Lea River : Bow Creek to Northumberland Park

A slight change of water for this walk – having previously attempted the walk on the Lea River in the months leading up to the 2012 Olympics, and finding some of the paths closed, I tried again, just over a year later, and was more successful (despite an 80 minute delay getting to the start of the walk due to an incident that left our train stopped and powered down just outside Clapham Junction station…)


A slight cheat here at the start, as I walked the accessible southern end of the Lea River during a previous walk, as a slight diversion away from the Thames. So the first few photos will seem familiar – commentary is available in the previous walk.


Bow Creek looking north east

DLR bridge over Bow Creek

Bow Creek ecological park - reeds

Bow Creek ecological park - pond

Looking east from Bow Creek ecological park towards Canning Town DLR

End of the path on the peninsular

Some sections of the Lea are not accessible north of Canning Town and the next generally accessible section begins at Three Mills, just north of where the river joins Limehouse Cut.

Three Mills at Bow

Just  north of the Three Mills bridge is the newly-opened walkway, completed around the time of the 2012 Olympics, but closed for access until the Olympics had ended.

New riverside walk and signposts, north of Three Mills

Rounding the first bend, parts of the Olympic Park come into view.

Rounding the bend, Olympic structures coming into view

The busy A118 was previously a chore as one had to rise up to road level, cross the busy road then descend. Now the passage underneath the bridge has been prepared and is lit with small lights.

New walkway and route underneath the road

A new walkway above the river crosses over then descends to the opposite path, where some Crossrail building works come into view on the opposite bank.

Crossrail workings in the Lea River

Once again, as per the previous walk, the Olympic Stadium comes into view to the East of the river.

Olympic Park comes into view

This time though, the path was still open (in fact the Greenway route that was previously the diversion route is not itself closed).

Approaching Old Ford Lock

Old Ford Lock, the location used for The Big Breakfast TV series is the next item of interest on the river.

Looking back at Old Ford Lock

The river passes quite close to the Olympic Stadium, where the whole site is now a huge development, with people working away on this Saturday afternoon.

Olympic Stadium - whole area being remodelled

The official start of the Lea Valley Walk is a little further to the north.

Start of the Lea Valley Walk

And now we see the route that I should have taken on the previous walk, to get from Three Mills to the Hertford Union canal.

Approaching the junction with the Hertford Union canal


Looking along Hertford Union towards the City

Various studios and pubs have waterfront gardens and rear facing balconies along here.

Bridge to the south of Hackney March, looking back

A few new looking businesses back onto the river as we head north to Hackney Wick itself.

River users as we approach Hackney Marsh

Traditional buildings mingle with newer ones at Hackney, but they seem to sit well together and and not too jarring.

Hackney Wick

Further north a more modern block rises up alongside the river. Of note is the bright sun-lit canopy over the highest balconies.

New riverside properties with supra-lit upper level

The walk now starts to feel a little more rural as the famous Hackney Marshes border the river to the east.

Footbridge across from Clapton Park

A quick cross of the river is required at Pond Lane bridge.

Pond Lane Bridge


Looking back from Pond Lane Bridge

Further along, there is the option to cross over again which I used to get a better view of Walthamstow Marshes nature reserve.

Wilton Point foot bridge


Looking back and across Walthamstow Marshes


Looking back towards Clapton


View from atop Horseshoe foot bridge

After leaving the marshes, we cross back to the opposite side of the river using Horseshoe Bridge.

Passing near Warwick Reservoir West

The river here has a more urban feel. To the east are various embankments for reservoirs and to the west are flats.


South of Tottenham lock, the river splits in two but the eastern option leads nowhere – the waterway notes remind boaters not to follow these tributaries as often they are silted up and non-navigable. As walkers, we have no option anyway but to bear left.

Fork in the river south of Tottenham Lock

A strange metal light fixture rears up over the road near to Tottenham Lock.

Approaching Tottenham Lock

The lock itself is a little more traditional.

Tottenham Lock

The river opens up a bit above the lock.

River to the north of Tottenham Lock

A pair of classic Thames Sailing Barges were moored here on this day. They feature a moveable leeboard and a flat bottom, so they can navigate shallow waters but not drift sideways under the wind.

Thames Sailing Barge - note the moveable panel

A reminder of how shallow the water can be – some ducks were feeding off plants on the bottom and the ducks were still half out of the water.

Ducks showing the shallow nature of the river at this bank

As mentioned in the guide book, the east shore of the river is now a series of reservoir embankments.

Passing by Lockwood reservoir

The next item we pass is Stonebridge Lock, north of Tottenham Hale.

Stonebridge Lock

For a short while, we have to move aside a bit as there is a small private boatyard occupying the riverbank. The paths here are well maintained. After a few minutes more, it was time to leave the river and start heading home. The delay on reaching the start meant that it was already well after 5.00 pm and, due to engineering work at Northumberland Park, there were no trains running today, so a bus was required to reach the underground (at Tottenham Hale) followed by a different route back to avoid Clapham Junction (just in case…)

Leaving the river to head back home

Data from Google MyTracks:

Name: Lea Valley, Three Mills To Northumberland . Park
 Total distance: 13.99 km (8.7 mi)
 Total time: 3:04:17
 Average moving speed: 4.93 km/h (3.1 mi/h)
 Max elevation: 130 m (426 ft)
 Min elevation: 18 m (61 ft)
 Elevation gain: 339 m (1111 ft) 

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