We are both sophisticates, you and I. We know our way around London. We know its history. Its famous places. We know where the bard took a pee after quaffing a pint.
Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan of 1944 might be most famous for setting out the principles of the metropolitan green belt, but along with the girdle he also envisioned a “green wedge” running for 26 miles down the Lea valley, from Hertfordshire to the Thames, with “every piece of land welded into a great regional reservation”. The principle was established by an act of parliament in 1967, which created the Lee Valley Park (known by an earlier spelling), a green lung of 10,000 acres that has long been a place of leisure along its upper reaches, with horse-riding, fishing, golf and boating, and “more open water than the Norfolk Broads” as its website proudly informs.
That is all great, but
The Lower Lea, on the other hand, “has always been about keeping people out,” according to Tom Holbrook of 5th Studio, the architects who have been working for the last 10 years to realise the final chunk of Abercrombie’s vision. “It’s a landscape of fences for obvious reasons,” he says, “as a place of sewerage pumping, gasworks, high-voltage cabling, car-crushing and food processing. It’s a problem-solving landscape, a place invented by engineers. Which, by definition, makes it a difficult place to access.”
And then came the 2012 Olympics! The plan was to use the Olympics to awaken the lower lea valley.
Curious how this turned out? Read on! And enjoy a cup while you are at it!