The Greenway from Newham to Tower Hamlets

Newham's 'Greenway' began life as the Sewerbank aka Northern Outfall Sewer Walk.

Newham’s ‘Greenway’ began life as the Sewerbank aka Northern Outfall Sewer Walk.

The Northern Outfall Sewer, which runs from Wick Lane to Beckton sewage treatment works was designed by Joseph Bazalgette after the 1853 cholera outbreak. Walkers were able to use much of the land above the sewer and it was known as Sewerbank.

When drawing up a network of London Walks, as part of the 1990-1 Green Strategy for London, I called it the London Outfall Sewer Walk, as a wry comment on official attitudes to strategic open space planning. The scheme was displayed at a House of Lords lunch and Lord Strathclyde, speaking for the government, said he thought it was a ‘darn good idea’ but that he had one suggestion to make: the name. ‘I’d find a new name for the Northern Outfall Sewer Walk’ he said. Everyone laughed and not long afterwards Newham Council commissioned Land Use Consultants (LUC) to make Newham’s Sewerbank to The Greenway.

LUC did a good job of the landscape architecture but were not asked to undertake the just-as-important landscape planning. A greenway should either be a destination in its own right or it should link an origin to another destination. Planning for the 2012 Olympic Games created another opportunity. The Greenway was one of the few places from which construction of the Olympic Park could be observed. Adams & Sutherland were commissioned to redesign the section west of what became the Queen Elizabeth Park. It looked good during the games and was well used as a route to the ViewTube cafe. A section of The Greenway east of the park was spoiled by being hard-surfaced as an access route to the Olympic Games. Further east, and also forming part of the London Capital Ring circular walk, The Greenway has a pleasantly informal green character but few users. It has had two landscape designs – and it needs a third.

The west section of Newham's Greenway was upgraded by Adams & Sutherland for visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games

The west section of Newham’s Greenway was upgraded by Adams & Sutherland for visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games

Tom Turner

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2 comments on “The Greenway from Newham to Tower Hamlets
  1. richard says:

    Part of the lack of users is the way it’s unnecessarily stunted as an active transport corridor, sorely needed in this part of London. It’s not been possible to go the whole length for years between works for crossrail, the olympics and sewer maintenance. If it were it would link together two cycle superhighways and a comprehensive network of waterways. The combined effect would be a traffic free network covering a huge area of North and East London. It’s also closed at night, which further limits its transport use.

    Obviously landscape architects will call for more and better landscape architecture, but as a local person on a bicycle all I want is a smooth, uninterrupted, traffic free path that’s open 24/7.

    If it’s going to attract visitors, the more heavily trafficked end by the olympic park needs to be open! Otherwise it’s obviously going to just be restricted to local leisure use.

    • Tom Turner says:

      Yes indeed. The Newham Greenway should be fully open, should have a smooth track for cyclists and should function as a link between the two cycle superhighways, with good cycleable ramps. But it should also be as scenically and ecologically delightful as it possibly can be.
      The Euston Road is so-named because it goes to Euston. Calling it ‘The Road’ would be stupid. The Newham Greenway goes to Newham and just calling it ‘The Greenway’ is also stupid.

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