A visit to Cody Dock

You may remember that EFOG gave £200 to the Cody Dock project - the Gasworks Dock Partnership - from money raised at last year's Rodings Rally. On Saturday 9th May, fourteen of us had a very interesting visit to Cody Dock, arranged by Duncan.

We were invited by Simon Myers - the CEO of the project - on board the Docklands Community Boat, The River Princess, which at present is out of the water and being used as a centre for meetings and talks. It is being repainted, and it is intended that eventually it will go back afloat.

Cody Dock duncan 150509 5464artSimon gave us an extremely interesting talk about the history of the site and how he happened to see the dock from his boat on the Lea and thought that something could be made of the area. He explained that the Lea riverside in these parts is a very under-used resource. Some few years ago a riverside path for pedestrians and cyclist was constructed as part of the Lea Valley Way. However, there are various aspects which have not been completed and make the path difficult to find and access - not least the fact that there is no suitable bridge across the entrance to Cody Dock itself, thus splitting two parts of an otherwise good riverside walk. This - with encouragement and assistance from the Cody Dock Project - is due to be remedied very soon, it is hoped. Once this and the other difficulties are overcome, the path and Cody Dock could be a wonderful place for people to relax, stroll, look at the quite amazing wildlife that occurs here and just generally enjoy in the otherwise quite deprived areas on the old Middlesex and the Essex banks of the Lea.

Cody Dock garden 150509 5471artThe sensory garden with the River Princess behindMuch of the dock had been in-filled with hundreds of tons of waste material - much of it illicitly - and one of the first tasks of the project was to find a means of clearing this. Although the dock is shorter than it used to be when in use, the remainder has been cleared - by volunteer labour! The area immediately around the dock has been "greened" by means of plantings in containers, and a sensory garden has been created. We were told about a YouTube film which includes a short interview with Duncan, made when the dock was visited by the RHS, with representatives from Kew Gardens, some notable "television" gardeners, and various news-crews as well.This can be viewed HERE.

If you go to Facebook, put "Cody Dock" into search and click on "Cody Dock Community Organisation". This shows all the Cody Dock posts, including photos dated 10th/11th April of the BBC visit for the London News. The film is "The RHS at Cody Dock - #Greening Grey Britain"posted on 7th May. Whilst we were having tea and coffee aboard the River Princess, Simon told us that Cody Dock will be opening officially to the public on 23rd May.

After looking round the dock area and seeing what has been done and what is intended, we left the dock to walk along the river path. This is the grand, wide path that made walking or cycling a possibility for pedestrians along this stretch of the Lea probably for the first time since before cycles were invented. This is the path that was designated in official project plans with the ludicrous name of "The Fatwalk". This has now - thankfully - been dropped. The path lies between the river and the Prologis Business Park - which itself is separated from the path by a 20ft fence. On the business-park side, lots of shrubs and trees have been planted - which is very nice except that they seem to be decapitated to form something of a hedge. On the river-side, there are strips of grassy areas which are full of wildflowers. Or they would be but for the fact that the grass seems to be close-mowed so much that it verges on scalping. Simon had mentioned this, and there is hope that Cody Dock may be able to take over the management of these verges so that they may become more ecologically friendly and thus more attractive for creatures and people.

Cody Dock twelvetrees bridge 150509 05482artThe over-managed path-edge, with Twelvetrees BridgeThe river is tidal here, and the rise and fall is quite dramatic. As we walked along, the tide was more-or-less out, so a variety of birds - particularly gulls - were feeding on the muddy banks. One gull was having a good go at a flatfish - probably a Flounder - that it had found. There were Cormorants, Mallard - including the local dark-form ones that we'd been advised about - Carrion Crows and probably other things down by the water, lots of finches by the path. A Kingfisher was heard and Reed Warblers singing in the Phragmites beds that occur here - all within easy reach and sight and sound of the jumble of car-breaking industries and the like on the Poplar bank. This was all backdropped by the money-towers of Canary Wharf - and the "flats" of Poplar.

Cody Dock twelvetrees memorial 150509 5483artBow Gasworks Memorial GardensWe walked as far as Twelvetrees Bridge - which is a road bridge that was used to access the gas industry site that was the reason for the dock being there. Now it is used for vehicles to access the business park, but only on business - it isn't open to general traffic. however, you can walk across it, and either get to Bromley-by-Bow station - which some of our group did - or to Bow Locks and Three Mills. Or indeed to the Blackwall Tunnel approach road, if you are so inclined. Just here are seven magnificent gas-holders. These are Grade 11 listed buildings - as is the bridge. Nearby is a small "secret" park. This is a memorial garden, laid out to commemorate those who worked at the Bromley by Bow Gasworks who died in the two world wars. There is also a statue to Sir Corbet Woodall who was Governor of the Gas Light and Coke Company from 1906 to 1916. An interesting fact: before the Gas Works the site was the gunpowder rocket factory of William Congreve. This factory provided the rockets fired by the British against the Americans in the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814. Those rockets inspired the line in the Star Spangled Banner: ‘and the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air’. Later, experimentation and production of gunpowder and associated weaponry was moved to Waltham Abbey.

Some of the group left us there, the rest returned the riverside way we had come, to Cody Dock, our cars or Star Lane DLR station, and home.

Thank you, Duncan, for arranging our visit in advance of the masses - we had the place to ourselves on a bright and not-too-cold day. Another great EFOG day out!

Maz Gamble and Paul Ferris, 11th May 2015

Duncan, Cliff, Frances, Fred, Ken, Louise, Lynne, Marian, Maz, Parviz, Paul, Peter G, Phil, plus a friend