News (and stuff) from London E3

Saturday 7 May 2011

Memorial, She Attended

If you'd been standing by the bus stop opposite Bow Church this afternoon, you might have spotted a larger than normal car pulling up between two bendy buses. You might then have noticed four people getting out, one of them an 85 year old woman. You'd have seen she was dressed impeccably, in a navy jacket with cream slacks, and that her hair was a lightly sculpted grey. You'd have noted that she was a little unsteady on her feet as she walked, supported, to the nearby pedestrian crossing. You'd have watched her party cross and enter the churchyard gates, then walk down the long path to St Mary's door. And you might well have thought "hang on, I recognise that face from somewhere, but was it from the golden age of Hollywood or just some actress who did daytime TV?" And unless you knew what was going on, you'd probably have wandered off none the wiser. But yes, there really was a celebrity in E3's midst on Saturday - none other than screen legend Angela Lansbury.

Never fear, Angela wasn't here in her role as Jessica Fletcher, so there was no sudden unexpected outbreak of murders for her keen eye to investigate. Instead she'd flown over specially from Los Angeles to attend a memorial service for her grandfather, George Lansbury, who died on this day in 1940. The East End adored George, who became Poplar's Mayor, its local MP and ultimately the leader of the Labour Party. He never quite made it to be Prime Minister because Stanley Baldwin got the nod instead, and was edged out of politics in the late 1930s when his pacifism failed to capture the national mood. And he worshipped weekly at St Mary's, hence the special service this weekend. It's just the sort of event that Bow's latest rector liked to organise, and he'll have been instrumental in inviting Angela across the Atlantic to unveil a plaque to her grandfather's memory. Alas the Reverend Michael Peet died last month, following a recurrence of cancer, and his funeral was held at the church two days before George's memorial service. He'll be a hard act to follow - one of nature's natural campaigners, founder member of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Move­ment and a much-loved member of the community. St Mary's is celebrating its 700th anniversary this November, and Michael had a whole series of special events planned which will go ahead in his honour. But hereabouts 2011 is more likely to be remembered for the two commemorations of the first week of May. From Hollywood to Bow, they will not be forgotten.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Local news for local people

Bow Riverside: If you've looked down into the River Lea from the Bow Flyover recently, you'll have noticed a metal armada has invaded. The entire river's now blocked to traffic, unless you're kayak sized, brushed aside by a platform of flat barges topped off with tall metal pipes. These'll be here for five months during the construction of a new footbridge across the Lea, plus a floating towpath which'll finally allow cyclists and ramblers to cross the Bow Interchange in safety. This will be similar to the floating towpath on the Limehouse Cut only prettier, if this design mockup is to be believed. I've also found a model of what the final scheme's meant to look like, and there's rather more being built here than I expected. The eastern riverbank is being artificially widened where the new footbridge lands, while opposite a new zigzag path will be driven up to road level through a "complimentary waterside habitat" (as the dyslexic press release has it). And the whole thing looks to be one link too excessive, to be honest, because this extra exit emerges a few yards from the existing ramp on the same side of the road, thereby providing no useful additional crossing of either river or roundabout. The floating towpath will be fantastic for those following the River Lea Walk, and about time too, but it's bugger all practical use to us locals who want to cross the roundabout without being mowed down by traffic. This is a High Street 2012 project, in conjunction with British Waterways and the Thames Gateway Development Corporation, and their £2.5m investment in my local area is to be applauded. But as for their laughable suggestion that the Bow Riverside project "will reconnect communities", I can guarantee that nobody who lives around here wrote that. [photo]

Water Chariots: While we're talking local Lea, you've probably heard that there are plans for a waterbus service to the Olympic Park during the 2012 Games. What you probably haven't seen is the company's website. They're promising a ferry service to Old Ford Lock every twenty minutes, from either Tottenham Hale or Limehouse, the latter of which seems a perversely inaccessible launching-off point. A return trip will set you back all of £20, which sounds like somebody's jumping on the profiteering Olympic bandwagon. Or maybe you'd prefer to take one of the company's pleasure cruises to Victoria Park, price unspecified, during the months leading up to the Games. A canal trip's always lovely, except that the Limehouse Cut perhaps isn't the loveliest of waterways for sightseeing purposes. According to the blurb, the route involves "cruising serenely under the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road" (you what?), then passing Three Mills, "an area of exceptional beauty, right in the heart of the city" (apart from the giant Tesco on the west bank, sure). The boat trips are "due to start in March 2011", apparently, although the blockage I mentioned in the paragraph above means there couldn't possibly be any cruises before July. I'd love to see a local waterbus float, but if this business model survives eighteen months without sinking I'll be amazed.

High Street 2012: Even more pre-Olympic money is being thrown at a cluster of buildings around Bow Church to spruce them up and reverse years of neglect. About a dozen historic buildings between 161 and 205 Bow Road are benefiting from restoration work, with a special emphasis on "crumbling pointing, peeling paintwork, cracked render and eroded brickwork." The scaffolding's been erected only just in time to preserve number 199, which is on English Heritage's At Risk register, and until recently looked more like a slum clearance than a 17th century shop. Up the road I'm dying to see what enforced renovation will look like at the King's Arms, once the local pub, now a tawdry guest house with the most ghastly unprofessional stickyback-plastic lettering flapping across the front. Repairs continue until November, in line with long-planned restoration deadlines. And by Olympic Marathon Sunday the scrubbed-up heart of Bow should be ready to face the world's TV cameras... if only any of them were passing by.

Cycle Superhighway 2: Aren't they making a mess trying to drive a blue bikelane along the A11? Weeks of digging up pavements, merely to make the road one metre wider. Traffic lights disassembled, fractionally shifted and realigned. Paving slabs relaid so that the surface level is no longer flat. Titchy strips of off-street cycle lane that'll improve rider safety for approximately six seconds. Etc etc etc. Next week a month and a half of reconfiguring starts on the Bow Roundabout, and I for one am fearing the worst. Expect a much longer post on this subject when managers finally claim the project to be complete.

Saturday 15 January 2011

Mmm, local Bow news:
• The Olympic Marathon's still not coming to Bow, despite much protest. On a similar theme, but much smaller scale, one of London 2012's directors took his team for a jog around Bow last week. Past the Bromley-by-Bow Centre, along Roman Road and around Vicky Park, before returning down the Greenway to Three Mills. And he enjoyed running around Bow so much that he blogged about it, at length. Brilliant local stuff. And yet, in praising the wonderfulness of the area for running, simultaneously incredibly bloody tactless.
• Keen-eyed viewers of Thursday's EastEnders will have spotted the platforms at Walford East making their very first on-screen appearance as Charlie Slater made his farewell from the series. Keen-eared viewers will have heard "The next station is Bow Road", which seemed finally to confirm the long-held understanding that fictional Walford East takes the place of Bromley-by-Bow on the District line. However, even keener-eyed viewers will have been disappointed to spot a Northern line train rolling into the platform. Alas it seems that all the scenes were filmed at East Finchley, umpteen miles away from E3.
• TfL have finally got round to publishing the implementation programme for the installation of Cycle Superhighway 2 between Aldgate and Bow. Worryingly it appears they think they've finished the stretch between Mile End and Bow Road stations (apart from a replacement toucan crossing to be installed next month). Sorry, but if that intermittent unsafe blue strip is supposed to be be finished, then the project's a complete joke. Work from Campbell Road to the Bow Roundabout starts on March 10th (sheesh, for 66 days), and at the roundabout itself on March 29th (for 25). No details of these final two construction packages are yet available, but I hope they're a damned sight more practical than the last attempt.
• DLR users between Bow Church and Stratford should be aware the railway will be shut next weekend, and the Sunday after, and the first two Sundays in March, and the following weekend, and the first Sunday in April, and the following weekend, and the whole of the Easter weekend, and the long May Day bank holiday weekend [full dates]. All of this is "due to Crossrail engineering works", more specifically construction of the Pudding Mill Lane Portal, so expect further regular closures between now and September 2013. In better news, Crossrail works will no longer require the diversion of two sewers in Wick Lane, meaning that Grove Hall Park will no longer need to be hijacked as as a construction site.

Friday 7 January 2011

The Balfron project

West London's Trellick Tower has a less famous older brother on the other side of the capital. That's the Balfron Tower - a Brutalist 27-storey apartment block, located just north of the Blackwall Tunnel. Both have a similar silhouette, both were designed by Erno Goldfinger, and both are admired from the outside by people who'd probably never dream of living on the inside. The architect himself was an exception. Goldfinger and his wife moved into the Balfron Tower soon after it was built, and spent a couple of months living in flat 130 on the top floor to find out what living here was like.

The latest creative type to move in is Australian artist Simon Terrill. He spends his time visiting communities, gaining their trust and then taking a giant photograph. He's been able to do that here in Poplar courtesy of the Bow Arts Trust, who moved him in as artist in residence and enabled the realisation of his project. The Balfron Project.

The key date: Thursday 18th November 2010. Simon encouraged residents at the tower to be at home around 6pm, then to come out on their balconies (or wherever) for an hour while the event took place. He set up cameras and catering outside, and illuminated the entire front of the building with bright spotlights. Then he stood on a nearby rooftop taking photographs approximately five minutes apart - ten separate images in total. And from these he eventually picked one picture that best represented the people of Balfron and their beguiling building. This single image has now been printed out, on the rather-large side, and forms the culmination of the entire undertaking.

That photograph is currently on view at the Nunnery Studios on Bow Road. This is the public face of the project, for the next three weekends, so that residents (and the rest of us) can drop in and see what they looked like.
The Balfron Project
Gallery Event
06 Jan 2011 - 23 Jan 2011
Opening times: Friday - Sunday: 1 - 5 pm
It's not the most inviting gallery, the Nunnery, from the outside. Hidden up a side alley near Bow Church, rarely signposted to catch passing footfall, and requiring a ring on the doorbell to gain entry. But things are more welcoming within. Three rooms in total, the first with a language-mangled Tower of Babel theme. Someone's had fun jumbling up various literary forms, from email to poetry, although the impenetrability wears a little thin after the first couple of sheets. Other than that, the entire exhibit's text free. If you don't ask the curator, or if you haven't read up in advance, you won't have a clue what's going on.

Next up, rather wonderfully, a timelapse film of the entire recording session viewed from afar. It starts in daylight, with late afternoon rain splotching against the camera until eventually (thankfully) it dries up. Clouds rush past as dusk falls, and the traffic on the A12 transforms into a stream of headlamps. At this scale the residents look really tiny, but some are visible as they wave to the camera, and there's definitely a disco underway in one of the flats on a halfway floor. The hour of official illumination speeds by, then the lightshow fades and the Balfron returns to peaceful night. Throw in a slideshow at the other end of the gallery showing the residents out and about and dressed up on the day, and you get a real flavour of what fun the photoshoot must have been.

Finally, with the third gallery to itself, Simon's photograph. The tower's six foot tall at this scale, easily large enough to pick out what's going on in some of the flats and balconies (yes, definitely a disco). A family group peers out from one of the windows in the liftblock walkways. There's a premature Christmas decoration top left, and three great lights blaring out from the roof. Some of the residents didn't play ball, and their flats are dim, or maybe they belong to the people standing out front at ground level in warm winter woolies. The mural invites close examination, maybe even to reveal "ooh look, that's me!"

Don't come specially from the other side of town - you may take longer walking from Bow Road station than you'll spend inside the gallery. But what a great idea to take a snapshot of a building and its community and to exhibit it with pride. The most unusual fraction of a second in the life of the Balfron, forever captured.

Saturday 11 December 2010

Cycle Superhighway 2

CS2CS2 isn't officially due to be operational until next Summer, but the latest of Boris's bank-sponsored cycle lanes is already making an appearance. A blue stripe has been daubed along parts of Bow Road and Mile End Road over the last week or two, and bikes are already speeding their way along. Sounds great? I'm not convinced.

The road from Aldgate to Bow ought to be perfect for the addition of a dedicated cycle lane. It's relatively straight and there's plenty of room - the road's wide enough to have supported both trams and traffic back in the early 20th century. Indeed there's been a cycle lane along the road for several years, it's just wasn't as wide as Cycle Superhighways are supposed to be. The old lane was less than a metre wide, which isn't entirely conducive to feelings of safety. The new lane's the requisite metre and a half, which is much better. But you still wouldn't catch me dead using it, for fear you'd catch me dead.

Problem 1) It's still just a cycle lane. It's not segregated from the rest of the traffic at all. No thanks, not for me.

Problem 2) Bow Road is wide enough for a narrow cycle lane and two lanes of traffic. But it's not wide enough for a wide cycle lane and two lanes of traffic. All that's happened so far is that the new blue stripe has encroached on the inside lane and shrunk it, meaning it's no longer wide enough for a lorry, bus or coach. Traffic is now forced to trespass on the Cycle Superhighway because left-hand wheels have to go somewhere. As things stand, CS2 is much more likely to be full of traffic than its narrow predecessor.

Problem 3) OK, there are probably plans to repaint the existing white lines to equalise the two non-bike lanes. But I fear this would simply shrink both lanes to impractical widths too narrow for buses and broad-chassis traffic. It's therefore possible that Bow Road will, in places, be restricted to a souped-up bike lane and one lane of traffic, rather than the current two. Great for cyclists, but expect snarled-up jams of cars and lorries as the capacity of the road suddenly shrinks. We'll see.

Problem 4) As a cyclist, the one thing you really don't want to end up underneath is a bendy bus. Along Bow Road we have lots of those trundling along route 25. More importantly we have lots of enormous bus stops, increased in size six years ago to be long enough to fit two-and-a-half bendy buses. Our bus stops are a massive 45 metres long, creating corresponding 45m gaps in the blue striped Cycle Superhighway. These huge bus stops won't be required next summer when the 25 is due to revert to double decker operation. But I bet nobody at TfL thinks to shrink Bow Road's bus stops down to normal size after the bendies go, and the unnecessarily large gaps in CS2 will remain.

Problem 5) Bus stops aren't the only street features creating gaps in the Cycle Superhighway. We have a ridiculous number of pedestrian crossings along Bow Road, so the stripe regularly breaks for those. And for road junctions. And for laybys. Indeed, the newly laid Cycle Superhighway is split into at least ten separate chunks, and that's over a stretch less than a mile long. The blue lane stops starts stops starts stops starts, which ain't great. I hope there's more blue paint on its way, to link things together, otherwise this intermittent stripe is a bit rubbish.

Problem 6) TfL posted me a leaflet three months ago which promised "From Autumn 2010 a section on our webpage will be showing further details of what will be implemented, and where. We will also show details of the timing of any works which may affect local residents and businesses." It isn't there. Work has started on CS2, and nobody's telling us anything. That new layby beside St Clements Hospital, that should have been online somewhere, but it's finished already and not a mutter. Much public information was promised, but none's been delivered.

Problem 7) The Cycle Superhighway's blatantly not yet finished. I'd hope that many of the problems I've mentioned above will be sorted out before the official opening next summer. And yet someone's already been along and written "CS2" on the road at regular intervals, as if to give the fledgling Cycle Superhighway some unwarranted legitimacy. Bad thing. If it's not yet ready, don't tempt cyclists onto it.

Problem 1 again) Even when it's finished, it'll still be nothing but a souped-up cycle lane. It won't be segregated from the rest of the traffic at all, it won't be safe. No thanks, not for me.

Friday 10 December 2010

Olympic update

London 2012  Olympic update
  Can we check your car please?

One of the interesting side-effects of living on the edge of Stratford is that the Olympic Delivery Authority sometimes send you letters. Dear Householder, they say, and then let you know about something 2012-related they plan to do on your doorstep. It'll be something that's bound to happen whatever you think, but they need to tell you about it because they have to tick the box marked "public consultation" .

Our latest local planning application is for a Vehicle Screening Area to be used during the Olympic Games in 2012. Organisers don't want any spectators turning up by car, but lots of vehicles still need to enter the park to make the Games work. Handymen to keep the place ticking over, deliveries of McDonalds burgers, visiting dignitaries in luxury coaches, that sort of thing. And it's clearly essential that none of these vehicles get inside the perimeter with a cargo of high explosive on board - hence the need for vehicle screening areas dotted around the edge of the park. We're getting one of these in Tower Hamlets. Squashed between the A12 and the River Lea, north of the mainline railway and south of Fish Island. Nowhere lovely, nowhere that'll be greatly missed. But planners still have to ask whether anybody minds, because that's the law.

You might expect that a planning application like this would be online. Well, if it is, I can't find it. I can't find it on the official ODA Planning Register, because that's an unfriendly mess with a godawful mapping interface. I can't find it on the London 2012 website's Planning Consultations page, because nobody's thought to include it there. And I can't find it on the webpage where information's held about "living near the Olympic Park". Admittedly there is a hotline telephone number to ring, but nobody's going to phone that on the off chance that there just might be plans for a Vehicle Screening Area round the corner. If I hadn't had the letter through my door, I'd never have known.

So, with zero information available online, I went along to yesterday's drop-in session at my local library. One venue, one day only - one chance to find out. There were no posters in the building, no announcements - nothing signposted. If I hadn't known the two folk in the corner were Olympic-related I'd have walked straight by. But yes, they had the plans for the screening zone out on a table and were only too happy to talk.

The entire takeover of the railway sidings and surrounding plant will be temporary, and the area will be returned to normal after the Games. There are two options, depending on whether the landowner of the northern half signs up or not. It'll be back of house vehicles parking up here, not spectators. A newly remodelled road junction will be created at the Old Ford turnoff on the A12. Really, it'll be nothing earth-shattering. Unless you're my one reader who lives virtually nextdoor, you wouldn't be interested.

But the bloke giving me the Olympic spiel let slip one particularly interesting snippet of advance information. Included amongst the many Vehicle Screening Areas there'll be one out east for Stratford's new Westfield megamall. As you might expect, shoppers driving into its multi-storey car parks during the Games should expect to be police-checked. More unexpectedly, these random screening checks will begin early, several months before the the Opening Ceremony takes place. There you'll be popping into John Lewis for an Easter gift or barbecue set, and your car might just be flagged down for an anti-terrorist once-over. The E15 police state kicks off prematurely, it seems, because security chiefs can't be too careful.

Our conversation was highly professional, and the ODA employees were able to answer all my questions. It was only after I'd turned to leave that I realised they hadn't once asked me what I thought about the plans. This had been a one-way transmission exercise, from them to me. They hadn't offered me one of their response cards piled up on the table and asked me to fill it in. They hadn't asked whether I was in favour or not, they'd just assumed. Indeed, in common with several other so-called 'consultation' events I've been to round here over the last few years, no direct consultation actually took place.

The Tower Hamlets Vehicle Screening Area will be built whatever local people think, however the authorities decide. In this particular case, that may be no bad thing. But in their general approach to public consultation and stakeholder engagement, I fear the ODA are merely ticking boxes .

Friday 22 October 2010

Mayoral Election Result

Lutfur Rahman (Independent) 23283 (51.8%, elected)
Helal Abbas (Labour) 11254 (25.0%, humiliated)
Neil King (Conservative) 5348 (11.9%)
John Griffiths (Lib Dem) 2800 (6.2%)
Alan Duffell (Green) 2300 (5.1%)
Turnout: 25.6%

So a petition from 8% of the electorate
triggered a referendum in which 30% of the electorate
triggered an election in which 13% of the electorate
voted in an independent Mayor for Tower Hamlets.

Yesterday Labour ruled Tower Hamlets, with 63% of the councillors.
Today they still have 63% of the councillors, but no power.

Rarely has a core vote been deployed quite so effectively in the face of an apathetic electorate.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Mayoral Election Day

Today is Mayoral election day in Tower Hamlets.
Alan or Helal or John or Lutfur or Neil.
Tough choice.

My polling card arrived several weeks ago along with an information pamphlet, and that was it. None of the candidates sent me anything else - not a leaflet, not a mailshot, not even a bar graph with arrows labelled "Cannot win here". There might have been some further background in Tower Hamlets' weekly council newspaper East End Life, but they don't bother sending me that any more. There was definitely some virulent propaganda in The London Bangla - a blatantly biased freesheet targeted on certain neighbourhoods in the borough. But I saw nothing targeted at me. It's a good job I remembered to vote anyway.

I normally vote on the way into work but this time I thought I'd vote on the way home. Rush hour, before it got dark, I emerged from Bow Road station to a barrage of leaflets. OK, so there were only two people handing out leaflets, but I made sure I took both. Only then did I discover I'd been given the same leaflet twice, once face up, once face down. Still, all credit to Labour for reminding homebound commuters that there was an election on, because I suspect most of them wouldn't have remembered otherwise.

My polling station's in a nearby school on Bow Road. Again there were canvassers outside, this time supporters of independent candidate Lutfur Rahman. But they were far too busy chatting to notice me wander up to the entrance, and completely failed to hand me one of their huge wodge of leaflets they had to give away. I picked one up out of the gutter on the way out, and saw that one side of the leaflet was an approximate copy of the ballot paper with a thumping big cross showing me precisely where to put my vote. A perfect pictorial representation for voters who don't follow written instructions, or spoken English, particularly well.

The polling station was not crowded. Indeed I was the only voter present, which I found surprising given the time of day. I was completely outnumbered by the five council scrutineers, two of whom dealt with me, and the rest of whom continued overseeing nothing. While they tried to cross my name off their list, I noted that only one other person on my sheet (out of about 50) had bothered voting during the previous 10 hours. Turnout up the slightly more affluent end of Bow looks likely to be rock bottom.

Not so nearby in Bromley-by-Bow. I passed the polling station in St Leonards Street at the end of the rush hour, after dark, and the pavement outside was seething. Canvassers, supporters, supporters of supporters, and a single policewoman keeping an eye on the lot. There was no unpleasant atmosphere and I was allowed to pass quite freely (indeed some of the folk with rosettes looked very disappointed when I didn't turn into the school playground as they'd hoped). But the contrast with my own polling station was stark. This was lively and animated, with the local Bangladeshi community considerably more engaged in the electoral process. Maybe that's because Helal Abbas lives just around the corner, but it wasn't only his followers massing outside.

I passed by one more time, half an hour before the polls closed. There were still umpteen political souls milling on the pavement outside the primary school, but now accompanied by two policemen. And a police van. And an unmarked police van. And even the Tower Hamlets CCTV van, parked up opposite to keep a recorded eye on proceedings. Did something kick off while I was away? Was there a big row between the Abbasers and the Rahmanites? No idea, but I've certainly never seen quite such a uniformed presence outside a polling station before.

Whatever the final Mayoral result, one thing seems clear. The final outcome will be decided by specific neighbourhoods that took great interest, and the apathetic will have do make do with whichever candidate those enthusiastic supporters select.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Three Mills

Britain's oldest, and largest, tidal mill is in Newham. But it's also in E3. It's the House Mill, at Three Mills. And it's open every Sunday afternoon if you fancy a look round.

Three MillsThere are only two mills at Three Mills, although there used to be eight in medieval times. One survivor is the Clock Mill, so called it has a clock on the tower [photo], and the other is the House Mill, so called because the miller's house used to be nextdoor. The House Mill's the bigger, and dates back to 1776 in approximately its current form [photo]. It was built to grind grain not for flour but for the distillation of alcohol, most notably gin. All that came to an end one incendiary night during the Blitz, and it took sixty years for the mill to be rebuilt and restored. A fine upstanding body of volunteers maintain the site and open it up once a week (once a month in the winter) so that visitors can take a look around. It's busier than it could be, but not perhaps as busy as it should be.

Unlike most modern visitor attractions, the café and gift shop are located on the way in. You can have a sandwich or a toasted teacake while your tour guide gets ready, and maybe watch the introductory video (if you can hear the commentary above the hubbub of raucous diners). It's all endearingly amateur, even the unlikely second hand book stall in the corner, and all the better for it. Eventually you'll be heading off up the metal staircase which links together the old and the new parts of the mill. The miller's house turns out to be the wholly new part [photo], containing offices and a penthouse conference room, although from out the front it's a terribly convincing fake. Up top there's a fine view of the tidal river, and how it splits in half to feed the two different mills on the site. You also get some idea of the grand scale of the Three Mills film studios nextdoor, once all part of the same refinery complex, and apparently a former distribution centre for Bacardi.

But it's the old mill you'll be wanting to explore. This is a splendid building, on several storeys, lovingly assembled from pine beams beneath a steeply pitched roof. Some of those beams are English Heritage replacements, but others (the chunkier, woodwormier ones) date back over 200 years. Health and Safety dictates you can't climb right to the top, but you can look up to see the wheel which hoisted sacks of grain to the high level bins. A series of hoppers and chutes directed the grain back down, ensuring it ended up between the right millstones at the right time, ready for the clunking machinery to whirr into action and get grinding. You have to watch your head lest you hit some wooden or metal protuberance, and watch your step in case you dislodge some trapdoor and open up a direct route to the floor below.

Eventually the tour reaches ground level, which is where the milled grain ended up and where the four waterwheels are. They're in two pairs, and also from completely different generations. The largest is a metal Victorian contraption, while the oldest is wooden and so fragile that the trustees daren't even touch it. All are controlled by their own sluice gate, and exist in a dark netherworld of decay and pigeon feathers. If there's ever any money going for further restoration, it's hoped that at least one of these wheels might turn again, powered as before by the ebbing tide. Alas, given that Newham can no longer spare any money even for local schoolchildren to come visiting, further regeneration may be several years off.