All roads lead to the once-humble river Lea
It is “a place to go and get somewhere else,” as locally born Adele said in an interview about her 2015 song, River Lea. Bubbling up at its source on a Luton council estate, it gathers pace through Essex and north London to meet the Thames at a metal yard in Canning Town. The Lea flows in the shadow of London’s most famous waterway; it has been a place of industry since the Bronze Age, and then the bargemen who ferried flour from its mills and the “Bow china” from the waterside factories.
Canalised in the 18th century with the Lee Navigation (the river is variously spelt Lee and Lea) it became a network of locks and creeks that cut across three London boroughs, evading the strategic overview and investment that it needed.
This would come with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park built for the 2012 Games; an ambitious regeneration programme straddling the Lea has transformed the area between Stratford and Hackney Wick. Tower Hamlets and Newham are predicted to be the two fastest-growing inner London boroughs between 2018 and 2028 (the Lea’s other area, Hackney, is the fourth fastest).
“East London, particularly along the river Lea and into the Olympic Park, is set to provide a significant proportion of London’s new housing,” says Patrick Gower of Knight Frank. “It is well suited for new residential development due to its proximity to London’s main financial centres in the City of London and Canary Wharf, and its relative value compared with other locations so close to central London.”
Over the next two decades, the Lower Lea Valley – an area that includes Bromley-by-Bow, Stratford,
The river Lea in the Olympic Park, left; main and below, Mount Anvil and Peabody’s Three Waters in Bow Creek, starting from £371,500