Monday, 2 July 2012

Post industrial landscape in East London 3/3

We rejoin the Greenway where it crosses the A12. There is now a brand-new bridge (not yet open) and a pedestrian crossing in case you don't care to climb all those steps. Like the way the Greenway itself has been improved for the Olympics, it's stylish and imaginative. It's interesting to see the way the Olympic landscaping incorporates bits of old concrete and metal, unusual seats designed by students and bits of arty sculpture to make something interesting out of what was really a bit grim. There are security guards here too, but only patrolling the perimeter of the Olympics site and presumably only for the duration of the event.

We stop to admire the ornate Victorian buildings at Abbey Mills pumping station. After that the improvements fizzle out and the route is somewhat older, cracked tarmac and concrete, endless terraced houses both sides, and little roads that cross over the Greenway at intervals. These junctions all have metal gates, randomly wide open or locked shut, and those annoying bicycle barriers where you have to get off and push your bike underneath the bar. You can just about straddle the crossbar to squeeze under without dismounting. Seeing my strained expression a passer-by advises me to "watch yer head". It's not my head I'm worried about though. "Oh yeah, see where you're coming from there mate" he sniggers. Time to move on.

We ride the remaining four miles to Beckton uneventfully. Completely losing the route at the A13, we climb the giant spoil heap known as Beckton Alps to see where we are. The bottom of the 'Alps' is a nice winding path through the trees, but higher up, inexplicably, we find the top, the open bit with the view, is completely surrounded by a high metal security fence. Fortunately some public-spirited person has removed a few railings so we can squeeze through, minus bikes, and climb to the top. What a view! This must be the only place where you can see the whole of the city spread out before you: Greenwich, Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the Shard, Stratford and the Orbit tower at the Olympic site, all spread out in one amazing vista. It's the one photograph I take all day, knowing a photo can't hope to convey the scale of all this.

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