The East End of London has been put well and truly on the map by the Olympics and by other factors such as tech and software companies moving out east and the opening of the Westfield Shopping Centre, all of which has shone a spotlight on an area that we at the Jack the Ripper Tour have been exploring for the best part of 30 years.
Not so long ago Stratford was an area few visitors had ever heard of or ventured out to, save the occasional confused tourist who would, from time to time, be glimpsed wandering its streets looking for Shakespeare’s birthplace.
Today Stratford is as well known as several more established tourist attractions, and more and more people are starting to discover an area that is well and truly steeped in London’s industrial past.
One of the most baffling things about the 2012 Olympics is that the park itself didn’t remain open to the public for a at least a few months. There must be thousands of people who, not being fortunate enough to have got tickets, would have been happy to have paid an admission fee in order to have got a glimpse of the park as it was during the summer of 2012.
Sadly, that chance was never offered. If you want to get a glimpse of the Olympic Park now you must do so from afar. Well at least from the surrounding canal tow paths and roads.
Yet this in itself is fascinating. If you make your way to Bromley By Bow Underground Station (which is on the District Line) and then go left and through the subway, you’ll arrive at a massive Tesco superstore. Hurrying past it (or stopping off to buy a sandwich and a drink to enjoy on the walk ahead) you come to a canal tow path.
Heading left along this tow path, you cross a bridge, veer left along the opposite tow path and, suddenly, there it is the Olympic stadium which, at the moment, looks almost ghostly through the mists that we are currently getting from time to time in the East End of London.
Following that tow path as far as you wish you come across remnants of the area’s industrial past mingled with reminders of its Olympic legacy, and the overall effect is truly spellbinding.
If you are coming in to London to join us on a Jack the Ripper Walk then I really would urge you to explore the East End further afield.
I mapped out a walk around the area in September so, if you want to print off and do that East End walk, just click here to be taken to its page.
It seems unbelievable that all the waiting for, all the build up to, and all the excitement of the 2012 Olympics is now little more than a distant memory.
And yet, as you walk through the streets of the East End and see some of the abandoned buildings from bygone eras, or those that have been converted to other uses, you start to realise that this fascinating part of the capital is a place of memories and that the past and present can easily co-exist.