Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Lea Valley Walk - Section 2

With our impressive 8 miles clocked up on the Thames Path last weekend fresh in mind, we decided to head out on Sunday and have a go to see how far we could get on our next stretch of Lea Valley Walk. To remind you, this is an 18 mile tow-path based walk from Cheshunt in Hertfordshire ending up right in the heart of Docklands in Central London, and we'd already done the first short stretch from Cheshunt down to Waltham Abbey - just a couple of miles, a few weeks ago.

Without question it was the perfect winter day for a walk - beautifully sunny, blue skies and just the merest hint of a chill in the air, and by the time we were a short way from where we'd parked the car - close to Waltham Cross Station - to the towpath I'd offloaded my scarf and MrEH was talking about taking his coat off! Once on the towpath we realised that this wasn't going to be a quiet walk with hardly anyone else about - cyclists, runners (including someone MrEH knew from his rugby club - small world indeed!) and other walkers abounded! It wasn't long before we reached our first "landmark" - the bridge under the 8-lane wide M25 motorway...

..shortly followed by the first of the 6 locks we would encounter during the day. A lot of the areas we'd be passing through are identified as areas from the locks - Enfield Lock, Picketts Lock and Stonebridge Lock are just three of them - but in many cases although I knew the areas themselves quite well, I'd never seen the actual Locks themselves before! Enfield Lock in particular is just gorgeous - a lovely little terrace of houses fronting right on to the canal.

Just a short distance further on and we were passing our first reservoir. The 12 reservoirs in this area supply a good percentage of the water for London, and the Lea Navigation runs alongside them.  On the other side of the canal are industrial areas - seemingly miles of warehouses, factories and commercial units - a far cry from the quite rural terrain on our side of the canal. We stopped for lunch opposite an area of wharves, clearly in the heyday of the canals this would have been busy with barges loading and unloading - in fact a little further on we passed another wharf which was clearly still in at least some form of use. The Moorings along the navigation are very popular with those choosing to live on board their narrowboats too - we passed whole areas where one side was just lined with boat after boat - very romantic looking but I'm lead to believe that it's somewhat less romantic when the weather's bad, the wind is cold and the toilet facilities require "emptying"!

Carved bench
On past more industrial units, a golf course and a truly enormous sewage treatment works - although mercifully thanks to the coolness of the weather we were none the wiser about this bit! Then the "Edmonton Incinerator" with its always-active chimney pumping out smoke (or possibly steam? No idea, it's been doing it for as long as I can remember though!) - a very well known landmark in the area, this one. Our second major road of the day as we passed under  the Cooks Ferry Interchange on the North Circular Road - even wider than the M25, this one. Now on into an area with industry on both sides - on the side we were walking the narrow towpath is divided off by a barrier from the road running directly alongside - imaginatively named "Towpath Road". The road looks too narrow to take anything more than a car, so when we reached the bus depot we were scratching our heads for a while wondering how they get in and out - so far as we could make out the only way was indeed via the road! Once past there it suddenly felt as though we were back into countryside again - apart from the Pylons lining each side of this stretch!

Old Milestone

We were in to very familiar territory now - MrEH used to walk this stretch of towpath on a daily basis going to and from work many years ago, and I've enjoyed many a walk with family dogs along here too back when we used to live in London. At Stonebridge Lock we had to cross over the canal again - the maintained path switches from side to side as you make your way down, we'd had to cross previously back at Enfield.

Bus Depot
More houseboats - in fact the opposite bank is lined with them all the way down to our final Lock at Tottenham Hale. The light was fading badly by this time (we seem to be making a habit of finishing walks in the dark, or nearly so!) There was just enough light for one final photo though - and look carefully, in the middle you can see The Shard, the Gherkin, and various other icons of the London Skyline - a promise of things to come on the next and final section of this walk!



Wendy said...

A fascinating walk, Robyn. I don't suppose the Lea today feels like the important boundary it always was between Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex.
And I agree about houseboats; I also think they look very romantic but I'm sure much of the living in them isn't romantic at all!

Robyn said...

Hmmm...that's a good point. There was a distinct feeling of "entering greater London" as we passed under the M25 - but of course that is very much the area that a lot of people still consider Middlesex. I guess the boundaries are far more blurred now though in most peoples minds, so it's inevitable that the canal has evolved also. The thing that stood out to us was the sheer number of different places that the boats had originated from, all ending up congregated on there. That, as much as anything else, brought home what am important waterway it's always been.

Singlegirl said...

Fab pictures as always and always love to see the London skyline!

Robyn said...

Me too SG - I see it most mornings as we drive down the M11 towards London, and there's always that little thrill about it!