Meandering along the Lea

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

Meander originates from Maiandros, the name of a river, which flows through modern Turkey. It has come to define not just a wandering river but aimless journeys more generally.

This sense of an aimless journey was my starting point to explore the Lea, London’s second river, which rises in rural Hertfordshire and winds it’s way through East London to its eventual confluence with the Thames near the old East India dock.

The Lea has played a variety of roles in London’s development and history – as an ancient trade route for transporting wheat for bread and grain for gin, a border between Middlesex and Essex and more recently it’s winding path through East London has determined the boundaries of the island on which the London Olympics were held in 2012.

For centuries the Lea has been managed, re-routed and shaped to satisfy a variety of uses, blurring the demarkations between the natural and man-made. These cycles of history have left their traces in the landscape – a treasure map to explore and uncover.

The Lea is a landscape that shifts between the natural and the man-made – shaped through centuries of human habitation. This is what makes London’s second river such an engaging route to investigate. It is an integral part of London but one often forgotten.

My Lea river walk follows a meandering course up and down stream at will, building an iterative series of impressions of my experience of the river.