Sandwiched between Walthamstow and Tottenham, Blackhorse Road is the gateway to one of the largest wetlands inside the M25, full of reservoirs, canals and marshes.
Round two and I’ve chosen Blackhorse Road – the penultimate stop on the Victoria Line. Sandwiched between Walthamstow and Tottenham Hale, Blackhorse Road doesn’t look like much when you get out the station: a busy crossroads with some kebab joints and a construction site; it could have been almost anywhere. But, I’m not someone who judges a book by its cover and I’m not going to start now.
For this day out, I had a companion and whilst I waited for him at the station, I decided to ask the TfL employees about the area. ‘See that construction site?’ – I nodded that I had – ‘that used to be the Standard. It was the best pub and live music venue round here’. One man lamented the lack of progress since the pub’s demolition in 2012; a musical hub transformed into a nugatory eyesore.
A similarly nostalgic view was given to nearby Walthamstow Market – the longest street market in Europe – which ‘is not as good as it used to be’. Apparently, you could get everything from the market back in the day, but now it was mainly fruit, veg and ‘pointless tat’. Their optimism was almost infectious.
However, good things come to those who wait, and I was then informed of the positive changes: the reservoirs were looking better than ever; the William Morris Gallery had just been redeveloped and the Grade II listed Granada Cinema had been re-opened as a pub. It looked like I had my route.
Reservoirs in London? Yes, in fact there are 10 individual bodies of water that make up the Walthamstow Reservoir and Blackhorse Road is ideally placed to explore them. Heading south, we decided to go clockwise around the wetlands, which first takes us to an old 19th century Copper Mill. The Mill, however, is now owned by Thames Water and forms part of a dilapidated, rusty and rectangular water treatment facility. A facility that’s bland outlook is juxtaposed with the impressive towers of the City, Canary Wharf and that DNA-looking thing in Stratford someway in the distance.
The pathway circulating the southern reservoirs takes you through Walthamstow Marshes, the Lea Valley Marina and Springfield Park, after which we found ourselves on the barge-ridden, bird-laden River Lea, where my companion asked if geese are female swans. I glanced at a sign highlighting the available activities in the Lea Valley to see if there was a bird-watching course that he could enrol in, but unfortunately there was not. He could go riding, ice skating or white water rafting though.
Heading north up the River, the rain started to reach a crescendo and so we asked a man on the path if he knew of a nice pub on the River. Luckily he did. A really great one. Whereabouts, I ask? In Goring. 90 miles away. Despite this helpful insight, I explained it may be a bit far for us. He agreed – he used to go up there to go fishing, but now only casts his line in the reservoirs; apparently, he got a 5lb Perch this year.
Delighted for this elderly gentleman and getting wetter by the minute, we resorted to Google to find a place to drink. The nearest place: the Beavertown Brewery five minutes away. The home of delights such as the Gamma Ray and Neck Oil has a very reasonable Tap Room, where you can try all their brews for just £2.50 each. Unfortunately, they only have a licence on the weekend, and it being a Friday, they couldn’t sell us any. Yet, they could give us some for free. Every cloud eh.
If you live in London, you have to learn to have a good time in the rain, but it was exceedingly heavy by now and instead of continuing around Tottenham Marshes and the northern reservoirs, we decided a proper pit stop was a better option. We therefore went to the Ferry Boat Inn, which had a knock-off Wetherspoon’s vibe. Two halves of Doom Bar were supposedly £1.75 each, but a mix up with the change meant we only paid £1.50 for the two of them. Bargain.
After a quick sojourn in the Paddock Community Nature Park, we set off for the William Morris Gallery. The Gallery is housed in an 18th Century Georgian home in the moated Lloyd Park and maps the life and work of William Morris – a designer, writer, conservationist and socialist, who believed that “beauty was a basic human need” and should not be the preserve of the privileged few. The Gallery contains examples of his furniture and wallpapers, which, despite his political reservations, seem to have found themselves onto the curtains of many an upper-middle class home.
Being almost 2pm and having completed around 13,000 steps, I once again couldn’t wait for a hearty pub lunch. Once again, I was wrong. The Mirth, Marvel and Maud pub – the alliteratively re-branded Granada Cinema – was not serving food until 4pm. A real shame – not just for my stomach – but because the place looked fantastic. The Foyer of the old cinema and music venue – which has played host to the Rolling Stones and Beatles in the past, as well as being a supposed favourite hangout of Alfred Hitchcock – has been dutifully renovated and looks an absolute joy. The epitome of a cultural centre, the new venue allows you to wine & dine, watch live music and comedy and tuck into a film. When it’s open.
Carrying on down Walthamstow High Street, we decided to eat in the first pub we could find: The Goose. A no-nonsense boozer, The Goose offered two meals for £9.99 and a pint of Tribute for £3.30. The food was average, but then again, the price was exceptional.
Overall, this area of North-East London certainly has a few tricks up its sleeve and, although sometimes feeling a little like a commuter town, I’ll definitely come back when the sky is a little dryer.
Price (for 1 person): £9.05
Time: 3 hours (4.5 hours to fully circumnavigate the reservoirs)