I am currently working on a book of walks around London for a major travel publisher and am in the process of mapping out routes across the capital plus, for reasons that escape me, Oxford.
One of the walking tours I’ve worked on this week is a walk along the banks of the River Lea, which skirts the Olympic Park and I’m sure you’ll like this walk as much as I did.
For a starting point I chose Bromley-by-Bow Underground Station and, if you have some free time on the afternoon of the day on which you have booked a tour with us, why not explore this part of the East End before joining us at 7pm? I’d suggest allowing an hour and a half for the walk then a further 20 minutes to get to the start of our walk at Aldgate East Underground Station.
At first glance, the walk seems horrendous since you emerge from the station to be confronted by some of the busiest roads and flyover imaginable. Indeed, you might even feel tempted to get back on the tube and head for a more sedate part of London! But don’t be put off because some true “finds” await you.
The first thing to do is head through the subway to the left of the station entrance and, once on the other side of the road, walk round to the car park of the Tesco store. Just past the Car Park, a footbridge takes you over a canal and suddenly you find yourself pitched back to the 18th and 19th centuries as you find yourself surrounded by old mill buildings that survive from the area’s industrial past. Indeed, you are in fact standing on an island – Three Mills Island to be precise.
Directly ahead your way is barred by the gates to the 3 Mills Film Studios, London’s largest film and television studios. Amongst the productions filmed here are Sherlock Holmes 11 and, from our Jack the Ripper Walk perspective, the second Whitechapel TV series, whilst Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and Primal Scream are amongst the musicians who have either filmed videos or have rehearsed at the studios.
Turning left in front of the gates, you head out across the delightful Three Mills Green, which is in the process of being converted into an extensive play area, complete with granite table tennis tables.
A memorial to the left commemorates several men who, in the early 20th century, died in a well that is now sealed beneath the concrete base. Apparently, one of the group descended to clean out the well, was rendered unconscious by the noxious fumes, the others, bravely, went down to save him, and all of them died.
From this poignant memorial, you continue on your way, crossing over a footbridge and, having followed the sign for Three Mills Wall River, you turn right along the main road and, to your left across the road is the Olympic Park. You pass under the footbridge, turn immediately right along the Greenway and, if possible, go over the footbridge to take a closer look at the park.
You then continue on your way along Greenway, passing one of the East End’s most remarkable structures, the Abbey Mills Pumping Station, constructed in the 1860s to pump London’s sewage out to treatment plants located away from the city itself. This place looks amazing and has been described as “a Cathedral to sewage.”
From here you just keep going towards the clearly signed West Ham Station from where you can take a tube back to central London.
The walk probably takes just short of an hour and a half but it takes you through the past and present of what I found to be a truly fascinating part of London and I would, unreservedly, encourage you to explore it, either on the afternoon prior to joining our Jack the Ripper Tour, as it’s only about 15 minutes by tube from West Ham to Aldgate East (where our tour begins) or to return to the East End at a more convenient time.