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London's Rural Spots - Open For All?

The countryside in the city is on everyone's doorstep - if you know where to look.

Much of it is hidden away and often in the most unlikely places and a visit to any one of them can reveal layers of history and give city dwellers a chance to escape from urban life.

But many places are inaccessible for people who use wheelchairs to get around and people with sight loss often find these spaces difficult to navigate.

However there are places that are more welcoming.

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is one of the most inclusive places to visit - and here are two suggested ways around the park.

Starting at the Blue Badge Car Park by the Arcelor Mittel Orbit head for the 2012 Gardens. Here there are plants from all over the world, and even on a dull February day there is a blast of bright yellow on the trees alongside the canal.

A welcome bright spot in February

Following the canal feels safe as there is a fence along the way - making it a relaxed and pleasant journey. But this comes to an end, quite suddenly, when you arrive at Carpenters Road Lock. Here there are signs of the industrial past of this site - with moss covered canal walls and an old iron bridge, its cobbled path designed for horses' hooves to grip when they pulled the canal boats along the waterways.

Carpenters Road Lock

These are the Bow Back Waters - a romantic sounding name for these rivers that were changed forever by Alfred The Great when he drained the lower lea to keep the Danes from sailing up the river. Now, after being used to transport heavy goods around this area for so many years in more recent times, these waterways provide a home for wildlife.

Ducks in the Bow Back Waters

A swan, so graceful

The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park covers a vast area - with its own postcode of E20. In the winter months it can feel empty and desolate, as though the whole park is waiting for warmer, brighter weather. And when that arrives, the crowds of people will return - but there will be space on the wide, flat paths for everyone.

At the other end of the park, there is a Blue Badge Car Park at the Copper Box Arena. From here, it is a short journey East to the Waterglades.

You may spot a shy squirrel as you make your way along the path.

A squirrel by the path

The Waterglades may feel eerie and isolated - and yet here they are in the middle of the park. These wetlands have been designed to create an eco system that cleanses water as well as providing a habitat for wildlife, including gold finches and siskins.


A winter scene

Eerie and isolated

But there are signs of spring.

Buds and blossom

And nearby there is winter colour.

Red stems

Gorse flowering

Birds are hidden in this picture

Marshand may not seem so appealing for us humans but birds love it - there were four different species on this waterlogged land but they are hidden away, pecking low into the ground.

And close by the Waterglades there is the wetland bowl - with swales that can help prevent floods and where reeds grow so tall they can tower above us.

On the water's edge

And watching over all this nature in the city, a heron stands guard.

A heron by the reedbeds

All of these pictures were taken from paths that are flat and wide - meaning that everyone can get close to nature and enjoy this open space in East London.

Stratford Station is accessible and a short walk away but often very crowded - check the Queen Elizabeth Park website for Blue Badge parking and the TfL site for local buses.


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