diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 08, 2014

You can walk almost all the way down the river Lea to the Thames, but just past Bromley-by-Bow the path disappears. At Bow Locks a dead-end track heads half a mile more to a disused dock, while walkers and cyclists are diverted off down a separate canal. The dock is Cody Dock, recently reborn as a community hub under the guidance of guru Simon Myers, and now decked out with a collection of houseboats, geodesic domes and workshops. It sits in an unforgiving and relatively remote spot round the back of an industrial estate, and faces out across the Lea towards gasholders and Canary Wharf. And now they're planning to branch out along the riverbank to create a linear wetland park, except whether that actually happens is down to you.

Cody Wilds is one of this year's finalists in the Grow Wild England flagship competition. Five projects are up for the cash prize, including competition from Plymouth, Bristol, Sheffield, Liverpool and Manchester. London's offering is a kilometre long stretch of wildflowers and woodland stretching up from Cody Dock towards Bromley-by-Bow, currently a quiet commercial fringe on the fasttrack to nowhere. There are plans to extend the reedbeds and replant the clipped grass verge, creating a ribbon of green bursting with wildlife and colour. Workers at the adjacent Amazon shed will benefit from a nicer place to eat their packed lunch, but it's also hoped that local communities will be brought together by the creation of a new link.

We've sort of been here before. Five years ago this link was to be called the Fatwalk, a ludicrous name for a much needed path, zigzagging from Three Mills down to East India Dock along Bow Creek. It never happened. Full planning permission and £28m of funding were in place, but when the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation was wound up in 2012, all that was lost. The project is now the responsibility of the London Legacy Development Corporation, and they've resurrected things under a much more sensible name, the Leaway. A linear park is planned, completing the last link along the river from Cody Dock to Canning Town, with one key aim being to promote its use as an off-road cycling route.

Also due to arrive here shortly is The Line, a crowd-funded sculpture trail approximately following the Greenwich Meridian. Various artworks will be laid out at regular intervals along a trail between North Greenwich and the Olympic Park, the hope being that a much wider cross section of Londoners and tourists will be drawn into an area of the capital they'd normally overlook, and take a ride on the cablecar into the bargain. The Line was due to open in the summer, so its grandees told us, then early autumn, and now appears to have been kicked wilfully into next year.

Also due to arrive here shortly is a new bridge connection near Twelvetrees Crescent. At present there's no direct link from one bank of the Lea to the other, so walkers have to loop half a mile out of their way to cross Bow Locks and head back up the A12. Now finally Newham council have granted planning permission to add a staircase from the medial towpath to the upper road bridge, no longer with a lift for disabled access, but it was the expense of that lift which had held back previous worthy projects from completion. Once the staircase is in place, I dunno, possibly next year, it'll suddenly become hugely easier to follow The Line, the Leaway, Cody Wilds, or any other pipedream some public body plans to create.

I walked the Cody Wilds footpath to Cody Dock the other weekend, and I walked it alone. Nobody goes this way, despite the presence of an expensive promenade with street lighting, and despite the abundant birdlife in the water beyond the reedbeds. The industrial estate was silent, the only human activity along the way being the bloke in the scrapyard on the opposite bank yelling at me for appearing to take his photo. This kilometre of waterfront would indeed look lovely with woodland and wildflowers, but the nearest local residents live too far away for them to come flooding in, and I fear the improvements might be under-appreciated.

If you want to come and see for yourself, a Cody Wilds campaign launch party is planned for Sunday afternoon. Turn up at Cody Dock from noon for a day of workshops, music, food, drink, merriment and dancing (it's that sort of place), including locally-mulled cider and a proper hog roast, plus the opportunity of a walk round London's largest former gasworks. Or it's ridiculously easy to vote from home, no registration or email required, just click here before November 4th and pick wisely from the shortlist.

The money in these online funding contests rarely goes to the most deserving project, but instead to the one that shouts the loudest and energises the most supporters. But if you could vote for Cody Wilds it'd be deeply appreciated, and you might help the area succeed where a succession of other projects haven't quite made good. Even better, I won't end up writing yet another post about this dead end path on the river Lea, and will be able to tell you instead that it's reached its full potential. Accessibility unlocked, connection achieved, and it's all down to you.

Cody Dock: website, facebook, twitter, location
Cody Wilds: campaign, campaign video, launch party

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