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Lea Valley 4: Lea Bridge to Three Mills

Adapted from TfL's Lea Valley Walk

Section start: Towpath at end of Southwold Road opposite Section finish: Three Mills Bromley-by-Bow . Section distance: 3.2 miles (5.1 kilometres).


Section four starts at Clapton station and finishes at Three Mills, a distance of two miles. Alternatively you can continue on to section five to Limehouse Basin. Another short walk, this section takes you alongside the Lee Navigation where you may see passing narrow boats, whilst walkers can also take in a view of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and witness the ongoing transformation of the Lower Lea. Places of interest along this section are the Middlesex Filter Beds, Hackney Marsh, The Greenway, St. Mary le Bow Church and Three Mills. There are picnic spots along the way and cafes and pubs at Lea Bridge and Three Mills at Bromley-by-Bow.


From Clapton station, turn right out of the station on Upper Clapton Road and first right onto Southwold Road. At the end of the road continue ahead along the footpath until you reach the River Lea and turn right on to the Lee Navigation towpath.

Continue south under Lea Bridge Road and cross the river at the footbridge onto the far bank, with the wall of the Middlesex Filter Beds Nature Reserve on the left. If you fancy, take a stroll round the nature reserve before continuing on the towpath. The Middlesex Filter Beds were built in 1852 to supply clean drinking water to London. They have now become a walled nature reserve.

Don't miss the two works of art by local artists: Nature's Throne, nicknamed 'Ackney Enge', Hackney's own version of Stonehenge and Rise and Shine Magic Fish, the heads and tails of three giant ceramic fish that pop up out of a shallow pond.

Return to the towpath and walk under Cow Bridge. Hackney Marsh opens up to the left. Hackney Marsh is in The Guinness Book of Records for the largest collection (88) of full-sized football pitches in one place.

Pass under the Homerton Road and then under the two branches of the A12 East Cross Route. The Lee Navigation between these two roads is known as the Hackney Cut. The towpath continues alongside the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park which is now open to the public.

Hackney Wick station can be reached by taking the Wallis footbridge or continue the walk past the Copper Box Arena (on your left), one of the main venues for the 2012 Olympics.

As you pass under a railway bridge and a road bridge, the canal arm of the Hertford Union Canal (GTL00045) branches off to the right, leading to Victoria Park. The Hertford Union Canal is one of the shortest canals in Britain at just over one mile. It connects the Regent's Canal with the Lee Navigation and Bow Creek; this avoids the long haul around the Isle of Dogs. It's also known as Duckett's Cut after Sir George Duckett who financed the project in 1830 and charged a toll of one shilling per ton of goods he carried to get his money back.

Continue along the towpath to Old Ford Lock (GTL00602) where the River Lea joins the Navigation and the former Olympic Stadium can be seen on your left — now home of West Ham Football Club. The four red-brick lock keepers cottages at Old Ford Lock were used for the Big Breakfast television programme until 2002.

Cross the bridge over the Lea and turn right to continue south (turning left would lead back to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Bow Back Rivers). Pass the entrance to The Greenway on the left.

Continue along the towpath of the River Lea. Notice the large red brick building over to the right before going under the railway. This is the Bryant and Mays factory (GTL01524), built in 1861, which was made infamous by the London Match Girls' strike of 1888. This was brought about by the appalling working conditions with highly toxic phosphors; they were so bad the girls were said to glow in the dark. The present building dates from 1911 and produced matches until 1979 when it was converted to residential use.

The Lee Navigation runs close to the A12 East Cross Route; follow the floating boardwalk under the roundabout. Bow Road and Bow Church stations can be accessed by going up to the roundabout and turning right although take care with the traffic here — Bromley-by-Bow is the same distance ahead. Continue for a short stretch until another ramp leads onto Three Mill Lane. Turn left across the Lee Navigation to visit Three MilIs Island and the cafe and explore part of the Bow back rivers. Three Mills (GTL00076) is a remarkable collection of historic industrial buildings with the Grade 18th-century House Mill (GTL00030) as its centrepiece. This is the largest tidal mill left standing in Britain.

Section four finishes here. To continue to section five, take the towpath south between the Lee Navigation (on your right) and Bow Creek (on your left). To reach Bromley-by-Bow station turn left from the towpath up Three Mill Lane keeping the supermarket to the left. Turn left onto Hancock Road and then left onto the busy A12 Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach. Take the subway on the left to reach the station.

© GLIAS, 2021