Olympic Park Walk
View of Olympic Park from the Greenway
Get in the mood for London 2012 with a brisk walk from Limehouse Basin to the Olympic Park in Stratford, taking in Limehouse Cut canal, Bow Locks, the Lea Valley Walk, Three Mills Island and the Olympic Park itself.
Hop, skip, jump - or just walk - your way to the Olympic Park
On arrival at the London 2012 Games site, you can see the progress being made from the excellent interactive View Tube by Pudding Mill Lane DLR. From here, following the Greenway raised walkway and cycletrack to Hackney Wick provides the closest opportunity the public can get to view the spectacular Olympic Stadium. Of course, the View Tube and Greenway can be visited independently, but we at LondonTown suggest the full walk from Limehouse Basin: less than four miles in distance, the route is flat and runs alongside canal waters you probably never knew existed.
Walk: Limehouse Basin to Hackney Wick, via the Olympic Park
Distance: 2.8 miles to the Olympic Park, 3.8 miles to Hackney Wick
Start: Limehouse DLR (Two stops from Bank tube station in Central London)
Finish: Hackney Wick Overground (Six stops from Highbury & Islington tube and rail)
Details: Flat terrain with cafes and toilets located on route
Extras: Walk can easily be done in reverse
Phase One: The Narrow
Have a pint and a pie at Gordon Ramsey's pub
Why not get your walk off to a leisurely (but tasty) start with a quick bite in Gordon Ramsey's gastropub, The Narrow. Located right by the Thames with views over Canary Wharf, The Narrow has a great outdoor seating area for when the sun's out – and despite the Big Man's name, you won't get sworn at by staff and the prices are reasonable. Plus, knowing you have a four-mile walk ahead won't make you feel so guilty when perusing a British menu which boasts roasts, pies, offal and fresh fish – and an entire section devoted to things on toast. Best book in advance if you plan to combine your walk with a Sunday lunch – otherwise try your luck, but be prepared to settle for a simple pint and pork pie. Alternatively, try another historic nearby pub, The Grapes: the food's not as good, but the views and interior are quite a hoot.
Phase Two: Limehouse Cut
Get the walk underway
From The Narrow, make your way back up to Limehouse Basin and make your way to the east side of the harbour. Make sure you stay on the right-hand side of the waterway which curves around to the right of the Basin. You'll soon see a long canal running as far as the eye can see; this is Limehouse Cut, the oldest canal in London. For reassurance, ahead of the first bridge you should see a large signpost pointing the way back to the Basin and onwards up the Cut. The track hugs the right-hand bank of the canal and is popular for walkers and cyclists. If it's raining, the frequent overhead bridges act as ideal shelters. Some of the housing and waterside warehouses appear quite gritty, but there are some nice flats beside the water, some beautiful canal boats and a spattering of entertaining graffiti. During the Games, there will be a limited-capacity canal passenger service running from Limehouse Basin along the Limehouse Cut to Old Ford Lock, on the Lea Navigation, outside the Olympic Park.
Phase Three: Bow Locks
Fans of the TV soap EastEnders will feel at home
After about a mile, the straight canal comes to Bow Locks where Limehouse Cut runs alongside the River Lea, which flows down from the Olympic Park alongside the new Olympic Stadium. From the historic footbridge over Bow Locks, you can look back over the famous One Canada Square and HSBC buildings at Canary Wharf in the distance. This is about the half-way point of the entire walk. Interestingly, the nearby Bromley-by-Bow London Underground station on the District Line is the fictional Walford East tube station in the BBC soap opera EastEnders.
Phase Four: Three Mills
Grade I-listed mills you never knew existed
After Bow Lock the path continues on the thin jut of land between Limehouse Cut to the left and River Lea to the right. Once you pass underneath a large green steel bridge you will be greeted on the other side with quite a spectacular sight: the Three Mills, former working mills on a small island on the River Lea. Although the water wheels are not in operation, the Grade I-listed House Mill remains the largest tidal mill in the world – and is open to visitors on Sunday afternoons during the summer. There is an adjoining cafe which can act as a great pit-stop if you fancy a cup of tea and a biscuit. Continue along the path. If you take a small detour to the right before Three Mills Green you will arrive at Three Mills Lock, also known as the Prescott Lock, which was officially opened on 5 June 2009 as part of the infrastructure work for the Olympics. The new lock has cut off a section of the river from the tide, creating new opportunities for leisure boats, water taxis and floating restaurants. It also helps freight traffic such as barges carrying construction materials to the sites of the 2012 Olympics and Stratford City.
Phase Five: Three Mills Green
Proof of the Olympics' rejuvenation program in action
Due for completion in summer 2011, the revitalisation of Three Mills Green is part of the Mayor of London's Great Outdoors program, an initiative to rejuvenate the capital's parks, squares and roads ahead of and beyond the London 2012 Games. In sync with the Olympic competitive sprit, the Green now includes a high quality events area, stone ping pong tables, a petanque court and a viewing terrace with a sculpture of two intertwined hands. This is the result of the first phase of the award-winning Lea River Park project and part of the London Development Agency's aim to ensure all Londoners benefit from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The aim is to transform disused public spaces into thriving places to live, work and play – and the area around Three Mills will be transformed. Quite right – it's a place of high interest and history, and it should be enjoyed by many.
Phase Six: Spotting the Olympic Park
First sighting of the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre
From the north tip of Three Mills Green, you can get your first glimpse of the Olympic Park in the shape of the two huge temporary structures that flank either side of the state-of-the-art Aquatics Centre, designed by the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid. Although rather unsightly, the two structures will mean an extra 15,000 spectators will be able to witness the Swimming and Diving events during the Olympics. Once you cross the small bridge, you currently have to take a small detour down Bisson Lane owing to the closure of the riverside path. Once you reach the busy High Street, cross the road and then take a left. You can then rejoin the canal path on the right. But be warned: although you will catch a glimpse of the Olympic Stadium up ahead, the path is currently closed once you reach the end of Blaker Road. Fear not: simply turn around and continue down the small path beside the Bow Back River which runs parallel to the High Street until you reach Pudding Mill Lane. In the distance you should be able to see the silhouette of the Gherkin and the new Shard skyscrapers in central London.
Phase Seven: The View Tube
Learn about the Olympic Park from the best vantage point
Once you reach Pudding Mill Lane, you will know you're standing on the edge of London's biggest construction site. There are temporary barriers, scaffolding and signs everywhere – but don't let that act as a deterrent. Despite appearances, members of the public are still allowed here so simply follow the signs to Pudding Mill Lane DLR and then to the View Tube. En route you should be able to see the red lattice steel of The Orbit sculpture and viewing tower, which is currently being built between the Olympic Stadium and Aquatics Centre. Made from luminous green recycled shipping containers, the View Tube offers some amazing views over the developing Olympic Park – as well as a cafe, an Olympic shop and numerous maps and pictures charting the various stages of the whole London 2012 project. From the first floor viewing platform you can see the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Centre and Water Polo Arena, as well as The Orbit and, in the distance, the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Stratford City. You'll certainly feel the whole walk was worth it by now!
Phase Eight: The Greenway
The closest public walkway to the Olympic Park
Once you've had enough of the View Tube then it's time for the final leg of this special Olympic-themed walk: The Greenway. This is a flat, almost continuous and straight traffic-free walking and cycling route that carves through East London and the Olympic Park at high level, overlooking houses, gardens, rivers and the developing site for the London 2012 Games. The entire length of the clearly marked path runs 4.4 miles (7.1km) from Wick Lane near Hackney Wick Overground through the Olympic Park to Royal Docks Road in Beckton.
But for this walk, you'll just be covering the segment from the View Tube north to Hackney Wick. The broad and raised gravel track is the closest the public can view the spectacular Olympic Stadium – so make the most of it. When you reach a fork in the path, taking a left back down to the path beside the River Lea. Feel free to take the right, but it becomes a dead-end a bit further down – although you will get more views of the stadium. Continue beside the River Lea northwards.
To your left across the river you will see the new home of H Forman & Son, the oldest fish smokery in Britain. Its former home was located right on the Olympic site but the business was forced to relocate after a bitter struggle with the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone. Forman's has now opened a restaurant and venue overlooking the Olympic Stadium – and already a stand of temporary seating has been put up by artists in a disused space next door.
Shortly, you should reach a bridge alongside the new Olympic Park Energy Centre. Once you cross the bridge, Hackney Wick Station is a few minutes away on foot. Alternatively, continue on the riverside path to catch a glipse of the new Handball Arena and Press Centre.