post-Olympic update Around the Olympic Park
b) Hackney Marshes to the View Tube
Let's carry on along this exterior circuit of the former Olympic Park, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park-to be. Long slipped from the headlines, this is a time of great change in these parts, which we locals care about even if you don't. Yesterday I walked the western and northern edges, today the east and south. It gets better.
Temple Mills Lane: This old lane round the bottom of Leyton has been closed for the last five years to enable the construction of the Olympic Park. It now leads to the Athletes Village, or will once the finishing touches have been made to the first tranche of apartments up for sale. Nobody who lived on the site previously will be able to afford them - Clays Lane and the East Village are totally different communities. But it'll be a golden day when traffic's allowed through again, especially for the two bus depots hidden down this temporary cul-de-sac. [photo]
Leyton Mills: With TML shut, the lengthy walking detour runs via the Leyton Mills Retail Park. Access isn't optimised for pedestrians, more for car drivers who want to fill their boot with stuff from Asda, B&Q and Next. The good news is that the footpath between Burger King and KFC is now complete, so families need no longer take their lives in their hands as they head for a bargain bucket.
Leyton: Leyton bustles away, its residents enjoying the improved streetscape outside the station hurried through before the Games. From the rail bridge is one of the best views of the skeleton of the Basketball Arena, now with almost all of its exterior panels removed. Rio didn't want it for 2016 so this recyclable venue is merely coming down, not moving on. [photo]
Drapers Field: Folk in the southwestern corner of Waltham Forest lost their recreation ground before the Games, not for anything high and mighty, but for backroom Operational Support. Racks of toilet rolls and other Athletes Village provisions were stored here, and kickabout 5-a-side has had to wait. At last the temporary warehouse has been razed and the ground repaired, but there's still no sign of pitches, courts or anything recreational. [photo]
East Village: They face each other across Leyton Road, the flats of E15 and the apartments of E20. Estate agents are only excited by the latter [photo]. You too could live where an Estonian shotputter spent a fortnight before heading home empty-handed. Soon there'll be three access roads from the east, but for now the Temple Mills Lane and Chobham Road entrances remain barriered. Behind the metalwork a tranche of new streetnames are going in - nearest to the railway will be Champions Walk, while further in are Medals Way and Cheering Lane. I know, really.
International Way: The not-yet-opened road along the southern edge of the East Village is International Way [photo]. It's appallingly named, in that it leads to the appallingly named Stratford International station, which isn't International at all and where Eurostar has no intention of stopping. If Stratford International were an underground station it'd be the fourth quietest station on the network, with more passengers only than Roding Valley, Grange Hill and Chigwell [photo]. Nevertheless we now have two bus stops outside, recently implanted, for when the 97 is diverted this way [photo]. It'll head down a new dual carriageway called Celebration Avenue, recently driven through the plaza where Olympic athletes held their welcoming ceremonies, now guarded by a couple of security geezers lest anyone gain access too early. [photo]
Westfield Avenue: That's the official name for the road down the western edge of the shopping mall, the road where Olympic spectators congregated before entering the security slalom at the Stratford Gate [photo]. It's become a bleak space, devoid of shops except for the backside of John Lewis [photo], and opening out onto a cleared plaza where the scanning machines used to be [photo]. That space will eventually become The International Quarter, a row of tall office blocks designed to bring a commercial buzz to Stratford, but which will also block off sight of the stadium from Westfield. [photo][photo]
South Park: Montfichet Road remains the best place to stare at the key Olympic venues - that's the stadium, the Orbit and especially the Aquatic Centre [photo]. The wings are now half-removed, starting from the nearest end, which means the high terrace where I sat to watch the synchronised swimming is now lying stacked up on the ground alongside [photo]. A new wall is going up closer to the pool to create the reduced-size watery recreation facility Newham craves. Don't expect to visit this end of the Park for a picnic any time soon.
Stratford High Street: So, what's changed here? The 42-storey Stratford Halo is starting to become fully integrated into the neighbouring flats, including the building that used to be the Yardley Factory but now has a penthouse on top [photo]. The footbridge across the High Street has been removed, all of it apart from the central span which languishes in the former coach park alongside. The Greenway north remains blocked off, and is likely to remain so until Crossrail have finished linking their tunnel to the mainline [photo]. And the fancy restaurant beside the wooden tower at Dane's Yard awaits a flood of patrons who may one day come, but there's no rush yet. [photo]
Pudding Mill Lane: After years of Olympic exclusion, today it's Crossrail restricting pedestrian passage up Pudding Mill Lane [photo]. The replacement DLR station is well underway, its lift towers almost intact beneath the scaffolding [photo]. A new double track viaduct is being constructed, still not quite joined up, but the gap allows construction traffic through more easily. Meanwhile the platforms of the existing station are the best place to stare at the diggers' playground of soil and rubble that has replaced the pristine Olympic warm-up track. This area'll not be part of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, so don't expect anything pretty to emerge later. [photo]
View Tube: I'm ending my walk at these lime green containers stacked up on the Greenway [photo]. It would be true to say that crowds aren't coming to the View Tube like they did before the Games [photo]. Indeed I've found that I usually get the entire upstairs viewing platform to myself these days, which is nice, and all the better to squint at what thin strips of parkland can still be seen alongside the river [photo]. The cafe downstairs is rather fuller, a sign that caffeine and cooked breakfasts are a greater draw than remembering last summer. It's a slow rebirth around the Olympic Park, but not long now until they start to let us back in.