A Walk in the Wilderness
I went for a Sunday stroll across Walthamstow marshes.

On previous walks, I’ve often thought I had the fields to myself (apart from the cows, back down from Waltham Abbey to preserve the rare marshwort). Yesterday, there were pockets of people. I spy a man in the long grass doing press-ups. Naked. Oh, right. A pink bloke in y-fronts smiled as I passed. It was an outside cottaging area. Dave B* walked past and said “hi”.

The Lea splits and twists among the marsh, soundtracked by the old East-West rail link to Stratford. Freight trains trundled along and dive-bombing dragonflies pestered my progress. The embankment provides picture frames of London. From one, the Isle of Dogs sat in a haze, a fine juxtaposition with the cows in the foreground. From another the Gherkin peaked above the estate line.

Around the waterworks, well guarded by nasty barbed wire (what kind of thief breaks into a sewage plant?). Along Coppermill Lane and then a swift right, bit of backtrack caused by the Chingford overland line, then into St James Park. Not as grand as its west-end namesake, but pretty in a green space surrounded by oak way. Cross the fields (a bikini teen reading Potter) then into the woods. Here lies Dagenham Brook, a tributary of the Lea and as unpicturesque a river as you could imagine. Six kids on bikes came the other way, I smelt the weed first. No eye contact from me. Not stupid you know.

Still following the Brook, I head to Leyton Industrial Estate and pass the art storage warehouse recently burnt down by Brian Sewell**. From there, I blundered through to Markhouse Road. Stopped to get a Vanilla Coke in the garage. A man with Sideshow Bob hair was shouting and gesticulating, the heat of the afternoon feeding his temper. I bussed to the junction. The Lea Bridge Road isn’t London’s finest. The bus lanes are too skinny and the traffic lacks patience.

Heading roughly south, the Brook twists around Leyton FC’s pitch, almost tunnelled by weeds. As it winds towards Leyton, a fridge sits midstream. About here, the Brook begins to smell. And it isn’t pleasant. A final flourish through the ancient grounds around Leyton parish and then it disappears into the earth by New Spitalfields Market. I believe it goes under the new Asda and joins the Lea near Hackney Wick. The books I researched are vague on its subterranean course.

I retraced my feet and cursed my Birkie blisters. Back to the Lea Bridge Road, past the new E10 nightclub (Coming Soon, Kiki Dee!). Back home I flopped on the sofa, rewarding myself with football.

* See earlier Blog 7 post
** This view is entirely Mike G’s own and does not reflect Freaky Trigger’s own arson theories.