These two rivers to the east of London are always considered as a single entity and offer some interesting cruising possibilities in an area less visited than many, despite their proximity to such a huge population. That it is an area where open countryside is scarce has resulted in its designation as the Lee Valley Regional Park.
Starting in London’s East End, most boaters access the rivers from Limehouse Basin and Limehouse Cut rather than directly from the tidal river opposite the O2 Arena. The lower section of the Lee was in the spotlight in 2012 with the London Olympics taking place beside its banks, and many cosmetic improvements have been made to the waterway as a result, as well as to the fascinating Bow Back Rivers. A 2-mile circuit, called the Stadium Island Loop and orbiting London Stadium, is now open to boats.
As the Lee heads northwards, through Hackney, Tottenham and Enfield, the pressure of the industrial areas to the west is not helped by the many reservoirs to the east, for the boater’s view is often only of their vast embankments. Around Waltham Abbey, a historic town well deserving of a visit, true countryside begins as the river passes a series of flooded gravel pits, skirting around Hoddesdon, past the confluence with the Stort, then through Ware to its terminus at Hertford.
The Stort is an altogether more attractive river, and fortunately twice as long as the Lee above their confluence. It winds its tortuous way past attractive towns and ancient mills, through Harlow and Sawbridgeworth to Bishop’s Stortford and amply justifies the passage through some of the less appealing areas of East London.