diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cody Dock, you may remember, is a derelict inlet about a mile from the mouth of the River Lea. It used to be full of barges, then the surrounding industry faded away to be replaced by scrapyards and warehouses. The plan is to restore it as a communal facility and artistic hub, except that'll take money, and not enough of that is sloshing around. Hence the onsite collective partnership yesterday held the first Cody Dock Open Day and invited members of the public in to spread the word.

It's not an easy place to get to, Cody Dock, which is one reason it's stayed undeveloped for so long. Take the DLR to Star Lane, which is the new halt one stop from Canning Town, and cross to the western side beside the bus garage. You need to walk through the trading estate, which is marked Private and guarded as so, but walking through is grudgingly permitted. Pass the National Grid facility and the car repair place, turn left at the London Ambulance depot, and keep on into the heart of brownfield unpleasantness. Cody Dock's through the locked gate at the end of the crescent, except yesterday it was open, up the alley past the ice cream van and the portaloo.

plaque at Lewisham stationThere really is a dock here - a long rectangular pool of mostly-drained water, the sides dripping with buddleia. The channel narrows to what once was a lock, now blocked solid and acting as a bridge to link the two halves of the site together. Various cables cross the water via an overhead arch, and a few boats are moored up acting as temporary accommodation. Two early projects are planned, should the necessary money ever come together. A few metal containers will be shipped in to act as artists studios and establish a initial presence - there's plenty of hardstanding along the dock to support several. And a further bridge will be added to link the existing dead-end embankment to an as-yet unlaid path down the Lea. The public will finally notice Cody Dock then, when it's a staging point on the long-distance path from Luton to the Thames. Until then, not a chance. [dock panorama] [Lea panorama]

Guided tours were promised, except staff were already busy giving a guided tour to a Newham MP so lesser visitors had to wait their turn. Stephen Timms spent a considerable amount of time wandering around the site, having the various features and opportunities pointed out to him by Cody Dock's CEO Simon Myers. He seemed genuinely interested, as you ought to be by a potentially exciting regeneration project within a local constituency, even down to hanging around at the end for barbecued food and a drink. Elsewhere, in a revamped Routemaster bus driven in for the day, a man too cynical to be a children's entertainer attempted to keep the handful of kids on site appropriately amused. Parents enjoyed a dash of live music in the sunshine, while the Partnership's core of volunteers sat around, flipped burgers and drank beer. It's easy to imagine how lively this backwater could be, should an injection of cash ever transform the place into a proper creative quarter. It's a no-brainer project, to be honest, but I fear it's an uphill climb before the required investment brings Cody Dock to life.

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