Hackney can be a wild beast if you know where to look. And, no, that doesn’t mean the Kingsland road at some ungodly hour on a Saturday morning. Rather, it means Walthamstow and Hackney marshes, where the city falls away to reveal acres of green space and hours of country-esque ground to roam.
Hackney walk info:
- 5/6 hours long
- Accessible by foot/bike
- Comfortable, sturdy shoes and pre-packed food and drink recommended
- Nature reserve and plenty green space along the way
- For day-trippers, ramblers and inner-city escapists
- Nearest stations are Stamford Hill and Homerton overground.
A good, solid trek starts in Stamford Hill where there are Jewish bakeries full to the brim with sticky pastries and fresh bread -but not this weekend because its Passover and the bakeries are all closed. A bag of vitals is essential for this one because once you hit Walthamstow marsh, there’s not a convenience store in miles (though there are a couple of pubs). Fortunately there is a large Sainsburys at the cross roads. Once you’ve got your grub it’s literally all downhill from there.
Follow Clapton Common road until Spring Hill on the left-hand side, which leads to the gorgeous confines of Springfield Park, a decent sized area complete with kids play area, rolling hills and lovely picnic spots. It’s a good place to have a stroll and start the mini-sabbatical away from the city that lies ahead. If you don’t do picnics, there’s an old-school tea-shop just by the canal bridge that leads onto the marsh. It serves trad-British lunch staples like Shepherds Pie and cans of Coke. There are seats outside if you want to take tea by the canal, too. It’s all very kitsch and reminiscent of Devonshire which adds to the fantastic fact that there isn’t a kebab for sale in at least a 3 mile radius.
View East London Lines – Hackney Walk in a larger map
Walking this particular part of Hackney is great because there are so many possible routes. At this point you can follow the path alongside the Lea canal up toward Tottenham or further into Hackney. It’s great for bikes, joggers or people who want an easy walk that can be navigated without an A-Z. If I had a bike I would have bombed along the path, but being on foot I chose to get stuck into the marshland.
Once I was up and over the bridge I started to get a sense of how sparse the area is. From here you enter the marsh by the side of Warwick reservoir, where iron fencing and overgrown bushes create a rather sinister setting. But once you navigate the rough shrubbery, you’re plunged straight into the marsh and some of the greatest outdoors London can offer. You’ll be joined by dog-walkers, bird-watchers and ramblers, who all raise a smile and nod hello as they pass. The marsh is like a well kept secret for people making a pilgrimage toward peace and quiet and everyone you see acknowledges that fact. It’s a good place to escape.
Walthamstow marsh is rough and ready. Train track splits it into pieces and graffiti art sprouts in random places. The most astounding thing is the silence; apart from passing carriages, the hum and buzz of the city totally fades away. On the border between it and Hackney marsh is the Lee Valley nature reserve which is good for further exploration, especially with kids. Around here are also the filter beds, long defunct, that now serve as a cool piece of history dating back hundreds of years. They have a really interesting, psychedelic atmosphere which is intimidating and curious at the same time.
Hackney marsh, on the other hand, is a lot more straight-laced. The grand cinematic quality of before is replaced by endless flat green ground on which scores of football and rugby pitches are marked out. The path by the canal is pleasant if you head straight down toward Homerton, or more scenic if you follow it up and round toward the east, or you can trek straight across the pitches so long as no-one is using them. I got real urges to gather a group of mates and start a spontaneous kick about. This is definitely a summer hotspot for amateur footballers looking to recreate the moves of their heroes!
By now, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be weary and ready for a rest. Mabley Green in Homerton is round the corner if you fancy relaxing in more nice green space. Or you can brave one of the east end boozers up the road toward the centre of Homerton. Beware though: it will take you a few minutes to readjust to the full flow of the city. The walk through the marshes is so therapeutic that it’s easy to forget how hectic London is, if only for a few hours at least!
Hackney Playlist: Click here for a Spotify playlist to soundtrack your walk.
It includes a cinematic blend of Krautrock, Techno and Post-Rock from artists like Caribou, Errors, Gold Panda, Bonobo and Explosions in the Sky. You must have access to Spotify to use this feature.