Walthamstow Marshes Landscape Design Framework and Proposals   


tel: 020 7613 3113
email mail@wwmarchitects.co.uk
1 Coate Street, London E2 9AG


A Cambridge educated architect called Chris Watson turned up at the user forum with the extraordinary idea of building yet another tarmac path right across the Lea Marshes. The purpose of the scheme was supposedly to increase access (especially from Walthamstow) but there was no plan to substantially improve either of the main access points, the railway bridge in Argall Avenue or the Cattle Creep in Coppermill Lance. In order to make this ghastly scheme more palatable, he suggested this was in some way the reinstatement of the ancient Black Path, probably because it is well known that some locals are keen to preserve the path. But this would be vandalism not preservation. (24/Feb/2010).

This is a link to a fairly detiled account of the WWM proposals.

Click this link to see an edited version of representation made to WWM and LVRPA.

Click this link to see LBWF account of the closely related Upper Lea Landscape Strategy, also designed by WWM.

See LVF response
Lea Marshes

As I understand your brief was to improve access and you have decided to do this by addressing the railway bridge in Argall Avenue and the gated path next to the ice rink.

Firstly I personally have no desire to see the black path reinstated. Clearly many will disagree with me. But whether it is reinstated or not, this has no impact on encouraging access since the problem is the railway bridge in Argall Avenue (and the cattle creep) not the paths through the marshes, which are already adequate.

Although there is clearly some disagreement about the reinstatement of the Black Path, I did not detect any disagreement about tarmac. No-one wants another tarmac path (as you suggest this path should be) and that appears to include some (perhaps all) of the horse riding fraternity.

If you do go ahead and build this unnecessary path, it would be wholly unreasonable to use this as an excuse to increase the area fenced off for the use of the horse riding fraternity. The net effect of this would be to diminish access and this runs counter to your brief.

I would point out that when the new fence was built around the paddock a year or so ago, the area of the paddock was dramatically expanded and should there be a need to compensate the horse riding fraternity, they have clearly already received more than sufficient compensation.

About the railway bridge (the main issue really) your comments were extremely hard to understand. There are a number of problems with this bridge:

(1) it is isolated, rarely used and the domain of graffiti artists and youngsters. This doesn't bother me at all but it does bother some.

Your proposal does nothing to solve this problem.

(2) The bridge covering makes it possible to imagine that nefarious activities will occur there. Again this doesn't bother me but it does restrict access.

Your proposal does nothing to solve this problem.

(3) The stairs are steep and make it difficult for the elderly or people with mobility problems to use it.

Your proposal was to include a series of ramps but without seeing this it is extremely difficult to give it very much credit as an idea. When wheelchair ramps are created to replace two or three steps, this is usually a major exercise requiring huge amounts of concrete and a lot of space. The space simply does not exist on the Argall Avenue side of the bridge.

Further even if you managed to solve the railway bridge problem there would still be the problem of the path between the bridge and the bridge over the Flood Relief Channel. This too is isolated, much graffiti spattered and the sort of place the elderly and those with mobility difficulties avoid. Simply ignoring these obvious access problems and driving a tarmac path through the marshes does nothing whatsoever to improve access.

Secondly your idea of improving the view of the Flood Relief Channel is ludicrous. Have you seen (or more to the point smelled) the Flood Relief Channel? There might be a case for screening it off with bushes but there is no case for improving the view of it or the factories behind it. Your secondary proposal to have a bridlepath alongside the Flood Relief Channel, however makes more sense to me. I can not see why the Flood Relief Channel is fenced off at all since, it is no more dangerous than the Lea Navigation. However, I can see that the Flood Relief Channel is considerably less accessed than the Navigation and consequently might pose higher risks for younger children. A bridle path solely for the use of the horse fraternity would not encounter that danger, for the most part anyway. Management could be such as to prevent young horse riders using it on their own.

Your idea of having a tree lined avenue running alongside the ice rink and leading to the marsh, would also be risible were it not for your hint that additional space will be taken for car parking. The main problem with the ice rink path is not the gates or the fence but the ice rink itself. This is noisy and smelly. Putting a tree lined avenue here will do nothing to make it a more acceptable space. Also if there are ways to manage the traffic (prevent unwelcome motorised users getting onto the marsh) why can't you just do that instead of spending a lot of money on something which will have no positive impact.

If you really want to improve access why not consider putting a sleeve round the road where the cattle creep is similar to the sleeve around the sustrans when it goes under the railway? When I raised this at the meeting you said the argument was that there would be a need for a power supply to run the pumps. I might point out that there is already a power supply (presumably) for the adjacent street lights and the lights in the cattle creep. Dave Miller tells me that the sustrans underpass has a pump and that the electricity is provided from the railway line. Since the cattle creep passes under a railway line it is difficult to see why a similar arrangement could not be made here.

Finally it is interesting to see an architect without a bow tie, but slightly disturbing to see one without a Powerpoint display. Given the complexity of your proposals, I know the marsh well and even I couldn't understand them, it would have been nice to have had the benefits of current technology.

Yours faithfully,
Jonathan Brind