Lea River Cycle:   Hertford - Canary Wharf - Waltham Cross via Hertford Union Canal.

Saturday 24th July 2010

On the strength of my suggestion of attending the High Voltage rock festival being staged at London's Victoria Park over the weekend of 24th - 25th July, my Hungarian friend Zoltan had booked a flight from Germany - I had planned to go the Sunday only anyway. As the time approached however I began to get cold feet regarding the event, partly for financial reasons and partly due to the location of the venue itself and the difficulty in getting there. As a sweetener to soften the impending disappointment borne out of my tending towards a possible change of plan, I proposed a cycle ride on Lea River canal tow path into London, to which Zoltan readily agreed. A colleague and mutual friend had made a bicycle available for Zoltan's use, which I picked up Friday. We set out early Saturday morning and drove down to Hertford north station. The weather looked promising and it turned into a gloriously sunny, warm day. 

Setting out from Hertford Lock.


View from Hertford Lock towards Ware.


Along the canal tow-path in Ware.


Ware reflections.


Fish & Eels pub house at Dobbs Weir Bridge.


Crossing over Dobbs Weir Bridge.


View south towards Broxbourne, just beyond Dobb's Weir Bridge.


Zoltan looking cool at Carthagena Lock; Narrowboats at Carthagena Lock, near Broxbourne.


Looking back at Carthagena Lock; Carthagena Lock - Lock No 7.


We set off through the picturesque countryside from Hertford along the canal north of the M25, stopping for a tea the riverside cafe just south of the M25, near Enfield Lock. Many were out and about: cyclists, joggers, walkers, fishing folk, narrowboaters, enjoying the sunshine. We probably cycled the route quicker than I had done on previous occasions, reaching The Narrow pub at Limehouse Basin and the customary, well-earned drink. "I am drunken", exclaimed Zoltan after one glass. People relaxed on deck chairs outside the pub and we watched the Swing Bridge across Narrow Street make way for a boat entering Limehouse Basin from The Thames. Though we had nibbled on odds and sods en route, we were in desperate need for something to eat, but decided to give Gordon Ramsay's establishment a miss, the menu and its prices of little appeal, hoping to find something light to eat elsewhere. I gathered that Zoltan was also being driven by financial considerations.


British Waterways Enfield Yard near Enfield Lock, looking north.


Mute swans on the Lea river.


Narrowboats along Tottenham Marshes (precise location uncertain).


Graffiti mural in the vicinity of Tottenham Hale.


Walthamstow's Riverside Cafe at the Lea Rowing Club; Lea river looking back towards the bridge at the top end of Springfield Park, Walthamstow.


Lea Valley Marina, Springfield looking towards Horseshoe Bridge (Walthamstow Marshes).


Crossing over Horseshoe Footbridge, Walthamstow Marshes.


Walthamstow Marshes.


Along the Lea, somewhere near Hackney Wick, the new Olympic Stadium just visible top left.


Canal-side graffiti approaching Lea's London industrial heartland, near Hackney Wick.


Graffiti adorn the canal-side walls at Stopping near Hackney Wick;


It was at this point that we decided upon a change of plan to cycling to Kings Cross station and taking the train back to Hertford. Zoltan proposed that we cycle back instead - perhaps this was also down to cost. I wasn't sure that we would achieve the distance but agreed that it was worth giving it a go. After enquiring locally, we picked up the Regents Canal near the DLR bridge and continued until we reached the junction with the Hertford Union Canal, which I had never cycled before. This took us past Victoria Park, where Saturday's line-up for the High Voltage rock festival were in the process of pounding the airwaves. We could even hear them on the Lea, on the approach to Limehouse Basin along Limehouse Cut. Soon we reached the junction with the Lea, at the very spot where the new Olympic Stadium and village is being constructed. Turning north, we headed up the Lea. We cycled as far as the M25 before I decided to call a halt to cycling for the day. My posterior rather than my legs was now feeling the worse for wear. Zoltan was convinced that we didn't have far to go, until I pointed out to him that we had only reached the halfway mark on our return journey. We turned off the canal and cycled in to Waltham Cross station, where we took a train to Hertford North.


Clock Mill atThree Mills, one of several former working mills, of which only two remain, in Bow, the other being House Mill.


Clock Mill atThree Mills.


Approaching Bow Lock, the high rise buildings of Canary Wharf appearing in the background.


DLR Railway Bridge and the A13 East India Dock Road Bridge, along Limehouse Cut (which joins Limehouse Basin to the Lea River at Bow Bridge).


Limehouse Basin and the upmarket apartments lining the basin.


Limehouse Basin.


Limehouse Basin apartments, Canary Wharf, as viewed from the entrance to the basin.


Swing bridge opens outside Narrow Street Pub; The gastro pub owned by Gordon Ramsay, known as The Narrow, at Canary Wharf.


Sadly, the day was not to end on a pleasurable note. As I noted on my Facebook page:

"Saturday I did a 55mile from Hertford along the Lea river canal into Canary Wharf and back to the M25, with a friend of mine on a visit from Hungary. On the way back via the Regent's canal, as we rejoined the Lea Valley canal very close to the location of the new 2012 Olympic venue, we witnessed a rather unsavoury incident in broad daylight at four in the afternoon, further up the canal along a fairly industrial neighbourhood near Edmonton, just before the Arriva bus depot. It was all the more bizarre as many are out and about on the canal enjoying the sunshine on what is supposedly a peaceful weekend. We caught up to a gang of about a ten hoodies, all similarly dressed in tracksuits and trainers, cycling north in the same direction we were. The two teenagers at the rear were in the process of smoking a joint, passing it between them as they pedalled.

As we approached a bridge near the A406, the group ascended the embankment towards the bridge, whilst a single cyclist happened to be heading in the opposite direction at that very moment. In a split second a violent clash ensued with a guy coming down off a bridge – it appeared that he had committed the cardinal error of getting in their way. They turned on him as a pack and viciously began beating him up. It was an act of wanton violence that beggared belief. The poor victim was a young guy from Latvia and he was a mess – his leg bled profusely from a deep wound and he may even have been stabbed. he bled from the mouth too. He was in pain and severely shocked. It happened so fast and as the gang cycled off, one of the youngsters picked up the victim's bicycle and spitefully threw it into the canal, without even a hint of regret.

Zoltan and I considered how best we might help the guy. I cycled south to where one of the narrowboats we had just passed, was moored, to borrow a long pole terminated with a hook of sorts, to enable the Latvian to fish the submerged (borrowed) bicycle from the base of the canal. The narrowboater had in the interim also cycled up to the bridge and proposed that the Latvian receive basic treatment, as he happened to have a medical kit on board. In fact we all thought he should see a doctor as a matter of urgency and we hoped that he would make arrangements to receive further attention later."


Along the Hertford Union Canal.


Apartments along the Hertford Union Canal near Victoria Park.


The new Olympic Stadium at the junction of the Lea and Hertford Union Canals.


Disturbed by what we had both witnessed that day, Zoltan and I drove back from Hertford North station in almost total silence. It was not the way we expected the day to end. So much for the Towpath Code of Conduct! It was therefore no surprise that we decided to give the concert on Sunday at Victoria Park a miss, not least since the desire to attend had drained from us.



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