"On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world."
— Cormac McCarthy, The Road
On Sunday we went to Bow, to a cafe called The Counter on the unpromisingly-named Roach Road. Tucked away down streets of industrial estate, it sits next to a canal that forms part of the perimiter of the Olympic Park. If you can put up with chaotic service then we can heartily recommend their bacon sandwiches, but this site does not need another cafe review right now. We want to talk about the waterway next door.
Aside from the dynamic backdrop provided by the Olympic park works, it's not that different from some of the places you'll find east of Greenwich, towards Charlton and Woolwich. But compare. It's possible to walk for miles along some parts of the Greenwich riverside, without seeing a soul. In the twenty minutes we spent walking the Bow towpath, these are some of the things we saw:
- A woman, sculling down stream
- A man landing a 14 pound pike – and other people gathering for the weigh-in
- People cooking on their houseboat
- A man drinking wine on his balcony
- An blank brick wall made extraordinary through a huge grafitti mural
- People cycling
A landscape that feels industrial and desolate when deserted, becomes a wonderful short work with the addition of people. The people that animated the towpath also sustain a cafe on an industrial estate and another built from shipping containers.
The best bits of London have lots of people in them, the worst bits are empty. Some of that is effect, much of it is cause. We're looking forward to more people discovering Brockley when the East London Line comes.