Thames Water site visit - fantastic potential for leisure & nature

A focal point for Clapton, Walthamstow and the Lee Valley

Currently visible but out of reach behind steel fencing, the Red House is the outstanding feature of the Thames Water site opposite the Princess of Wales pub, Lee Bridge Road. On February 4th a group of local residents saw the area from the opposite side of the river.

Seen from the Thames Water site, the weir, the Princess of Wales and the Lee Bridge basin promise to be a wonderful focus for leisure, recreation and nature.

Thames Water gave a 1 hour guided tour of their part of the 6 hectare site, led by their operations manager. The Red House stands on land still used by Thames Water; the eastern part is leased by them to other contractors. 150 operatives access the whole site to pick up materials for works around east London; 6 people work full-time on site.

The site's greatest value is as part of the public open spaces of the Lee Valley but developers see profits should the site no longer be required by Thames Water, controlled since 2006 by Macquarie Group. Sources indicate that TW may be prepared to give up the site for a consideration compensating the Company for the loss of operational land and lease income.

The Red House is used as offices. The entrance hall has a large coloured glass skylight and a stair with iron balusters, timber handrail and stone treads. A superbly light and generous room on the first floor has a timber roof and large oriel windows looking east and south. The building is in good condition though some exterior stonework details have eroded and a lick of paint would not go to waste.

Two ranges of single storey industrial buildings are visible from Lee Bridge Road. Used to store iron-work and perishable materials, they are in good condition, the external round-arched walls built of attractive stock brick. Their pitched roofs have lightweight steel trusses supported on cast iron composite columns with interesting details.

An access road runs along the south edge of the site, surfaced with old granite sets; steel rails criss-cross it. Corresponding with the similar route on the opposite bank of the old Lea in the Middlesex Beds, this is another opportunity for public access to the river landscape, the existing concrete topping to the bank providing a great barrier between human traffic and the wildlife corridor of the water and embankments. At this point we were near the Freedom or Red Bridge. Here, fill materials from Thames Water works are stored, crushed and recycled and a permanent bore-hole to the underlying aquifer, extracts or replenishes water according to operational need.
Thanks to Katy Andrews for her persistence in finally getting us access.
David Rees

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