Photo: Peter O’Connor
The River Lee is a natural river that has been improved for navigation, with straight sections added in to shorten the route. It’s also seen improvements brought about by the 2012 London Olympics – a new riverside walkway has been created at the A11 in Bow, the towpath improved for walkers and cyclists, and the House Mill in Three Mills has been restored.
Start the walk at Three Mills in Bromley-by-Bow (nearest tube is Bromley-by-Bow), so named because of flour mills established here in Saxon times, driven by sea and river water at high tide. Mills produced flour here until the mid-18th century, and today you can visit the Grade I-listed House Mill on Sundays from May to the end of October. From Three Mills it’s a short walk along the Lee Navigation to Limehouse Cut, a waterway that took three years to dig before its opening in 1770.
Walk for a mile and a half to Limehouse Basin, the gateway between the River Thames and over 2,000 miles of navigable canals. This area is named Limehouse because of lime kilns that were situated near the Thames, but originally this basin was known as Regent’s Canal Dock, as it was also the entrance to Regent’s Canal.
Be sure to call in at The Grapes in Limehouse to mark the end of your walk. This remarkable little boozer overlooking the Thames was established in 1853 and is one of the oldest pubs in London. It was even frequented by Charles Dickens, who is reputed to have danced on the tables. The landlord is none other than Sir Ian McKellen. We’ll drink to that!
For the return journey, hop on a train at Limehouse, which is on the DLR line.