Lea Valley (11.0 miles)

Route in figures

Route Summary








Large scale map
Route details

An 11 mile run almost completely off road, following footpaths along the River Lee, the Lee Navigation and the Hertford Union canal taking in Walthamstow Marsh, Hackney Marsh and a circuit of Victoria Park. The route is very flat. The run should be done during daylight hours as it is totally dark along the river after sunset and Victoria Park closes from dusk to dawn.


"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"

Lea Valley map

Start and finish

The route is described starting and finishing at the bottom of Spring Hill next to Springfield Park and Springfield marina although it could easily be started at any convenient point on the route. There is a cafe at the start/finish but no toilets. Plenty of parking is available on the road. The nearest public transport to this point are buses 253 or 254 to Clapton Common or Clapton station (One Railway). An alternative start might be from Hackney Wick station near Victoria Park.

Map of Spring Hill marina

"Digital Data © Geoinformation Group (2003)"

Route details

Mile Directions
0 From Spring Hill cafe, cross the footbridge and follow the track round to the back of the marina
0.1 Turn right through the gates and follow the track down the side of the marina and then along the East bank of the river
0.7 Pass under the railway bridge and continue straight ahead
1.0 Just before the ice rink, turn left across the grass heading on a slight diagonal towards the small bridge at the far side
1.1 Cross the bridge and turn right along the footpath passing under the Lea Bridge Road via the underpass then through the old waterworks to a bridge over the river Lee
1.5 Cross the bridge, turn left then continue on the footpath with the river on the left and Hackney Marsh on the right
2.8 Turn right at Homerton Road
3.1 Turn right down to the Lee Navigation and then through the gate onto the towpath and sharp left
3.3 Pass under the motorway flyover
4.0 Turn sharp left up the cobbled ramp at White Post Lane, left over the bridge and left again onto the other side of the Navigation and continue onto the towpath of the Hertford Union Canal
4.3 Pass under the A12 road bridge
4.5 Turn right up the ramp at the gates and left into Victoria Park, keeping left in the park
5.2 Exit the park at the Grove Road roundabout, cross the road and re-enter the other half of the park, following the periphery road with the lake and fountain on the right side
5.6 Go straight on through next gates and continue round the periphery
6.3 Cross Grove Road at the gates by the Royal Inn on the Park and re-enter the park again
6.9 Victoria Park Harriers clubhouse
7.4 Exit the park and turn right down the ramp to the Hertford Union Canal towpath then turn left
7.9 Rejoin the Lee Navigation
8.0 Turn right at the top of the ramp, over the bridge at White Post Lane, right again down the cobbled ramp and sharp right onto the Lee Navigation towpath
8.5 Pass under the A12 flyove
8.8 Pass under Homerton Road bridge to reach Hackney Marsh
9.9 Follow the path over the bridge just beyond the old filter beds Nature Reserve
10.0 Princess of Wales pub then under the Lea Bridge
10.5 Anchor and Hope pub
11.0 Finish where you started at Spring Hill cafe

Sights and history

Walthamstow Marsh is now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. It was once an area of lammas land (strips of meadow used for growing crops and grazing cattle.) Although there are now numerous reservoirs north of Coppermill Lane, the area of marsh below escaped both development and use for gravel excavation (just) to becoming an untouched refuge for wildlife, crossed only by the railway lines in 1840 and 1870. It is the home to many birds including a large number of herons.

Walthamstow Marsh was the location of Alliot Verdon Roe's later attempts to build and fly his early aeroplanes. Despite many failed attempts, Roe continued his experiments and there is now a blue plaque commemorating his first successful flight (in July 1909) on one of the railway arches he worked from.

Hackney Marsh, a former haunt of highwaymen, is now one of London's largest playing fields. It is the home of minor league football and there are many games played here every weekend throughout the season.

The River Lee (or Lea) and Stort Navigation have been used as a means of commercial navigation since Roman times. Unlike the other canals in London it is a canalised river, not an entirely new canal. Work on improving the river's navigability is recorded as early as the fourteenth century and in 1425 there was an Act of Parliament to provide for further improvements. The navigation was much used for carrying grain for beer and bread. The canal era was marked by the passage of the River Lea Act 1766 which authorised much more extensive improvement works and the construction of locks, new sections, and the Limehouse Cut, a connecting canal at the southern end. There were substantial improvements in the nineteenth century with a further act being passed in 1850 to authorise new sections and locks. The Lea Conservancy Act 1868 placed the navigation in the hands of a new conservancy board. The twentieth century also saw great improvements, with a major scheme being started in 1922 to enlarge and rebuild locks to enable larger vessels to use the navigation. There was further work carried out in the 1930's to provide for flood relief.

The navigation begins in the east end of the City of London. Access to the the Lee navigation can be gained from the Thames up Bow Creek (tidal and only navigable at high water), from the Thames via Limehouse Cut and from the Regent's Canal and the Hertford Union Canal, the latter being the recommended option. The River Lee from Limehouse Basin to Hertford is 27 3/4 miles long with 19 locks.

The Hertford Union Canal was opened in the spring of 1830. The canal linked – and still does – the Regent's Canal to the Lee Navigation, avoiding the distance via Limehouse and the semi-tidal Limehouse Cut. It runs alongside Victoria Park for much of its short length of just over a mile, with three locks. The canal is also known as Ducket's Canal after Sir George Duckett, its original promoter. It was never a great commercial success and for a time from the late 1840s to the mid 1850s it was un-navigable. In 1851 it was advertised for sale but no buyer wanted to invest in it. Eventually the Regent's Canal bought it and from 28th October 1857 onwards it became a branch of the Regent's Canal and from 1929, part of the Grand Union system.

Victoria Park was created in 1842 to a design by James Pennethorne and is of considerable historical interest as the first Victorian park to be owned by the public and designed for recreational use.

The Anchor and Hope public house on High Hill Ferry, near mile 10.5 is a basic, one bar pub notable for the fact that the previous landlord (an M.B.E. for services to the community) was there for over 50 years.

Ian Hodge