London canal walk to Olympic Park
Follow the line of the Hertford Union Canal past Victoria Park to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on this short walk.
The water takes you in a straight line with Victoria Park remaining elegantly in your portside view. Also known as Duckett’s Cut, the Hertford Union Canal was opened in 1830 by Sir George Duckett as a short link between the busy Regent’s Canal and the Lee Navigation. History’s short ‘cut’ is now used by today’s busy commuting walkers and cyclists. Without twists or turns, this green-lined walk ambles ahead until the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park announces itself through wafting aromas of food and flags and Olympic tales.
Canal: Hertford Union Canal
Start: Hertford Union Junction OS Grid ref: TQ358832 Postcode: E3 5SH
Finish: Carpenters Road Bridge OS Grid ref: TQ373845 Postcode: E15 2HG
Distance: 2km / 1¼ miles
Start: At the junction between the Regent’s Canal and the Hertford Union Canal, the Regent’s Canal widens out like a lake and is bordered by dangling willow trees. The Hertford Union heads eastwards from here towards the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Grade II-listed Stop Lock Bridge takes the towpath up and over the entrance to the Hertford Union Canal.
1. Just beyond Old Ford Road Bridge, Old Ford Lock is right next to the southern edge of Victoria Park, at over 86 hectares, the largest in East London. The Grade II-listed Lock Cottage and stable block once used to house and refresh the hardworking horses toiling day and night to pull the cargo-laden boats along the canal.
2. Back at the junction, go through the gap in the Stop Lock Bridge’s railings and take the slope down to follow the towpath along the Hertford Union.
3. Boats are moored at Bow Wharf on the opposite side of the canal. The western end of the Hertford Union is in a Conservation Area and offers glimpses of its industrial past. A converted former paint factory now houses a gym, distillery, bar and restaurant. The brick chimney and lean-to at the side of the paint factory date from an 1896 steam sawmill.
4. Trees and homes line the canal then from Skew Bridge 3, the towpath is fringed by the lush green open space of the southern edge of Victoria Park. The Park, which opened in 1845, was the first public park to be built in London specifically for the people. It is the largest in East London, at over 86 hectares, and is one of London’s most visited green spaces, with over 9 million visitors a year. The Park slopes towards the towpath offering opportunities to sit, picnic or listen to the birds.
5. Gunmakers Lane or Three Colts Bridge is Grade II*-listed and dates from 1830 when the canal opened. The cast-iron and brick bridge is so-named because of a former gun factory nearby, and the housing development opposite is called Gunmakers Wharf for perhaps the same reason. The Hub Café is a short hop into the Park through the gate from here.
6. One of the lock cottages next to Top Lock is now Grade II-listed. Top Lock, also Grade II-listed, is one of only three locks on the Hertford Union. A path beside the lock heads up to another Park entrance, while the towpath continues under Parnell Road Bridge.
7. Between Top Lock and Middle Lock, the Park’s trees peer to the canal over a wall covered in colourful graffiti. Right next to Middle Lock, the canal entrance to Growing Concerns Garden Centre entices you to browse before the towpath dives under Wick Lane Bridge.
8. The A12 road bridge feels more like a short tunnel, and is again covered in vibrant graffiti and artwork. Hertford Union Bottom Lock is often used as an urban film and photo shoot location for its bright graffiti mural. Below the lock, Fish Island Village opposite occupies an area once full of factories and a network of streets (often named after fish such as Bream Street, hence the area’s name).
9. At the end of the canal where it meets the Lee Navigation, dynamic views open up of the Olympic Stadium, built for the 2012 London Olympics and now home to West Ham United Football Club, and the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture peeping from behind it.
End: The Walk ends at Carpenters Road Bridge, with handily placed canalside bars, cafés and floating barges all around offering the perfect waterside refreshment stop. Relax on the grassy banks by the water, explore the Olympic Park, hop on a bus or train, or walk back to the Regent’s Canal for a different viewpoint.