Stratford Site and Sewer Tour

April 16, 2011

London Sights

Yesterday morning I met a few colleagues from work outside Stratford station to go on a tour of the area around the Olympic site.

We were led by one of our senior people, who has been involved in urban development for many years and who is a fount of knowledge on all things relating to the Olympic Park. After a quick look at the rapidly growing Westfield shopping development that will be opening in the autumn from the old shopping centre’s car park, we set off to investigate the section of the Greenway that runs right next to the Olympic Park and which, over its entire 4.5 miles, connects Hackney to Beckton and takes its route from the Northern Outfall Sewer beneath it.

I’ve got to admit that I know the Greenway quite well, having walked various sections of it in the past – in particular the Viewtube is worth visiting as it sits right in front of the Olympic Stadium, but I did make some new discoveries along the way yesterday. For example, did you know that during summer storms the small Channelsea river (that along with the river Lee and the Lee Navigation cuts through the Olympic Park) fills with untreated sewage? Due to the tidal nature of the river there was a risk that if a sewage ‘event’ coincided with the tides, effluent could be washed up right into the middle of the Park, so they’ve had to install expensive lock gates upstream that can be closed if this occurs thus saving visitors to the games from a very unpleasant and smelly experience! Just along from this spot on the Greenway I found something else rather intriguing – a World War II era tank trap and pillbox that were constructed to prevent German troops from using it a shortcut across East London if they invaded!

We detoured briefly for refreshments in the cafe on Three Mills Island, which is home to Three Mills Studios and the surviving mill buildings which you can tour at weekends. I highly recommend a visit to this charming little hidden gem – you can read more about it on the blog here, as I covered it as part of the Open House weekend in 2009. After leaving the island behind and resuming the tour I can across the final surprise – a new sculpture which had not been here on my last visit and which features reclaimed plaques dedicated to the victims of an industrial accident which occurred nearby in 1901.

If you want to get ‘away from it all’ in the heart of the East End a walk along the Greenway is the perfect solution – you’re unlikely to see more than a handful of other people on this route, and you’ll get to see many examples of our city’s industrial and commercial past (and indeed it’s future) along the way.

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