If you’re into street art or not, a walk around the Lea Navigation waterway and Fish Island is well worth the effort. Close to the Olympic Stadium, the canals of the area have been cleaned and spruced up whilst the warehouses and industrial buildings of fish Island now play host to cool cafes and trendy bars. I’ve heard it said, not a few times, that this area along with Hackney Wick is the new Shoreditch.
I’m quite fortunate in that I live quite close to the area and a walk along the waterfront is always a reward. Swans, Moorhens and Guillimots have begun to call the waterways home, the Olympic Park is close but not intrusive and there is some really cracking street art to be seen along the waterfronts.
The Lea Navigation and the Hertford Union Canal enclose Fish Island on two sides with the A12 cutting it off from the likes of Old Ford and Bow. The Greenway, a walkway along the top of the Northern Outlet Sewer completes the enclosement. As for it’s name, the place is so called because all the streets are named after fish. There is a Bream Street, Stour Road, Roach Road and Monier Road. Testament to the areas history as a place for the unloading and keeping of fish.
This tour is great for a summers day. It is targetted for the street art afficionado but would be enjoyable for just about anybody.
Start – Bow Church DLR
Finish – Hackney Wick Overground
Time – 2-2.30 hours
The Lea Navigation to Old Ford Lock
From Bow Church turn right along the Bow road towards the Bow Church. Cross the road at the crossing and head on down to the Mcdonalds which sits on the notorious Bow Roundabout. Cross over the roundabout and you will come to the Lea Navigation, a waterway bordering the Olympic Park. There is a floating walkway leading over the water, walk along and get to the other side where there is a tow path. Then walk left along the path towards Old Ford Lock.
A lot of work has been done to this walkway and it is a really nice place to spend a bit of time. Despite having the A12 as a neighbour, it is possible to forget about the presence of one of London’s busiest roads and to enjoy the tranquility. Wildlife watchers will not be disappointed as a lot of work has been done to bring wildlife back to the area which at one point in it’s history was so polluted that there was nothing but stench.
In terms of street art on this stretch there’s not much until you reach the Old Ford Lock but that’s okay it’s still a nice walk just so long as you watch out for the cyclists coming from all directions. At the Old Ford Lock itself don’t cross over, just carry on along the towpath. Crossing over takes you onto Fish Island proper but we’ll come to that later on in the walk. Back in the day, this was the approximate location of the original Roman crossing over the Lee, hence the name Old Ford.
Old Ford Lock to Hertford Union Canal
The waterfront on the opposite side of the Lea Navigation is full of art, the old warehouses are positively decorated in it. The likes of Sweet Toof in particular has been very active here but there are plenty of other artists as well. It’s a great walk with the Olympic Park on the right hand side as you carry on towards the Olympic Energy Centre.
Once you reach the Energy Centre the river goes under a road bridge. This is a great location for street art and is also the location of one of the coolest bars in the Wick, the Crate Brewery. This is a very nice place to hang out, drink the special Crate Brewery beer and enjoy the riverside. You can get a good view of the street art from the bridge itself so when you get there have a look.
Cross over the bridge and take the towpath back down the opposite side of the river. This takes you to the Hertford Union Canal which was built to join the River Lee with the Regents Canal. Further exploration down the Hertford Union will take you to Victoria Park and at some point in then in future that would be well worth a wander. Not for this walk though, our plan is to cross over the canal at the first opportunity to take us into Fish Island.
Hertford Union Canal to Fish Island
A footbridge takes you over to Fish Island which is an odd place. It is full of warehouses and uninspiring architecture yet it has a vibrancy to it. Keep walking along what is Roach Road and you’ll soon come to the Counter Cafe at a place called Stour Space. They do some great food here and it’s a lovely place to relax by the riverside if you wanted to take a break.
Follow the road round and it becomes Beachy Road then at the first left go down Stour Road. There’s some nice art here including a particularly impressive piece of work from Sweet Toof and Paul Insect in the yard of one of the business units adjoining the road. You need to take the first left again onto Bream Street and here we have a lot of interesting art to see along what is otherwise a long bland wall.
At the end of Bream Street turn right, left takes you to Old Ford Lock where we have just been. Right though heads along Dace Road and you need to continue along this. If you want a slight detour than have a look up Smeed Road when you pass it and have a look at the street art there.
Fish Island to Hackney Wick
Continuing along Dace Road takes you to Hackney Wick. Keep going until you get to the roundabout and cross over onto Wansbeck Road. Nothing too exciting here I’m afraid but it won’t take long to walk along. Keep going until you get to Rothbury Road, turn left and walk towards the junction with Wallis Road. Once there turn right and walk towards Hackney Wick Overground station. On the corner of the station with Wallis Road you’ll see the Lord Napier pub, a now derelict building but one that attracts artists.
If you wanted a drink then a little bit further down Wallis Road can be found the Hackney Pearl which is a nice cafe at which to get something to eat and drink. Hackney Wick station is slightly elevated and from the station itself a lot of art can be seen. Trains here will take you to Stratford in a few minutes from which you can get almost anywhere so is a good place to finish the walk.
For more Inspiring City Street Art Tours try: