Meandering along the Lea

Meandering – to follow a winding course, to wander in a leisurely or aimless manner.

Meander originates from the ancient greek name for a river, the Maiandros, which flows through modern Turkey. The name has come to define not just wandering rivers but aimless journeys more generally.

This was my starting point to explore the Lea, London’s second river – a rambling path; rising in rural Hertfordshire and winding it’s way through East London to its eventual confluence with the Thames near the old East India dock.

Once an ancient trade route for transporting wheat for bread and grain for gin, more recently it’s path through East London has determined the boundaries of the island on which the Olympic park has been built.

What was once a site for flour mills has become a cultural icon – generating a transformation of what was once a centre for London’s furniture industry. While the timber yards and furniture factories have gone – a new city of narrowboats, pop-up cafes and shops have arisen – adding another layer to London’s history.

Yet these recent re-generations are not new. For centuries the Lea has been managed, re-routed, transformed and shaped over time to satisfy a variety of needs. Meandering along the Lea today reminds us that the urban environment is constantly in flux.