Hackney Marshes

Akinwalere Olaleye
Feb 29, 2024 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Oct 07, 2021
Trees, ferns and a variety of shrubs and flowers in a woodland.
Age: 0+
Read time: 5.6 Min

  • Discover the spectacular nature living on Hackney Marshes, including bats, wildfowl, finches and foxes.
  • With a long and interesting sporting history, Hackney Marshes has has over 80 grass football, cricket and rugby pitches available.
  • Ideal for a family day out, this inner-city gem has woodland walks, safe cycling trails, lovely picnic spots and community events.
  • Take a stroll next to the tranquil River Lea, which passes through Hackney Marshes and continues towards Hertfordshire.
  • Hackney Marshes is situated near Lea Valley Park, where you can enjoy a variety of activities, including watersports and horse riding.

Hackney Marshes is a much-loved unique open green space on the western bank of the River Lea in London's Lower Lea Valley in the London Borough of Hackney in East London. The name is derived from its location on the east of Hackney and its origin as an area of true marshland. One of Greater London's largest remaining areas of common land, Hackney Marsh is 136.01 hectares (336.1 acres) of protected commons. Hackney Marshes was formed by the recurrent flooding of the River Lea. Due to the very wet and unstable conditions of the grassland, campaigns to safeguard the area for recreation and open space, and its position as common land with ancient grazing rights, Hackney Marsh was saved from the possibility of development.

From medieval times onwards, Hackney Marshes was substantially drained. During World War II, unexploded bombs were taken to Hackney Marshes to be detonated, and it was used as a dumping ground for all the rubble from bombed buildings. The rubble from the Blitz actually had a surprisingly productive effect on the marshes as it raised the overall level of the area and the pieces of rubble were used as the foundations of dozens of sports pitches.

A young boy with his foot leaning on top of a football.

Known as the spiritual home of England's celebrated Sunday football, Hackney Marshes has been home to grassroots football since 1946. During the '50s and '60s, there were 120 full-sized pitches attracting over 2,500 local footballers each Sunday, and some young players started here before playing professional football, including Bobby Moore and David Beckham. Today, over 100 Sunday amateur Football Leagues are played on 88 football Hackney Marshes football pitches, and cricket and rugby areas have also been added.

Hackney Marshes was also used for part of the London Olympic park for the 2012 London Olympics, along with the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. As a result, the Hackney Marshes Centre was built and now provides a variety of brilliant facilities to the area, including football, cricket and rugby pitches, 26 modern changing rooms, meeting and conference rooms and a cafe and roof terrace.

Whether you are interested in joining one of the many football clubs in hackney or are looking for something more relaxing, you will find a variety of brilliant things to do at Hackney Marshes. Experience the great outdoors and discover the beautiful Wick Woodland area of the marshes. Take a stroll along the River Lea or take a family bicycle ride along one of the many scenic routes in the area. Wondering if there are facilities for Hackney Marshes swimming? Although it may be temping to go wild swimming in River Lea, it isn't advisable because it is polluted and deemed unsafe.

Hackney Marshes is also a haven for wildlife. Spot the many trees, plants, shrubs and wildlife in the area. Look out for the different species of birds that call this place their home, including waders, thrushes, grebes, wildfowl, finches and crows. If you're still on the marshes after sunset, watch out for the bats! 

There are also a number of interesting events that take place at Hackney Marshes throughout the year, including foraging for fresh ingredients, park runs, organised walking tours, plus much more. Hackney Marshes holds a Green Flag award, which are given to the best green spaces in the country. They are awarded every year, which means the quality of the awarded area is consistently high.

If you are spending the day in the area, it's worth exploring the nearby Lee Valley Park too. Just 11 minutes away by car, there are lots of brilliant sport and outdoor activities for families to enjoy, including horse riding, canoeing and kayaking and ice skating. The park also has wonderful walks in the beautiful gardens, and there is also a farm, which homes a variety of farm animals. Hackney Wick also has a number of events taking place throughout the year, including art and music festivals, and London Fields is also worth a visit if you're in East London.

What to know before you go

  • Expect to spend at least two hours at Hackney Marshes.
  • Pitches are available to hire on a pay as you play basis or block booking.
  • There are eight junior football pitches and around 12 mini pitches available for children to enjoy at the Hackney Marshes Centre. There are also three rugby pitches, three grass cricket pitches and seven non-turf cricket pitches available to leagues, schools, residents and community groups.
  • It is not possible to have barbecues anywhere on Hackney Marshes.
  • Dogs are not permitted in the sports facilities.
  • There is a cafe bar at the Hackney Marshes Pavilion with a roof terrace, which has great views across the marshes as well as the sports pitches.
  • The Breakfast Club in Hackney Wick is a 15-minute walk from the marshes and serves a mouthwatering menu of club classics, sandwiches and burgers, cafe classics, breakfast sandwiches and dessert pancakes.
  • You are welcome to bring a picnic along with you to enjoy in the area.
  • There are toilets, accessible toilets and changing facilities available at the Hackney Marshes Centre.
  • Hackney Marshes Centre also accommodates private parties, sports social events, weddings, christenings, charity events, birthdays and funeral wakes.
  • The Hackney Marshes Centre has disabled access. There is also a lift on the premises.

Getting there

  • Homerton railway station is a 20-minute walk from Hackney Marshes, and Hackney Wick railway station is a 21-minute walk. Both stations are served by the London Overground and there are services throughout the day to Clapham Junction, Richmond and Stratford.
  • From Homerton station you can take bus route 308, which departs from Glyn Road to Hackney Marshes Playing Fields within 11 minutes.
  • From Hackney Wick railway station you can take the bus route 276 to Poplar Close and walk for a further 9 minutes to Hackney Marshes.
  • Bus routes 242, 236, W15 and N26 all run to the Hackney Marshes Centre.
  • Hackney Marshes is a great cycling destination along the Lee Navigation Towpath, which connects Luton and Bow. There are bicycle stands at Hackney Marshes Centre.
  • If you are driving, you will find the entrance to the Hackney Marshes Centre just off Homerton Road (B112). There is a free car park here for visitors. There are also disabled spaces available.

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Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

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