diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 08, 2021

London's finest meander is a double bend on Bow Creek with two interlocking tongues of land. The western protrusion is in Newham, the eastern protrusion is in Tower Hamlets, and every so often I head down and blog about what's there.

2006: This ecology park with the DLR down the middle is quite something.
2009: I see Pura Foods factory has been demolished in readiness for redevelopment.
2013: City Island's 1700 flats are now for sale in the Far East. But who'd live here?
2014: A footbridge has appeared to link City Island to Canning Town station.
2016: The red bridge has opened, as have the first stacks of brightly-coloured flats.
2019: City Island is nearing completion and the English National Ballet are here.
2021: City Island looks finished. Shame it's so difficult to get to.

City Island is a really odd place to live. It's not an island because developers are often liars, neither is it "London's Most Connected Location" because developers are often contradictory liars. But it has attracted thousands of residents to an isolated multi-coloured highrise enclave surrounded on three sides either by water or, at low tide, by mud.

Skew towers in single shades surround one grassy piazza and one paved piazza, with a chunky ballet rehearsal space plonked artily in the centre. Much of the island's interior, where those on foot are encouraged to remain, is heavily shadowed for most of the day. The perimeter has more light and proper river views but also doubles as a service road so you have to keep dodging cars, Ubers and delivery drivers bringing packages and provisions. Some of the waterside gardens are fenced off because they get too close to the creek. It's not a bad looking place all told, but it did look better in the brochure.

Initially the only resources residents had were the gym/pool complex everyone pays extra for and an excuse for a convenience store stocked with a few over-priced artisan staples. A small Sainsbury's Local arrived last year, saving Islanders a long hike for proper groceries, which has allowed the former shop to morph into an upmarket deli and Ritz-cheffed eaterie with in-house florist. It also serves coffee, as do two additional independent cafes which have sprung up on either side of Hopewell Square. Elsewhere City Island boasts two art galleries, a luxury chocolatisserie that only opens at weekends and, coming soon, the Wok'n'Grill takeaway and Soda & Friends cocktail bar. Forget high streets and parades of shops, all this isolated millennial outpost requires is a choice of places to buy premium food and premium drinks, and everything else can come in by van.

Until very recently a security booth oversaw the sole landward exit to the south but that's now vanished. For those with cars the only way to drive out is under the Lower Lea Crossing and up to the Aspen Way Roundabout, with pedestrian access very much an afterthought. Those on foot can also aim for the East India Dock or head down to Trinity Buoy Wharf, itself currently being swallowed by a swarm of emergent Ballymore towers. TfL kindly extended route D3 to terminate under the flyover in 2017 (at a rare 'Bus Stop I', it turns out) but basically anyone intending to get out faces an extra slog to connect anywhere.

For most everyday trips the only sensible way off City Island is via the big red footbridge across the creek to Canning Town station. This rotunda entrance was built in 1999, very much looking to the future, but wasn't opened to the public until 2016. This requires descending a spiral staircase with all the charm of a sturdy fire exit or taking the lift, the latter seemingly the preferred choice of the core demographic. If you want a train then the ticket hall's immediately on your right, but if you want anywhere else (like the bus station or the new Morrisons) then yet another lift/escalator/staircase back up is required. Escaping from City Island is a right faff.

There ought to be another way out which doesn't require donning a face covering and delving into the bowels of a tube station, and there nearly is but it's hideously inefficient. The creekside's lamplit promenade looks promising, as if it was specifically designed to go somewhere 20 years ago, but as yet it doesn't. Off to the right the way is blocked by a Crossrail building site, now pretty much vacated but not yet transformed into the 1200 homes that'll deliver a welcome wodge of cash to TfL's bottom line. Come back in five years and there might be a way through. So the only remaining alternative is to walk left, and it's a bloody long way round.

It shouldn't take long because a footbridge exists across the DLR. This ramps up gently, zigzags across the railway line which divides the peninsula in two and then descends towards civilisation on the other side. You could be out on the A13 in a couple of minutes. Alas the footbridge is securely locked at an internal gate, as it has been for at least the last ten years, so you can only get partway up the ramp before going no further. I've always wondered why such a useful link would be permanently sealed off, and only recently have TfL added a passive aggressive notice to help explain.

The London Docklands Development Corporation built this bridge, it says, suggesting TfL would never have done something so stupid. But it's theirs now so they've shut it for 'safety reasons' which remain unspecified. It can't be nefarious track access because this is a caged footbridge. It could be to prevent vandals chucking things between the bars, but that'd be ridiculous because there are numerous other bridges across the DLR network where aerial bombardment would be entirely possible. Whatever the reason it seems a perfectly practical pre-planned pedestrian route has been deliberately blocked and the only alternative is to carry on walking towards "the underpass within the Bow Creek Ecology Park".

In good news it's a really nice walk. The nature reserve follows a thin green strip on either side of the embankment blessed with copious trees, creekside views and a boardwalk edged around a reedy pool. You'll likely have seen it from the DLR, especially if you were sitting at the front as the train crossed the Lea. What's awkward is the length of the diversion - quarter of a mile down and quarter of a mile back - which is far better for an ecological dawdle than a regular commute. The ecology park is also one of only two places in London where I've ever thought "oh bugger, I'm about to be mugged"... which thankfully didn't happen but I'm always a little on edge walking round this isolated unbroken path.

A double-meandering creek is never going to be a simple environment to negotiate. The addition of that red footbridge was the gamechanger which helped deliver a residential quarter on 'City Island', but it remains one of Inner London's most intentionally detached neighbourhoods. Imagine living somewhere whose most rational exit point involved trekking through a tube station via numerous lifts/stairs or risking an unlit half mile of sinuous nature reserve. Perhaps it's no wonder that the residents of City Island have their own bespoke refreshment opportunities close at hand, and to be fair they looked happy enough in their highrise tidal prison.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards