Hackney has established itself as a hot spot for its food & drink on offer as well as its edgy creative scene. The growing number of innovative shops, cafes and bars could keep locals busy for a lifetime, but if on a lazy Sunday you feel overstimulated by the buzz, why not take advantage of the beautiful green spaces in the area? We have mapped out a route that takes you through tranquil paths and selected a few stops for refreshment, allowing you to enjoy the East End’s lively vibes in small doses as you relax in the midst of nature.
Words: Mersa Auda
11am – Start in Victoria Park. Enter via Gore Gate and walk through the food market. (Nearest postcode: E2 9JW)
Victoria Park first opened to the public in 1845. Although it suffered considerable damage during WW2, it was restored to its former glory in recent years, with some of its original features recreated to match the original design by Sir James Pennethorne. Nicknamed The People’s Park, this lush space has given east Londoners throughout history the chance to enjoy the pleasures of a leisurely walk and to practice sports. As of last summer, visitors have another great reason to come here: every Sunday from 10-4pm, you will find a food market full of appetising goods. With local produce including homemade baking, seasonal fruit and vegetables, charcuterie, cheeses, and so much more on offer, you can pick up your weekly grocery shopping as you pass or simply enjoy a treat or two while you browse and chat to the friendly sellers.
11.30am – Arrive at the other end of the market, by Bonner Gate, and enjoy a coffee stop at the last stand, Browns of Brockley.
Branching out from their south-east base, Browns of Brockley now have a cart at Victoria Market to take care of shoppers’ caffeine needs. A perfect chance for a pick-me-up!
11.45am – Go left towards West Lake and cross the bridge. Walk by the Chinese Pagoda island and admire the view.
The original pagoda was purchased following the 1842 Chinese exhibit in Hyde Park and placed here to embellish the lake, but was eventually demolished in 1956 due to irreparable damage. It was rebuilt in 2010 when a grant was awarded to improve the area, in view of the 2012 Olympics.
12pm– Follow the lake and arrive at the Regal Boat Hire area.
An information board here lists all the birds you may spot around the park, and if you like the idea of getting right into the lake with the ducks, you can hire a pedalo or rowing boat to enjoy an aquatic tour with friends or family. A fun time guaranteed!
12.30pm– Brunch stop at Pavilion.
Right by the boat hire you will see the pavilion from which the popular cafe inside takes its name. The Pavilion Café has become a locals’ favourite, renowned for top notch brunches, bread and pastries, and while queues are usually long, they move fast. The wonderful views that can be enjoyed from the outside seating area are just one more reason to stop here.
1pm– Visit the gardening centre Growing Concerns.
From Jubilee Gate West cross over to Jubilee Gate East and exit the park from Gunmaker’s Gate to join the Hertford Union Canal. Once you’ve descended by the canal, keep going east until you see the small entrance to a huge plant emporium on your left. Growing Concerns is far more than a plant shop. It’s an independent gardening hub where you can get expert advice about designing your garden from scratch or giving your outdoor space a makeover. You can also just grab a new plant, some seeds or a pretty vase, or simply have a wander around and be inspired to add more green to your living space.
1.30pm– Beer stop at Crate.
Go left as you exit the plant oasis and resume your canal walk. Go up the next bridge to cross the road, and just as you descend on the other side you’ll find Crate Brewery, where you can stop for a pint.
2pm– Check out the street art by Hackney Wick station.
Go back up the same bridge and descend onto the pedestrian path on the other side, to carry on walking by the canal. Say hello to the boat dwellers that call the canal home, and when you come to the metal bridge, cross it and go down into Wallis Road. You will find some impressive murals, including an imposing work by famed street artist Thierry Noir. There is also a small concentration of bars here so you can grab another cheeky pint at the funky Grow (and take advantage of their canalside seating) or check out the newly opened Wild Beer Co, where you’ll likely find something new and exciting to try from their extensive beer menu.
3pm– Immerse yourself in nature, and end the walk with a hearty meal.
Go back to the canal and enjoy the calm of this final stretch. Follow the footpath until you reach the Princess of Wales pub, where you can round off the day with a delicious Sunday roast.