitch, which I guess is essential given who the place is named after. Meanwhile the secondary school is being built just to the south of the stadium, between the West Ham Store and the View Tube, and currently has a crane and numerous builders swarming over it. The site's quite compact, hence the building has six storeys and very little in the way of outside space, unless they open up the community running track alongside for breaktime relief.

The View Tube's view has been compromised somewhat by having a whopping great secondary school built in front of it, and the cafe changed hands earlier in the year. The new lot were from The Common, Bethnal Green, who made the menu a little trendier with an emphasis on sourdough and prices quoted to one decimal place. Passing trade is now somewhat limited, and the presence of three chalkboards and three flappy banners further up the Greenway suggested a certain desperation to egg additional punters inside. Perhaps that's why the owners have just thrown in the towel, leaving landlords Poplar HARCA to try to maintain a counter service over the coming weeks as best they can. Meanwhile the upstairs room has been hired by a small social enterprise, so is now off limits, while the containers out front have become mini studios whose artists (allegedly) open up to sell their wares every Saturday afternoon.

A large area bounded by the Greenway, the railway and the Lea remains empty, immediately to the north of Pudding Mill station. There was a residential furore hereabouts when it was proposed that London's largest concrete and asphalt factory be built on the site, even though that's pretty much what used to be here before the Olympics arrived. More than 12000 people signed a NIMBY-ish petition screaming about the impact of chemical dust and vehicle fumes, so were delighted when the LLDC finally refused planning permission in September. The land is still zoned for industrial use, however, so seems destined to remain a mess of mud and piled-up earth until something less belching is proposed.

The Greenway now has streetlamps along it, from Hackney Wick all the way to East Ham. Planners had originally been vehemently opposed to adding lighting, stating that this sewertop path was never intended as a nighttime connection, but that opinion has evidently changed in an attempt to improve cycling connectivity. Many riders have leapt at the opportunity, but some have been mugged along the less accessible bits, and I personally wouldn't risk any of it on foot after dark.

After the flurry of international events held here in the summer, it's good to see that the temporary barriers surrounding Stadium Island have been taken away and access to the podium and surrounding slopes is (mostly) restored. This means anyone can walk freely all the way around the stadium, admiring the West Ham branding if that's their thing, and gawping up at the never-donging-again Olympic bell. Of the World Cup statue WHFC hoped to bring from Upton Park there is no sign. As for the smartly-branded trucks and trailers parked round the rim which open up on match days, including @streetfoodkitchen, Malt & Barley (est 2008) and the Pulled Pork Co, a bit of Googling suggests their provenance is entirely fictional.

Carpenters Road Lock was reopened in the summer with a special day of festivities. Britain's only lock with double radial gates had been derelict for years, then hidden beneath a spotty walkway during the Olympics, and only now has the fully restored link been revealed. The Canal & River Trust are very proud. It all looks impressive, if perhaps a bit too modern, in its slot below the mirrored bridge. The reopening brings additional connectivity to the canal network, breathing life back into the Bow Back Rivers, although boaters have to give at least seven days advance notice if they want to pass through which must explain why I've never yet seen the counterweights in action.

Olympic Park boat tours are now suspended for the winter, so you won't be able to hop on and take a return trip aboard these former Water Chariots until March. But the fleet of boats is still moored up by the Aquatic Centre, in case anyone fancies private hire, along with the Ware to Hertford waterbus which it seems also overwinters here. Those in search of value for money should be aware that the Ware ride costs £1 less and lasts twice as long, if lacking somewhat in its view of national stadia.

A recent intervention in the Olympic Park has been the re-emergence of those famous magenta signs. They've been used to show the direction of step-free routes, which are often quite convoluted but also very important in a multi-level environment like QEOP.
The swinging bench in the Great British Garden, which had been vandalised and removed, has returned fresh and well. I love that bench.
• The Canal & River Trust has opened up a tiny Welcome Station in the hut beside Old Ford Lock.
The two paths south from the Orbit lawn to Stratford High Street remain closed.
No sign of any daffodils poking through yet.

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