Out and About in Newham
Parks and open spaces
The London Borough of Newham, in spite of being one the more crowded areas of London, has over 20 parks within its boundaries, as well as smaller recreation grounds. The larger parks in the Borough include:
- Beckton District Park: contains a lake and has some natural areas
- Central Park, East Ham
- East Ham Nature Reserve
- King George V Park
- Stratford Park
- The Thames Barrier Park 2005 riverside park, developed following an international competition won by a team led by the acclaimed French landscape architect, Alain Provost, best known for his work at the Parc Citroen in Paris.
- Wanstead Flats, the southern-most part of Epping Forest comprising a mix of rough grassland and mown areas, meets the north end of the borough.
- West Ham Park
- Lister Gardens, Plaistow
Newham is a riverside borough, and one of the largest open spaces is the Thames itself. A riverside path exists, but flood prevention works can often make river views problematic.
- The Royal Docks comprise three docks—the Royal Albert Dock, the Royal Victoria Dock and the King George V Dock—built between 1880 and 1921 on riverside marshes. The three docks collectively formed the largest enclosed docks in the world with a water area of nearly 250 acres (1 km²) and an overall estate of 1100 acres (4 km²). The docks were constructed to provide berths for large vessels that could not be accommodated further upriver. The Royal Docks were finally closed for shipping in 1981.
- The River Lee forms the western boundary of the borough. The towpath is suitable for walking and cyclists. It can be readily accessed from Three Mills and provides access to Hackney Marshes and the Lee Valley Park.
- The Greenway is a shared footpath and cycleway running along the route of the Northern Outfall Sewer. It runs from Wick Lane in Bow, through Stratford, Plaistow and Newham. The route crosses a number of roads, but is otherwise traffic free.
Museums and heritage
London is home to the best museums in the world, all of them a short tube ride from Newham. But, as befits an area with ancient roots, the borough itself has a lot to offer visitors with an interest in London history.
The story of generations of native EastEnders and successive waves of immigration seeps from the very fabric of this unique corner of the capital. The long-tradition of industry, maritime adventure and working class life has left an indelible impression on the area, nowhere more so than the Royal Docks - in their day the biggest in the world.
For the visitor, there are a number of things to see when in town. The first stop will have railway enthusiasts all steamed up. North Woolwich Old Station Museum is the only steam railway museum in London and has plenty in store for all ages and levels of interest. Abbey Mills Pumping Station is a favourite with doyens of Victorian architecture. Designed by the legendary Joseph Bazalgette, the building has acquired the affectionate nickname 'the Cathedral of Sewage'. Three Mills Island is another 19th century treasure. This little-known part of London nestles amongst the waterways and wildlife found in the Lea Valley Park. It is home to the oldest tidal mill in Britain - a beautiful example of the architecture of the time. More recently the 3 Mills Film Studio has given new purpose to the location.
While the focus of historical interest centres on the docks and the stretch of river known as the Thames Gateway, visitors to Newham will also be pleasantly surprised to come across:
- St Mary of Magdalene - one of London's last surviving Norman churches
- The Old Dispensary - a 3 hundred year old dispensary on Romford Road
- The magnificent Thames Barrier Park
Shopping and eating
The expression 'global village' could have been invented for Newham with its great diversity.
A product of the borough's astounding diversity is a bewildering array of ethnic restaurants and shops from which to choose. Fancy Greek, Bengali or Nigerian food tonight? Then head to Newham. Pie & Mash or Sadza & Relish, take your pick.
The range runs from cheap but authentic cafés, where you'll eat with the locals, to docklands restaurants with stunning waterside views. If you're looking for authentic Asian food (rather than the usual English curries), you'll love Green Street, a maelstrom of spice, bhangra and gold.
While Green Street offers a good mix of Pakistani and Indian restaurants, it is perhaps more famous for its fabulous shops. Here there are stalls selling fish you never knew existed and vegetables and fruits whose colours alone are enough to entice you to buy. There is an amazing range of handmade jewellery, including acres of bangles and gold, sumptuous silks, intricate fabrics and aromatic spices for sale. Most of it at unbeatable prices.
Of course, Newham is just 20 minutes from West End shopping and has its own bustling high streets with all the usual stores you would expect. It also has a few you wouldn't, including a shop specialising in Dr Who memorabilia and another dedicated entirely to Elvis! Perhaps best of all, are the traditional East End markets, where the only things more plentiful than the banter are the bargains.
Art and Leisure
The new cultural quarter in Stratford is burgeoning. The famous Theatre Royal Stratford East, once home to Joan Littlewood's innovative stage company, has now been restored to its full 1900s glory.
The area also boasts the Rex concert hall which regularly plays host to the biggest stars in reggae and hip-hop, and the brand-new children's centre Discover - a unique, interactive space designed for kids to explore their imagination and enjoy new sensory, creative and hands-on experiences. Further south, in Silvertown, Newham plays host to the country's last traditional music hall - bringing a taste of the old East End into the 21st century.
Newham also has lots to offer in the way of sports and entertainment. Cinemas offering everything from the latest blockbusters to the very best of Bollywood have recently been joined by the prestigious ExCel Centre in the heart of Docklands. The new restaurants and shopping opportunities are great side-lines to ExCel's main business - bringing international exhibitions to East London. Recent events include the International Boat Show, Homes Overseas exhibition and the council's own Big Sunday extravaganza.
Not only is Newham home to West Ham United Football Club which has been producing top-class football and international talent - from Bobby Moore to Frank Lampard - for the best part of a century, but it offers a wealth of opportunity for those who want to take part in sport. From bowling to cycling to horse riding - Newham's got it. The completion of a £1.8million refurbishment programme for the borough's leisure centres and the revitalisation of the docks, mean the borough is now top of the list for anyone interested in swimming, sailing and water sports. And by 2012, of course, Newham will have some of the best sports facilities in the country when seven years of Olympic development finally bears fruit.
The borough has a number of parks offering sports and leisure facilities. From football to tennis, visitors can burn off some energy playing the game of their choice. For those looking for a less strenuous pursuit, East Ham Nature Reserve has nature trails teeming with local wildlife including foxes, owls and kestrels. With wheelchair access and a tapping board for white stick users, it's easily accessible for all visitors.
Newham's newest green space, Thames Barrier Park, offers waterside views over the Thames, a stunning fountain for splashing games in summer and a relaxing cafe for all year round sustainance. In contrast, East Ham's Central Park offers formal rose gardens, a bowling green and rare species tree trail. During the summer the park is home to a weekend long festival of concerts, Under the Stars, and also Newham's Town Show, a spectacular fair for all the family to enjoy.