Sweet Cookies, gin-an-tonic, a warm walk and chilli meal at Three Mills.

An extra May event was added to EFOG’s programme by Eleanor, suggesting a visit to the House Mill at Bromley-by-Bow on 12th May to see the Sweet Cookies, an Essex-based female close harmony group.

housemill 190512 165806136 artJinan and I met at Stratford to walk from there to the Three Mills complex, on a lovely, sunny late Sunday afternoon. Stratford, of course – since the Olympics – has changed and is changing considerably, so the first part of our walk was along the busy Stratford High Street, heading towards the Bow Flyover and en-canyoned somewhat by the high apartment and office buildings. More or less the only pre-Olympic building that is obvious is the Builders Arms pub, on the corner of Lett Road.

However, there is some openness still where the Greenway meets the High Street. The Greenway is the promenade pedestrian and cycle path designed by Bazalgette to top his Northern Outfall Sewer bank, and one can walk or cycle that some 3 miles to Beckton. Shortly beyond the Greenway we left the High Street for the relative quiet of a footpath alongside the Three Mills Wall River. On the west side – in the Sugar House Lane area, more apartments and other-use buildings are being constructed, but on the side we were walking there are just the back gardens of the older terraced houses of Stratford.

Soon, the open area of Three Mills Green is reached, with residential narrowboat moorings in the arm of the river. In the late afternoon light the views through to the Canary Wharf complex were not unattractive, while closer we observed a coot nesting in a convenient motor-vehicle tyre and a black cat being admonished and chased off by a carrion crow. Indeed, we could see its nest in one of the London plane trees further on.

housemill coot 190512 165919771artWe arrived at the venue a bit early, so we continued our walk through the historic Three Mills Conservation area and between the Lea Navigation and the river itself. We passed under the Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and the Upminster Underground Lines bridges, and went just as far as Twelvetrees Crescent bridge to view Bow Locks and from where we could have continued walking to Limehouse Basin and the Thames via the Limehouse Cut, or to Cody Dock and the Thames via the main River Lea.

However, our plan had been to go to the House Mill for the event, and so we returned the relatively short distance to Three Mills to see the Sweet Cookies, and the House Mill Volunteers.

We arrived as the doors opened at 5.30. The House Mill Volunteers might just sound like a part-time military unit from the Naploleonic Wars, but in fact it refers in this case to those people who manage to keep the wonderful House Mill open to the public on occasions, and even help host events such as this. So we were met very soon by Eleanor – whose idea it was to suggest this – and who is one of those who volunteer here, and our other group-member Marilyn, who is another. They, together with others, had prepared for the evening so that there was a bar available, and hot and cold snacks on the menu.

housemill 190512 192843983artThe Sweet Cookies are a female close harmony group, and were accompanied by a male electric piano player. They entertained us with a wide range of music – from folk and show songs to jazz and modern pop. And very entertaining they were too, leading to a very pleasant couple of hours. As well as Jinan and myself – and of course Eleanor and Marilyn – a couple of other EFOG members joined us: Marian and Karen, together with Karen’s husband.

After the music evening, Jinan and I walked back along the riverside to Stratford High Street, and hence made our ways home.

As well as providing a really nice evening of entertainment for us, the event was also valuable in contributing to the ongoing Restoration Project that is is taking place at the House Mill. The event was free, but contributions afterwards and the sales of food and drink would all help towards this. The goal is to restore the heritage water wheels of what is the largest surviving tide mill in the world to working condition. Once complete, the wheels – powered by the tide – could provide enough energy to power the House Mill, with capacity to provide a regular income from the excess electricity generated. This, of course, is all without the emission of CO2 – which just might contribute something to saving our planet.

As an extra thought, a couple of our members during the evening mentioned that they were unable to participate in any of the group’s walks at weekends, and we thought that maybe we should try to organise something for weekdays. Another walk around the Bow Back Rivers, down the Lea Navigation and river via Three Mills and Cody Dock to the Thames just might be an idea to facilitate this?

Paul Ferris, 14th May 2019