The London 2012 Olympics, held primarily at Stratford, partly within the borough of Newham, helped to kick start a transformation of previously neglected parts of east London. And from 2008 to 2012, Newham Cyclists (LCC’s local group) led a series of popular New Newham rides around what’s now called the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the largely unknown architectural sights of the borough.
Now the group has designed its new Parks & Open Spaces ride for 2020, in conjunction with the council and environmental charity, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The ride was originally set to debut as part of Newham Heritage Week in May, but this was postponed due to the Covid-19 restrictions. We’re unveiling it here instead as it also serves to highlight numerous spaces where Londoners can exercise safely.
CPRE London is part of a consortium of organisations promoting London parks through the GoParks website and is keen to promote similar rides linking green spaces in other London boroughs.
START/FINISH: Stratford station.
DISTANCE: 27km (17 miles)
GRADIENTS: Almost entirely flat, 30ft is the highest point!
TERRAIN: Almost the whole route is on quiet roads and bike paths, but there’s some short stretches on busier roads.
SUITABLE FOR: All types of bicycle. The ride is designed for cyclists riding at a leisurely pace and those who wish to enjoy the delightful environments and varied parks along the route.
MAP: A Strava route file can be downloaded as a gpx file for uploading to apps or GPS.
This ride does not visit the Olympic Park itself, most of which lies within Newham. Instead, the route concentrates on the many attractive smaller parks and open spaces, passing through or past Abbey Gardens (the site of Langthorne Abbey), Stratford Park, West Ham Park, Plashet Park, Priory Park, Central Park, East Ham Nature Reserve, Beckton District Park, the Royal Docks, Thames Barrier Park, Lyle Park, Bow Creek Ecology Park, Cody Dock, Memorial Gardens and Three Mills Green. Here’s a few select highlights on the route that shows the long history, and continuing interest, of the area.
The first stop is the site of Langthorne Abbey, founded in 1135. At the time, Stratford was then part of Essex. This Cistercian monastery was also often called West Ham Abbey after the parish in which it was located. By the time of Henry VIII, Stratford Langthorne was reputed to be the fifth largest abbey in the entire country, making it a prime target during the dissolution of the monasteries.
WEST HAM PARK
The largest park in Newham (other than the Olympic Park), it opened to the public in 1887. One of the most beautiful parks locally, it was laid out on the former grounds of Upton House, an estate dating back to the 16th century. From 1762-1780 it was owned by Dr John Fothergill, a Quaker physician and noted botanist, who planted a famous botanic garden here. The Central Park community café is an ideal coffee, or early lunch, stop on the route.
EAST HAM NATURE RESERVE
This is found in the grounds of the St Mary Magdalene Church, built around 1130 in the Romanesque style. It is the oldest Norman church in London. Lime wash was removed from interior surfaces to reveal Cistercian wall paintings. The 9-acre church yard is one of the largest in London.
THE ROYAL DOCKS
The first of three docks opened in 1880. The building of the 87-acre Royal Docks introduced a new world of commerce to the capital, drawing produce and people from all over the world. They survived the bombings of World War II and the economic downturn of the 1970s and 1980s to become a hive of industry and activity once again. Thames Barrier Park overlooks the magnificent Thames Barrier engineering structure that continues to prevent London from flooding.
One of our favourite places to visit in Newham. The Gasworks Dock Partnership has rescued a derelict dock on the River Lea and turned it into a community-based arts and creative industries quarter. A great place for a café stop.
THREE MILLS GREEN & THREE MILLS ISLAND
Mills in this area are mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. The House Mill is a grade 1 listed 18th-century tidal mill, set in a beautiful riverside location. The island also contains 3 Mills Studios, the largest film and TV studios in London.
Newham Cyclists is the local borough group of LCC. The Parks & Open Spaces ride will be added to the group’s programme once it is safe for activities to recommence fully. Please visit the website for further information about all the rides.
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