Walk, Don’t Walk

We’ve talked about the rubbish state the Thames Path is in between The Cutty Sark Pub and the Dome on several occasions recently, but it’s only now the sun’s finally decided to come out that the effect of a double whammy of ‘construction’ on the west side of the peninsula is really being felt.

I’ve had several emails over the last week from people who have been really shocked that the path is not only closed, but with virtually no signposting, notices of what’s going on or suggestions for alternative routes, so I guess it’s worth reiterating that if you’re fancying a nice stroll along the river just now, there are better places to find a spot of peace.

The path at Lovell’s Wharf, of course, has been closed for a couple of years now while the developers take their time building some unexciting flats. Now the first ones are up for sale, I see that some of the path is open, but don’t get too excited. The people in the picture above are just about to get a shock:

Yup folks, this is where the path runs out. It’s a nice, neat end, but just look at what’s left. A giant mud-bowl of totally undeveloped land, a closed-off Thames Path and no dates whatsoever for any kind of join up with the next bit footway.

As you can see, the path’s still actually there, but it’s now a muddy track and there is no access whatsoever. In fact at the Cutty Sark Pub end, the path’s actually bricked up into a very dull flower bed.

Clearly it’s going to be Far Too Dangerous to ever allow people to actually walk by the side of the river, so even when we get our path back, sometime in the next millennium, it will be set back from the Thames in case we Do Anything Silly.

This is what I mean – the old path, now planted with the sort of bedding and easycare grasses that developers always use when they’re trying to sell new apartments. THIS IS OUR THAMES PATH – and we ain’t getting it back. Instead the best we can hope for is the official road for the flats, which runs out after 20 metres.

Brenda has written to the Regeneration, Enterprise and Skills department of Greenwich Council. to ask if there’s ever going to be any hope of getting a bit of path back. So far she’s had no reply. To me that dead-end is pretty final-looking – the developers have created exactly enough ‘nice’ path to get their potential customers to the front door. I don’t think they’re planning on giving us our path back any time soon.

Vicky’s fed up with the next bit of path – she sent me this pic of the rat run that you have to nip through, past the bits of river that are – heavens – actually still working places – boatyards and the like. I can’t remember the path ever being any different at this point, and I suspect there are no plans to change this. No view, but at least it lets you through.

Which is more than I can say for the next bit, around where the old Amylum site is being demolished. With no notice, consultation, or information, the path is completely closed from there until some way round the peninsula. I understand it was closed for 12 weeks a couple of weeks ago, but since no one has had the courtesy to officially tell anyone, stick a notice up or suggest alternative routes to Thames Path walkers, there are a lot of very confused people just now.

All in all, it’s a right sorry state. If you’re thinking of taking a nice stroll in the next few years, guys, try going west, or much further east…

33 Comments to “Walk, Don’t Walk”

  1. Dazza says:

    That's spooky. I was going to email you last week to find out who actually owned the Thames Path down by Lovelles Wharf as the new path is within the boundary wall (as was).
    I too don't understand why the 'Riverside' path is now not a riverside path. That was the joy of walking along it. You could actually feel part of the 'action' (limited as it was!) I remember going down the path to watch a certain large fish being 're-located' not so long ago and no-one fell in or was even daft enough to climb on the fence, so why are we to be protected against such accidents?
    I dread to think what other 'path beautifications' are to be carried out when the rest of the area gets 're-developed'.

  2. Steve says:

    That "rat run" has been unchanged for as long as I have known it (25 years), except when it was paved about 18 years ago. The bit by Amylum is closed to allow the grain stores to be demolished bit by bit. I agree that the signposting is virtually non-existent and the alternative route for pedestrians is about as uninviting as can be imagined (a muddy Tunnel Avenue – right next to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach road).

    It's all rather shocking. Anyone here a member of the Ramblers Association? Worth some investigation I think.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Seems like a good time to be asking local councillors what their view is on the issue.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Here is the contact page address for National Trails/Thames Path.

    There's even a phone number…


  5. Anonymous says:

    It is appalling. I'd like to take my children cycling along to the Dome and beyond, but no chance of that as it stands. I naively thought that as a condition of the Lovell's Wharf development, the planning authorities would have stipulated that the path be reinstated, in a better condition.

    Councillors, sort it out.

  6. Mary says:

    "what do local councillors think'??? – ummmm – I'm not sure if that makes it incumbent on me to say something, or not. Its all a bit difficult with:-
    a) the local elections any minute
    b) the fact that there are lots of different views on the path with lots of people feeling they have, or actually do have, ownership
    c) why should my views be of interest more than anyone else's and I really ought to be listening and reflecting.

    So – what can I say – always happy to try and get info. and to listen and pass on views where I can, and etc etc etc.

    Personally – however – I did write a booklet about the history of the path ten years ago, and before I was on the Council I was on various committees with an interest – and things like that – and I always quoted the late Ian Nairn (but he was writing in 1966 and I suppose times have changed).

  7. The Greenwich Phantom says:


    "Its all a bit difficult with:-"

    "a) the local elections any minute"

    Perhaps it's precisely BECAUSE the local elections are coming up that people are interested in what local councillors and potential local councillors have to say on the matter – we need to know what our future representatives will do with our amenities so we know whether or not we want to vote for them.

    "b) the fact that there are lots of different views on the path with lots of people feeling they have, or actually do have, ownership"

    Indeed. There are lots of different views – and we want to know them so that we can make an informed choice in the voting booth.

    "c) why should my views be of interest more than anyone else's and I really ought to be listening and reflecting."

    Yours – and the other councillors and wannabe councillors' – views on issues like this ARE of more interest than others just now, as you are the ones who will have powers that the rest of us will not have.

    Listening and reflecting is good, but just at the moment it is US who need to be doing that.

    We need to be asking questions of potential representatives and seeing who will stand up for the things we want as individuals or groups.

    The very fact that you wrote a history of the Thames Path shows how much you care about the path and what it represents for the people who love and use it. And believe me that counts for a lot. Being prepared to stand up for what the Thames Path is about – access – would definitely get votes.

    I should thank you, though, at this point, for being the only current councillor who actually responds to anything here. Actually giving a damn counts for much.

  8. Dazza says:

    I'd vote for change but no-one seems to be offering anything different!!!!!!

  9. Otter says:

    It looks as though Nairn's 1966comments are more apposite than ever. "God preserve it from the prettifiers" being his closing shot.

    When the planning application went in in 2006 the drawings seemed to indicate some planting between path and river wall but not along the full length. (These drawings are no longer available on the Greenwich council website). Current drawings do indicate planting along the full length (available on the website – discharge of conditions relating to flood protection).

    Flood protection seems to have been the genesis of the planted space between path and river. The flood protection wall is 1.2m higher than the existing river wall and the new path is located above and behind that. So far, so sensible but what would have been wrong with a sacrificial path at the existing lower level? It seems quite acceptable in front of the ORNC and would preserve the up-close relation with the river which is highly valued by many.

    Which leaves us with the prettifiers perversely spreading boredom as usual.

    By the way does anyone else loathe the green paving as much as I do?

  10. Tunnel Visionary says:

    Crikey! What an own goal for our incumbent councillor. Thinking more about being re elected than working for the electorate. Words are all very good Mary but we'd like to see some action and, to date, there is precious little of that from our locally elected representatives.

    Why not take a stand and promise to work your hardest to reinstate the Thames Path as a local election promise instead of standing on the fence and prevaracating.

    In the words of General Colin Powell, "Either move or be moved."

    ps. Haven't heard a peep out of any political party since the last election but have had 5 leaflets in 1 week. Astounding!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Jolly well done to all those who had a look at the National Trails page and contacted them about their concerns…..oh, er, no-one did. Easier to have a bit of a moan, I suppose….

  12. Wolfe says:

    What an odd post Mary…you must know that you are a trusted figure but, without duplicating too much of what GP has said, you are standing for election now. The campaign is on and writing ummm I'm not really sure but I wrote a booklet 10 years ago doesn't help.

    You can say what you like now. It's an election. I am hoping for a national Labour win but, locally, why don't you dump the party line and stand independently? Hard, I know, but worth thinking about…

  13. Mary says:

    Last night I spent many hours working out a response to all this – and gave up. I agree my previous comment isn't clear.

    What has taken me by surprise is that people don't take it for granted that part of what I do all the time is deal with issues about the riverside path. It has been a particular interest of mine for a long time. And, without giving my life history, it is something I worked on for years and years before I was anything to do with the Council and I would hope to continue with whatever my future is.

    Having said that day to day issues are things like loose paving, dog mess (ugh) and why isn't the meridian line marked. Clearly there is a need for local people to know some of the detail of what someone like me does all day – although I am not sure how to present it without being boring.

    Anyway, here is a short statement. It says 'we have a commitment to maintaining the riverside path as a public right of way and to reinstate any necessary diversions and blockages as soon as it is possible – based on the need for public safety. The Council took action in 2000 in the High Court where the path was closed by site owners and also worked to see the path was open to the public around the Dome."
    I have spoken to a number of people about this today (including Chris Roberts and Dick Quibell) and they agree with it.

    (as a historian I would add that the predecessor body to the Council prosecuted works which blocked the path as far back as the 1870s).

    Next thing: I think that – 'what should be the future design of the path?' – is a totally different issue and one on which I guess everyone has their own strongly held opinion. I would only see my role as listening to people and doing my best to see that their ideas get passed to where they might have influence. I wouldn't see my own thoughts (probably fairly eccentric ones) on it as having any status. Personally I would love to hear more from residents about it.

    In the short term I will try to get some more detail about the various closures, timetables and so on. I know that signage is currently being worked on. And I will also try to find out the answers to some of the queries which people have raised here.

    Hope that is a bit clearer. I think there is a way forward here. Don't let the issue drop.

  14. The Greenwich Phantom says:

    Thank you Mary. Keeping the path open is a big deal for people round here – especially those who live in flats and rely on open spaces for some fresh air.

    Just out of interest what ARE your eccentric views on any future design of the path?

    I have to say I like Otter's idea of a high-level one and a low-level sacrificial path for getting down and dirty with the river on low tides (or just more access points for the mudflats/beach.

    That could be mildly exercisy-sporty couldn't it? An Olympic legacy thing, perhaps?

  15. Mary says:

    I have now got some information – but it is not good and there are going to be more closures. I am waiting for more detailed information which I hope to have soon. In addition to the development sites are two things conspiring to make it all worse. They are the unforeseen demolition of the Syrol site and some destabilisation of the river wall done by contractors working on the Delta site. I will try and get detail on the complications caused by them.
    I understand that a new temporary route is being worked out and signed and details will go on the Council web site. Hopefully will be back soon.

  16. Dazza says:

    Someone has taken notice, or is it just because there's an election and the bandwagon needs someone to jump on it?
    Cynical? Me? Never….


  17. Artful MTB Rocklands says:

    that used to be one of my favourite walks
    just GRRRRRRRR!

  18. Mary says:

    Be as cynical as you like. I hope I always jump about a bit but you can never do enough even if there was an official municipal trampoline.
    I have a whole list of dozens of things I have been following up on the riverside area, some with more success than others – too many to list here – they include things like the future of Morden Wharf Road (currently closed)? what has happened to the planned boat yard at Bay Wharf? what is the latest idea for Enderby House???
    Anyway – the reason for the delay in getting signage up is apparently because they have to be specially made and there is 'delay by the manufacturers'.
    - and Phantom – please become a fan of the late great Ian Nairn (even if most of his book was about North and (worse) West London (except for what he says about Christ Church Spitalfields, of course)

  19. Anonymous says:


    You are a good councillor but why don't you take Wolfe's advice and cut adrift from the Labour Party?

  20. Brockley Kate says:

    Really glad that this issue is being highlighted, I recently began walking the Thames Path, from the Barrier end, and was really surprised and disappointed at the quantity and quality of signeage on diversions, also the lack of explanation for the reasons. Trudging along the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road doesn't create a good impression of Greenwich.

  21. Vicky says:

    Hi – I contacted the National Trails people – they have told me that the Thames Path in London is managed by Walk London,

    website http://www.walklondon.org

    or email info@walklondon.org.uk

    or call 0870 240 6094

    Hope this helps.

  22. John says:

    Mary, about the future design you say:

    "I would only see my role as listening to people and doing my best to see that their ideas get passed to where they might have influence. I wouldn't see my own thoughts (probably fairly eccentric ones) on it as having any status."

    The first bit of that, sure: you're elected to listen to views. But the second half is surely nonsense.

    We are (or claim to be) a representative democracy – you are elected precisely because of your views, because a slice of the electorate trusts you to make a judgment and make a decision, not simply act as a conduit for the views of others.

    At least, that's the way I think it's meant to work …

  23. Mary says:

    John – its probably a bit of both. Most things happily are clear cut and, as you say, you are trusted to make a judgement. But I think it is more difficult with issues of taste?

  24. Layter says:

    Glad you've brought this up for attention Phantom, i moved back to the Peninsual a year ago, and it's part of my regular cycle route… being diverted alongside the Blackwall tunnel just doesn't feel safe at all.

    Have to say i'm also a little concerned about the path on the east side of the peninsula, the building worksfor the new flats(although welcome)eat up half the path on that side, and I wonder how far they will finally enroach across… i've got a photo of where they had to build a balcony *around* a lampost for whatever reason!

    The cracks in the path alongside where Mary mentioned are something else…

    I really hope we don't start losing parts of the route with development, or that said developments don't get priority over it for "river views" etc. It would be a great loss to the area.

  25. Anonymous says:

    The Thames Path from my house in E. Greenwich, around the Dome to the ecology park then across the peninsular back to E G has been my regular jogging route for several years now, as well as a cycle route home after work from the tube. It was easy enough to cope when only the Lovell's Wharf part was closed, but the Syral closure has destroyed both. I've tried jogging and cycling along the Tunnel Avenue detour but it is hellishly unpleasant. I can stand to have occasional closures of things like this – it's inevitable as things change – but we haven't even been told how long these closures will last and the signage, as pointed out elsewhere, is disgracefully inadequate. Greenwich talked a few years ago about building a world class waterfront, but they're going about it in the most amateurish way imaginable.

  26. Alexandra Rook says:

    Walk London, in partnership with borough councils and other landowners, looks after the interests of the Thames Path in London for walkers with TfL funding until 2012 as part of the Mayor's 400mile Strategic Walk Network of 7 long distance routes – see http://www.walklondon.org.uk. Closures are not always notified to Walk London direct to alert walkers on the website. The series of inconvenient closures is being attended to by Brian Dalton Walking & Cycling Officer in Greenwich Council. He is trying to get a coherent diversianary route signed across the peninsula & not just round every independent closure.

  27. Brenda says:

    The signage for the diversion should be up at the end of the month according to the email I received. This route shall be something like: from Ballast Quay via Pelton Road, Christchurch Way, Mauritius Road, Blackwall Lane, Millennium Way and then straight onto the 02 or via Drawdock Road.

    Charming. Really really peeved that my summer walking route has been taken away.

  28. Mary says:

    Further to this – I have some more info. on the path in front of what was called Lovells.

    The developer does not expect, apparently, to have it finished until around December 2012. Once it is done it will be handed over and adopted by the Council. Until then it will be the responsibility of the developer to maintain it.

    This seems an awfully long time ahead to not be able to walk this section.

    Two other points: I am getting info like this through in dribs and drabs – happy to put it here, but are people still reading this far back?

    and – we are still calling the site "Lovells". Shaw Lovell were only on the site from the 1920s and the wharf really only got the name from then. It had a number of names before that but when Coles Child built it in the 1840s it was 'Greenwich Wharf.'

  29. mary says:

    I now have quite a lot of information and timetabling about the whole riverside walk area – if I put it here I doubt people will now read it – - I will have to think ….

  30. Zoe says:

    I love the path and used it as a running route, for cycling and sometime even walking. This morning I stopped to ask at the Lovell's site when the path would be open again. They said it would be when they had finished building in 4 years and also said the path wouldn't be by the river. Like most of the other people posting on this site I think that is really unacceptable. Thanks to all those who are working on this. I think there are alot of other people out there who really care about this – and who have, like me, been rather too patiently waiting for the path to open again – without imagining that it would be so different when it does.

  31. Brenda says:

    Hi Mary
    I am still reading the comments for any update so please let me know if you post elsewhere. Im hoping its not going to be more bad news.

  32. Zoe says:

    I'd love more information too. We've contacted our local councillor who is getting back with more info soon I hope. I walked round from the dome to cutty sark via the unmarked diversion at the weekend. I really can't understand why the path at Lovell's wharf has to be shut while they are working. Pavements in cenral London don't close because of much bigger developments and the path by the gravel heaps was open while gravel was being delivered overhead. I assume if the path stays on its current course by the Lovells wharf development it will not be a river path as the path that has been redeveloped is lower than the existing path and will have trees screening the view of the river. It is bad news for all the people I used to see fishing there. Anyway up for some guerrilla path reclaiming!

  33. [...] about the riverside path? Greenwich Council has already acquiesed in the long closure of a long stretch of our riverside path, and watched helplessly as the Lovell’s Wharf developers rerouted it into their sales office [...]