96 – Lea Valley in East London, Hertford Union & Regents Canals and Limehouse Link 13 miles – 17th January

In short: our route from Springfield Park to the Olympic Park extended by a loop of these 3 canals. All towpath walking so very little mud. Free on-street parking, public toilets in Springfield Park at the start, at the Lee Valley ice rink and in the Olympic Park. 4 hrs 20 mins walking + 40 mins pitstop. 

We park on Spring Hill in Hackney – parking here is unrestricted and free – approx postcode is E5 9BE.

We walk to the end of the road – a dead end as it finishes at the River Lea (here a canal). We turn right under the footbridge and walk along the towpath with the river on our left. Shortly we come to another footbridge and here we have to cross, continuing along the river on the other bank – now with the fabulous Walthamstow marshes on our left.

We continue under a railway bridge and carry straight on at another footbridge to emerge at the car park of the Lee Valley ice rink. Here we pop inside the building to make use of the toilets before continuing on – out of the car park, across Leabridge Road at the pedestrian crossing and back down onto the footpath at the Princess Of Wales pub.

We now have the river on our left until we come to another footbridge where we cross to proceed on the far side.

We now continue straight along this path for a mile of two – passing under road and rail bridges until we come in sight of the Olympic Park and its iconic buildings. On reaching the White House building on our right – just before a road bridge – we exit the towpath and go up onto the bridge, cross the river and descend on the far side, heading towards the canal we can see ahead, branching off on the right.

We now follow this new canal – the Hertford Union – past three locks and alongside the Victorian splendour of Victoria Park.

Towards the end of this stretch we reach a section of the towpath that is closed and have to turn right onto Grove Road, towards a roundabout, and then immediately left onto Old Ford Road and then left again onto the towpath of the Regents Canal.

This stretch of canal lasts a good mile and passes the backs and fronts of houses and the long green stretch of Mile End Park. We pass a couple of locks and eventually come out at the busy A13 road which we turn left onto.

We walk along here for a quarter of a mile or so, crossing at some traffic lights until, shortly after a busy junction, we see the signs to the Limehouse Cut down on our right. We descend to the towpath and turn to pass under the road and continue along the canal with the water on our left.

At this point we are getting pretty desperate for coffee and something to eat – also the wind is blowing harshly in our faces, so maybe for these reasons this stretch of canal doesn’t seem all that appealing? Finally we come to a series of walkways as the Limehouse Cut meets the Lea and sort ourselves out onto the river Lea towpath heading towards Three Mills Island.

This picturesque and obviously historic spot is supposed to have a café on site but try as we may – and believe me we walked around the green and the adventure playground, stopping passers-by as we went – there is nothing to be found. Hugely disappointing, but we decide to cut our losses and head up to the café at the Mittal tower on the Olympic Park.

Consequently we continue up the river running alongside Three Mills Green and northwards towards a main road, the A11. Here we go up and cross at a crossing. We can’t take the Jubilee Walkway straight ahead as its closed for building works so we drop down to the riverside behind some flats and walk along till we come to a bridge. This too is closed – so we turn right and then immediately left onto Warton Road and onwards to a roundabout where the pedestrian access to the Olympic Park and stadium is signposted. We cross a bridge and enter the park just in front of the café under the tower.

Here we take a well-deserved rest and pitstop – coffee and a very yummy chicken burger go some way to restoring our strength and spirits. After making use of the fabulous public toilets in the building we continue on our way, past the Olympic stadium and across a path down to the towpath of the river Lea.

Here we turn right and continue back the way we came to Springfield Park – only this time sticking to the towpath at the Princess of Wales pub and not diverting off. We decide we don’t need the planned final pitstop at the lovely Springfield Park café as the burger was really very filling – never mind, we’ll save it for next time!

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