diamond geezer

 Monday, July 10, 2017

Ten years ago, evictions complete, steel gates clanged shut around the Olympic Park. Five years later they reopened, the world arrived and two fortnights of sport took place. Five years after the Games a massive amount of repurposing has taken place, and much of the Olympic Park is now scarcely recognisable from what came before. But it's still not the case that everything's finished, ten years on, nor indeed that all the old ways into the park have been opened up. On the tenth anniversary of the initial lock-up, I'm been down to see whereabouts you still can't get in.

I started at the Bow Flyover, and worked my way east.

The River Lea towpath is still passable, but remains diverted (via a pontoon) while a new electricity substation is built alongside to power Crossrail. The pontoon was supposed to be removed in February, according to the website puddingmilllanesubstation.com, but towpath restoration is currently running six months behind schedule and workmen are still faffing around with walls and surfaces.

Barbers Road reopened in March, having been closed off since 2009, leading to a windswept new piazza outside Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. But not everything's open yet.

This is a new ramp from Marshgate Lane up towards the Greenway, parallel to the DLR viaduct, which workmen have been swarming over for months. It replaces a creepier, less accessible footpath which used to follow approximately the same route until 2007. Eventually this new footpath/cycleway link will connect the station to the Greenway and a new residential wedge beyond... but for now it's still very closed.

The Greenway remains straightforward to reach by ducking under the railway and heading up to the View Tube.

The View Tube's cafe is now under new management, paired up with The Common on Old Bethnal Green Rd, and offers a different slant on drinks and snacks to the previous tenants. Bike hire is also available, daily (except Tuesdays) throughout the summer. But footfall around this sparsely developed location remains low, so I'm not sure how the business survives, especially now that 'coming up onto the Greenway to see the Stadium' is nothing special.

Here's the latest view of the Stadium from the Greenway.

As you can see, a large building is going up inbetween... a new secondary school on the banks of the City Mill River. Students shouldn't expect any playground space, except perhaps on the roof, so tight is the footprint of the site, although they will have a community athletics track nextdoor. That diversion sign stuck to the railings is needed because a tented village has sprung up on the lawn south of the Orbit during a special summer of athletics, and the resulting pedestrian detour is both dull and inconvenient. It also looks like all the pink arrows will fall off soon. Stay away.

I'll now return to Stratford High Street and check the next former entrance into the park.

The next former entrance into the park, up Blaker Road, is blocked. What's more the bars across the tunnel under the Greenway mean it looks like remaining blocked permanently, making this once pleasant riverside path a dead end... and a good place to sleep rough on a dumped mattress. What I best remember from standing here before Olympic construction began were the dragonflies dancing on the water. There are no dragonflies now, dancing or otherwise.

Another connection to the Greenway once existed from Blaker Road, along the northern bank of the Waterworks River.

That's still blocked too. I got excited because the barriers at the City Mill Lock end have finally been removed and I was able to walk along a long-sealed path. I reached the bench overlooking the canal, and further, but at the far end, just before the steps, no luck, the barriers remain. What is it about the Greenway which makes all these connections as yet impassible?

At the main entrance on Stratford High Street, here's the answer. 'Early investigations'.

The Greenway's northern access has been blocked since 2009, initially for Olympic reasons. When the Games were over, Crossrail operations took precedence, encompassing a major worksite where fresh railway tracks will enter tunnels. Crossrail were supposed to be finished by July 2016, but then a third interested party turned up, namely Thames Water, who need to carry out 'strengthening works to the bridge over Waterworks River'. Initially the plan was for this to be completed by July 2018, but the paperwork attached to the fence suggests the work's only just started, that the company they've brought in are "asbestos removal specialists", and that the work won't be complete until 1st January 2019. I wouldn't count on it.

The next potential entrance to the park is from Bridgewater Road, past the allotments.

This arty tunnel has been blocked off for years, then was silently opened up last winter, then was mysteriously closed off again. I managed to walk round one barrier and under the railway bridge, which has thankfully been cleaned of pigeon droppings since I was last here. But the barrier on the far side was still in place, so I had to retrace my steps and return to Warton Road to enter the park instead.

I've never seen this obstruction on Warton Road before.

These lumpen security barriers aren't permanent, hopefully, but have been installed as a precaution during "a spectacular Summer of World Athletics". The Yoghurt-Sponsored Anniversary Games took place yesterday, the World Para Athletics Championships begin on Friday and the IAAF World Championships kick off on 4th August. Congratulations to the stadium-bookers on an impressive haul of top class action, for which tickets are still available, but the associated backstage operations and security are an echo of the less attractive side of 2012.

The Stadium is no longer in West Ham mode.

The triangles on the exterior wrap remain claret and blue, but the club's name has been removed from the roof and the huge video screen is now streaming pictures of athletes rather than footballers. It's good to see the Stadium being used for the purpose it was originally designed for, even if the rarity of athletics events is a reminder of why a completely different kind of sporting presence needed to be wheeled in as anchor tenant.

And finally, here's something not yet open for those arriving by water.

Carpenters Road Lock last operated in the 1960s, but has been expensively restored and its unique double radial lock gates are finally due to open again at the end of the summer. An East London Waterways Festival is pencilled in for Bank Holiday Monday 28th August, with a variety of events on land and water including a boat flotilla, live music and dragon boat racing. The full Bow Back Rivers network will then be accessible for the first time in decades, ideal for cruising should you have a narrowboat at your disposal.

Ten years may have proved insufficient, but wait long enough and the entire Olympic Park does open up.

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