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Posts Tagged ‘stone space

This weekend the Stratford shopping centre, Westfield, has been closed except to visitors with an Olympic ticket, for fear of overcrowding. Yet neighbouring areas Leyton and Leytonstone don’t seem to have any extra visitors – even though they’ve been spruced up for the Olympics. If you’re visiting east London, here’s why you should try shopping just a mile or two from Stratford…

Leyton is almost walking distance from the Olympic Park. I lived there for many years and yet I don’t recognise it nowadays. Shops have been given a facelift and the buildings are coloured and attractive. To be fair, Leyton doesn’t have a huge heap of reasons to recommend it – it is just another suburb of London, with all the shops that you might want along with a trading estate, so you’ll find at least one large supermarket, clothes stores like TK Maxx and Next, and a few cafes. There’s also a pop-up pub in the Town Hall, where you can watch the Olympics on TV. If you’re staying nearby and need to stock up, you could do worse than Leyton. It’s a friendly area with plenty of “blitz spirit” where the older neighbours still chat to each other on the street. There’s also a temporary market which is complaining of being quiet – why not give it a go?

Leytonstone is a little further away, two stops from Stratford on the Central line. It’s where I have lived for a decade and an area about which I am passionate. This is where everyone should be coming! We have high street stores such as Argos, Boots, Superdrug, Primark and Matalan, a big Tesco, and lots of independent traders. My favourite is the Engine Shed, a Hornby and modelling shop. However I understand that Olympic tourists may not want to go home with a toy train! We also have some fantastic cafes – I recommend Horizon on the High Road, with hot chocolate to die for and a wide range of patisserie and main meals, as well as Cafe Montmartre in Church Lane, which sells homemade chocolates. Both of these are within 2 minutes walk of the tube station.

”Peace There is also a thriving arts scene in Leytonstone. In Church Lane you can visit Stone Space Gallery (currently showing an inspirational group exhibition called Wandering Rocks, open Thursday to Sunday), and next door is a window display space displaying a series of colourful prints inspired by a hospital stay. Not enough art? By the tube is Stone Space Projects, a temporary gallery, currently exhibiting a Peace Quilt with squares contributed by children, one from each of the countries participating in the Olympics. The North Korean square was snuck out of the country, and there is even one from Iran. The whole thing is inspirational and well worth viewing (until August 10, 11-5 daily).

Need to stop for food in Leytonstone? I recommend The Olive, a wonderful Turkish restaurant near the tube station, which provides affordable and delicious food (my favourite is Mucver, feta and courgette fritters served with tzatziki). Need a drink? Stop at CAMRA’s East London pub of the Year, the Red Lion, which has real ale, a beer garden, and provides highchairs, dog biscuits, and disabled access. Fancy a walk? We can offer green space in the shape of Wanstead Flats and Hollow Ponds, both a part of Epping Forest. If you fancy testing your athletic prowess, you can hire a rowing boat on Hollow Ponds or enjoy a 5km run on Wanstead Flats.

To be honest, you will get much more of a feel for the East End by visiting Leytonstone (and to a lesser extent, Leyton) than sitting in a soulless hotel in Stratford. The council has spent a lot of money revamping our streets and pavements – the least you can do is come to visit!

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Written for Waltham Forest Guardian where I am a blogger. 

2011 has been a tough year for many people as the recession bit, but in Leytonstone there were some signs of hope and a couple of fantastic additions to the area.

First came the reopening of the Red Lion, as a community local which attracted me, my friends and neighbours. Often when I drop in, I’ll run into someone I know, and that for me is part of what a good “local” should be. The pub has some great ales, and holds live music events, so there are plenty of reasons to visit. At last there is somewhere to meet friends and to pause on the way home – just what the area needed.

Second came the new art gallery, The Stone Space. Run by many of the people who organise the annual Leytonstone Art Trail, along with a number of keen volunteers who invigilate during opening hours, The Stone Space is a wonderful venue which has already hosted a number of interesting exhibitions. They change roughly every two weeks. For more information see http://thestonespace.wordpress.com

Next door to The Stone Space is Slate, an art display space in the windows of what used to be Waltham Forest Direct. To mark its new name the display boards have turned dark grey. It’s overseen by artists from The Stone Space, and I’m the co-ordinator. Exhibitions change every 6 weeks, and currently on show is a show of woodblock & linocut printmaking, and jewellery, by Somhairle Kelly. http://www.slate-arts.com/

So it’s not all doom and gloom. We end the year with some new venues which have much to benefit Leytonstone – and hope for 2012.

Wherever you are, I wish you a Happy New Year!