The River Lea – from Stratford to Limehouse

What a wonderful river the Lea is. Running from the hills near Luton to the Thames at Limehouse, it’s supplied the capital with water for hundreds of years, as well as providing a navigable route from the interior to London when roads in this country were nothing more than tracks used by bog-eyed rustics in beige smocks. 

Today, the Lea is for the most part a leisure river, its swampy hinterlands providing a visible green wedge that slices through east London and beyond, a reminder that this apparently permanent metropolis exists only because nature lets it. 

Near the river’s exceedingly bendy delta – can I say that? – there are canals, islands, mills and bridges aplently, with the Limehouse Cut jetting off from the main river until it too ends, as you would expect, in Limehouse.

And here, where once there were opium dens and secret drinking dens, there are now gastropubs and tasteful apartments by the score, full of gastro-people and their gastro-kids. A microscosm of modern London and a fitting end to the Lea trail – a river that is both mysterious and visible, a river to be explored and enjoyed. 


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