• The River Lea

  • Humans and nature

    "In this actual world there is then not much point in counter-posing or restating the great abstractions of Man and Nature. We have mixed our labour with the earth, our forces with its forces too deeply to be able to draw back and separate either out." - Raymond Williams (1980)
  • Favourate Quote:

    We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the twentieth century: our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it." - Aldo Leopold (1938)
  • Lea Valley and River Photos

    the greenway at plaistow station 2017

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    Lea Valley Navigation Walk

    Bracket fungus

    Edge of bracket fungus

    Silver Birch in April

    Pear blossom

    Dew on a white fritillary

    Snake's Head Fritillary close up

    Canoe Slalom 2017 Senior, U23 & Junior Team Selection Trials, Lee Valley White Water Centre

    More Photos

Cleaning the environmental and social conditions of the 2012 Olympic Park

The clock is counting down to the start of the 2012 Olympics in London. The main Olympic Park [map] is located in East London in heart of the Lower Lea Valley, which happens to be the same place I studied in my recently completed PhD. My research demonstrated the close correlation between the degraded environmental conditions and the disadvantaged social conditions in the sections of West Ham built on the wetlands. I ended my dissertation wondering whether the current multi-billion dollar project to clean up the environment for the Olympics might result in a comparable effort to clean out the socially undesirable people from this landscape.

An article in the Guardian, “Houseboaters being ‘socially cleansed’ from Olympics area,” suggests this process might be underway. House boaters are concerned that British Waterways are going to increase the mooring costs along canals in the Lower Lea:

British Waterways, which manages 2,200 miles of canals and rivers, has put forward changes to the mooring rules on the river Lea, in east London, that could increase the cost of living on the waterway from about £600 to £7,000 a year. Residents see the move as a deliberate attempt to drive them away. A draft note from British Waterways on 6 December 2010, seen by the Guardian, says: “The urgency … relates to the objective of reducing unauthorized mooring on the Lea navigation and adjacent waterways in time for the Olympics.” Continue reading

Remaking the Bow Back Rivers: environmental and social intervention to decrease flooding and unemployment in West Ham, 1905-1935

The recent past

The future

Promotional literature for the 2012 Olympic games promises to transform the environmental and social conditions in the Lower Lea Valley: “The natural river system of the valley will be restored, canals would be dredged and waterways widened… The rehabilitation of the Lower Lea Valley lies at the heart of the Olympic legacy to east London, restoring an eco-system and revitalising an entire community.”[1] This, however, is not the first time the Bow Back Rivers have been the focus of a major public works project with the goals of improving social and environmental conditions in West Ham.  Half a century of rapid industrial and suburban growth left the tidal Back Rivers of the Lower Lea in rough condition by the end of the nineteenth century.  The polluted and silted streams decreased the rivers utility for transportation, threatened public health, and increased the threat of flooding. Continue reading