Waterway walk opens as part of Leaway River Park
PUBLISHED: 07:00 05 April 2017
Running through the heart of east London, the River Lea was once an important border and trading route.
Now the waterway is set to be opened up as part of the Leaway River Park, a three mile route linking Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to the Thames.
When complete, there will be six new green spaces created, with the intention to build homes and other facilities around them.
At the minute, only Three Mills Green is open, but future sites include Twelvetrees Park, situated around seven Victorian gas holders, and Poplar River Park.
The Leaway River Park is the final three miles of the Lee Valley Regional Park, a 26 mile link-up between the Thames and Hertfordshire first conceived by Sir Patrick Abercrombie in 1944.
Tom Holbrook, director of architecture firm 5th Studio, said: “This was, in the 1940s, the industrial heart of London, known as the Bow Back Rivers.
Despite their history, the rivers have changed over time – and were most recently improved ahead of the Olympics, when it was hoped much of the construction materials could be delivered by barge.
They had also been amended as part of a need to create jobs in between wars.
Steven Tomlinson, the principal designer for the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: “In the 20s and 30s, when there was no work during the Depression, a lot of the rivers and canals were amended.”
Despite the improvements, there are still parts that remain inaccessible.
The Leaway path involves crossing the river several times, including using a newly-installed ramp at Twelvetrees Bridge, which connects Bromley-by-Bow and West Ham.
“The River Lea has always been a boundary,” Tom said.
“It was the edge of Danelaw, then it was the edge of London and Middlesex.
“Now it’s the border between boroughs, between Newham and Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest, all the way up.”
At the moment, the three mile walk involves diverting through Canning Town after reaching Cody Dock, due to the path not connecting up, but Tom is hopeful of creating a proper link there.
“We want to improve connections all the way along,” he said.
“To get from the Abefeldy estate to Canning Town, which is their nearest station, involves crossing 12 pedestrian crossings.
“We hope to build a path going through the bridge to make that easier.”
The Leaway has been more than a decade in the making, with some areas not set to be completed for another few years.
Those working on the scheme have had to liaise with both Newham and Tower Hamlets councils, with the mayors of both boroughs keen for the most to be made of the opportunity.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We have ambitious, high quality housing plans in Poplar that will benefit from our development of the River Lea, and a series of works planned over the coming years will introduce new educational facilities, leisure and green spaces to our communities.”
His counterpart in Newham, Sir Robin Wales, added: “The route will improve connections within the borough and across the river into Tower Hamlets and towards the city. I hope Newham residents enjoy everything the Leaway has to offer.”