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Mile End to Hertford Union Canal

We did not go by boat, theoretically we could of done, we just walked instead. Nearly 60 people started from Mile End station, including a young girl who seemed to dance the whole 5.5 miles. Climbing onto the bridge, we found ourselves, as if by magic, in a small park with generally open space. We followed the path north, re-joining the towpath of the Regents Canal. Here the Mile End Lock was on our left, but we continued right until we eventually turned onto the Hertford Union Canal.


Hertford Union Canal to River Lea

This was originally call Duckett's Canal. It was dug to link the R. Lea to the Regents Canal - although apparently, it was not a very successful enterprise. Much of the way we walked beside Victoria Park and also passed three locks. On reaching the R. Lea we saw the Olympic site site rising to our right.


River Lea to Limehouse Cut

Although were passing the Olympic site, we were too low down to see it except where the river Lea flowed back into the Lea Navigation. However, we went up onto the Greenway for a short while, which enabled us see the site and its field of cranes. After we rejoined the Lea, we continued to Three Mills, which is fascinating because the mill is a tidal one. The tea rooms were not open, but TESCO's, and its toilets, was. We stopped for a break. As we set off, there was a huge bridge in front of us, which spanned the Three Mill Wall river, our path and the river Lea. On the far side of the bridge is Bow Lock. Here the river Lea officially passes through a lock gate and is joined by the Three Mill Wall river before it flows, a short distance, to the Thames. Actually, the Lea now flows round the corner directly into Limehouse Cut.


Limehouse Cut to Limehouse Basin

Limehouse Cut is not in the most attractive area because quite a lot of industrial sites are at the water's edge, but nevertheless, it still has some charm. To the west it becomes more attractive, finishing with a small delightful park. We turned right then crossed a footbridge to get to the north side of Limehouse Basin. From the footbridge, if you look back you can see the church of Saint Anne, Limehouse on the right hand side of the canal.


Limehouse Basin to Mile End

Limehouse Basin has a beautiful feel to it. Someone remarked, the boats in the marina give it the feel of the Riviera. Turning right, here is Commercial Road Lock, the last on the Regents Canal before it enters the basin. Commercial Road Bridge, with its unusual double arches, is also here. There were only two more locks before we returned to the Mile End Park or, for the purists, it is possible to continue along the canal to Mile End Lock to make a complete waterways circuit. Where everyone else lunched I don't know, but a few of us ended up in the Half Moon, Wetherspoon’s pub (the 1980's failed Half Moon Theatre) near Stepney Green!


London's Non-Traffic

This walk was virtually traffic free. The only road walking was to and from the station and crossing the High Street at Bow Flyover (now there is a new footway under the High Street). The footpath "tunnelled" its way under numerous bridges so you almost forgot they were there. We also passed nine locks - the steps in the waterways. And, of course, there was the occasional narrowboat. Hence, it was a proper escape from London's conventionaly busy traffic.

To select photographs:

• hover over coloured square

• click for photo.

The camera position was generally from the square to the nearest position on the path, and direction of shot was within ±40 degrees of the arrow.

P569 En Cr.jpg

Three Mills

Mills have been recorded here since the Domesday Book. Around the 12th/13th centuries the area became known as Three Mills, but during the 16th century the number of mills was reduced to two. The current mills date from 1753 (Clock Mill) and 1776 (House Mill). Both of them were driven, first by the in-coming tides and then, after the water had been collected, by the flow back to the Thames. Production increased threefold during Spring Tides. Historically, they were built to grind corn for flour, but later the House Mill was used to grind grain for distilling into gin. During World War 1, corn and chestnuts were ground to produce an ingredient of gunpowder . The House Mill operated until 1941, the Clock Mill until 1951, but note, the House Mill is now being considered for use as an electricity generator - still harnessing the tide.


The House Mill has been restored and guided tours (by admission charge) are given on Sundays from early April to late October, 1 pm to 4 pm. The Millers House, next door, operates a cafe: Monday to Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. Next to the Millers House is a former Customs House but this has since been residential and is now offices.

Church of Saint Anne, Limehouse

This Anglican church can be seen, close to the towpath, on the right hand side of the canal as you look back from the footbridge at Limehouse. I'm not sure how you get to it from the towpath, probably after the railway line and before the footbridge.


The church was built by Sir Christopher Wren's most talented pupil - Nicholas Hawksmore. The Hawksmore churches, sometimes known as the Queen Anne's churches, were built because of an act of parliament made in 1711. However, the number required was never attained. Saint Anne was reputed to have the second highest clock tower in London, St Steven’s Tower (erroneous called Big Ben) being higher, but its clock face is higher than Big Ben's. It was designed to be seen by sailors on the Thames. It also had a sight link to Greenwich so the clock could be set accurately. It was first constructed in 1730, but has been rebuilt since and the Grey and Davison pipe organ, that won the organ prize at the Great Exhibition of 1851, is still much prized by musicians.




 The West Essex Ramblers re-walked the Mile End Cruise on 20/4/10, six months after the first visit.

This time the Green Olympic Shed, made from shipping containers and which stands on the Greenway path just outside the Olympic Site, was up and running making it possible to see more clearly the progress of the developing area. Interestingly a Greenfinch appears to have taken residence locally.

There is a café in the Shed.

There are toilets in the Shed.

There is no charge to use the Shed.

NB. If you take a train to Stratford and then the DLR to Pudding Mill Lane (one stop), it is only a two hundred yard walk to the Olympic Shed.






CLICK PHOTOS for larger views.


Photograph Top. A 160 degree Panorama produced from 4 joined photos

(distorted at the joins).

Photographs Middle. 1) Main Stadium; 2) Middle Ground; 3) Aquatic Centre Roof; 4) Background: towards Stratford. Foreground: the City Mill river - becomes the Bow Back river (beyond railway) and joins the river Lea Navigation by Bow Flyover.

Photographs Bottom. 1) 57 West Essex Ramblers arriving at the Olympic Shed; 2) Shed viewed from the Greenway; 3) Shed viewed from Pudding Mill Lane Station; 4) Greenfinch seen below the Shed.

NOTE WELL - Path Closures near OLYMPIC SITE before, during and after Olympic Games

Closures include the Green Way; the Green Shed; some river Lea; and Pudding Mill Lane Station.

A good website I found for information is: diamondgeezer.blogspot .

A Walk along Canals and Rivers of London's East End - Illustrated by 79 Photographs

Including an external visit to the Olympic Site and Three Mills

 Walked by the West Essex Ramblers on - Saturday 10th October, 2009

 Photographs and layout by Harry Hawkins