Sunday, 4 January 2015

Jubilee Greenway - Bethnal Green to West Ham

Having made my plan to walk the 60km of the Jubilee Greenway, I was keen to get started. A perusal of the weather forecast and the family diary suggested Friday as a good day.

After two weeks off work it was odd to have a deadline to get up and out of the house, even if that deadline was just the first off-peak train into London. I arrived at Fenchurch Street just after 10 o'clock and marched along familiar streets to Bank where I caught a Central line tube for the short hop to Bethnal Green.

I had researched my route and, more importantly, things to be seen just off the main path, but here I had my first surprise find of the day, a drinking fountain built in memory of two people who died while saving others from a house fire in 1902. 

It lies in Museum Gardens, and the museum in question is the V&A Museum of Childhood. 

I popped inside (it's free) for a brief look around their dollhouse exhibition and I could have spent a lot longer there, but time was passing. Further along the main road, I found the steps I needed to get to the Regent's Canal, leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind me. The towpath was busy with joggers and dog-walkers, but I still wasn't even at the start of my walk proper. 

A few hundred metres further on I came to the Canal Gate of Victoria Park (my 'start point') and my first Jubilee Greenway marker. These are set into the paths with the crown pointing in the direction of travel, the idea being that you keep going in that direction until you need to turn, where there will be another marker.

I wasn't expecting to see many markers as the path goes straight on for a while, following the edge of Victoria Park. I passed the (replica) Dogs of Alcibiades which guard the Bonner Gate,

and then the West Boating Lake with a Chinese pagoda on an island. The original pagoda was built for a Chinese Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1842, and moved here when the exhibition closed. It fell into disrepair and was pulled down in the 1950s, but this replacement was built during the recent regeneration of the park.

The park is split in two by a road, so I needed to pass through Jubilee Gate (West), cross the road and re-enter via Jubilee Gate (East). Frankly, I expected these gates to be rather more impressive than they were.

Now in the eastern part of the park, I detoured off the official path to take a closer look at the Burdett-Coutts Fountain, erected in 1862 to provide clean drinking water for the people of the East End.

Back to the path again and I walked straight past the marker which would have me exit the park via St Mark's Gate. Not an oversight, but another detour, this time to see two alcoves from the old London Bridge which were saved when the bridge was pulled down in 1831 and placed in the park in 1860. Time for a rest and a drink.

And a dodgy selfie.

I tried again, with the self-timer on my camera instead, but a small incident involving said camera, the arm of the bench and a sudden gust of wind rendered it useless for the rest of the walk (though it's working again now - phew!) Luckily I carry my husband's old smartphone on walks like this. It's a backup camera and a source of emergency internet access if put my sim card in it. Personally I'm happy with my dumbphone for day-to-day use but occasionally his phone has its uses.

Anyway, I backtracked to St Mark's Gate, and out into the urban sprawl, over the Hertford Union Canal, under the A12 and between Buildbase and Big Yellow Self-Storage to get to the start of the Greenway.

This was The Greenway before it became part of the Jubilee Greenway, but it's not particularly green. The raised walkway runs through urban areas with just a strip of grass alongside. No markers are needed here, as the path goes straight on into the distance, following (on top of) the Northern Outfall Sewer. 

So, straight on I went, as far as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where the stadium was one big building site on my left.

I turned off the Greenway here to explore the Olympic Park which I hadn't visited since September 2012 when we cheered on Sarah Storey, David Weir and many others to their paralympic gold medals. 

I passed the Orbit on my way in,

and then the Aquatics Centre.

The park was busier than I expected, with walkers, cyclists, and families seeking out Routemaster buses like this one, part of a sculpture trail to celebrate the Year of the Bus. 

I went as far as the Copper Box Arena and its RUN sculpture,

but aching legs meant that I gave up all thoughts of re-visiting the Velodrome.

I retraced my steps through the park, back to the Greenway, only to discover that the next section is currently part of a building site. A helpful security guard sent me through an industrial estate from which I emerged onto Stratford High Street, conveniently close to a 'Legible London' sign which I didn't really need, but it was nice to see anyway. 

Along the High Street, and a right turn took me back onto the Greenway, still running in a straight line, eastwards towards the Meridian Line,

 where I took the obligatory 'one foot in each hemisphere' photo. 

I'll be crossing it again when I get to Greenwich.

My final sight of the day was the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, a huge Byzantine affair also known as the Cathedral of Sewage.

I'd walked about half of the Greenway now, and I'll be back for some more soon, but the end of my journey was almost in sight; West Ham station lies just off the Greenway, more convenient for my journey home than the official end of this section.

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