The east of London is a mystery to me. I don’t mean the East End which is about as east as the West End is west, I mean the reaches past that, on the far side of the muddy Lee, where if you want to go you’re best off not taking a car, or you’ll be stuck in a log jam for ages going nowhere. The Spiral has catherine-wheeled out another few miles beyond St Katherine’s Dock, and now fresh dots and splatters appear on the route.
Victoria Docks 1872
This stage begins where the last walk ended at the soaring elevation of the cable car across the Thames, which I recommend as a time-limited opportunity to see the city from a rare and economically unviable vantage. Make the most of the height too for the land north of this point is pool room flat, so that a walker feels more two dimensional than three, beetling across the surface of the city – even the houses are low rise squats and flat topped flats, except for Stubbs Point high rise (below), which since this Googlecar snap has had a fresh skin applied, an investment apparently not much appreciated by the inhabitants as the surrounding ‘private’ car park is cluttered with litter.
Plaistow, West Ham, Wanstead, Redbridge. How to cross the A13, ‘the Newham Way’?
Take advantage of a side step left into West Ham Park, where the trees offer relief from the crustle of traffic and shuffling tribes. It’s a densely housed area, low quality, built on marsh land.
But suddenly there’s a transition, and a straggle of trees, hopefully labelled, indeed honestly and historically labelled Epping Forest, the southernmost broken-off piece of the old arboreal glacier. You can see that the ground, flat and sparsely grassed, must have looked like it had not much value in it, so that you might as well build on it, until its sheer scarcity, like all open places in London, makes its emptiness and seeming-naturalness more valuable than any human construction.
Here at the southernmost tip of Epping there are unexpected species, like the Egyptian Goose,
and if not eagles on Eagle Pond, at least a cosmopolitan population of various feathers and birdsongs:
There are many voices at present calling to build more houses; there’s a shortage; populations are rising; they’re not making any more land; prices are too high; workers in ‘essential services’ can’t afford. But I’m not persuaded that we should eat into more green belt or even fallow land. Leave the unbuilt-on land. It’s too precious. It doesn’t come back. I’d rather redevelop, build on brownfield sites, reimagine.
Meeting place: North side of the Emirate Cable Car, on Royal Victoria Dock
Date & time: Sunday November 13th 2016, 1pm
Distance: the walk is around 6 miles
End point: Southernmost part of Epping Forest Map: https://binged.it/2eeDaDL
The early part of the walk is low rise east end housing; the later part is open flood plain, scrub and woods.
Return home from: Snaresbrook underground station, Central line