Half-Day Sundays


Battersea Power Station's hoardings, leafier than any at Greenwich


A Phantom cannot live by Greenwich alone. In order to fully appreciate just how fabulous our town is, we need to leave it. So today, I want to ask your advice.

Have you ever got to about 2.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, when you’ve finally done all the things you meant to do at the weekend and you suddenly find yourself with half an afternoon? (Yeah, yeah, I’m sure there are some workaholics who dream of such a problem, but stay with me.) It’s too late to do a day trip, or even, occasionally an afternoon trip. You want somewhere really different you can visit in a couple of hours. But your mind goes blank. There’s not a single place in the universe you can think of to visit, not a single activity to do.  And no, I don’t believe it’s just me.

Now, obviously, your first stop at a time like this is Ianvisits but by the time you get to this point in the day, it’s probably too late to do an actual one-off event.

Coldrum Long Barrow, North Kent


My plan for this year is to make a big long list of interesting places, attractions and things to do that are within a very short distance of Greenwich for just such moments. I was going to do it by myself, but thinking about it, this would be more varied and – let’s face it – just better – if everybody here suggests their personal favourite places.

The mysterious shell grotto at Margate


I don’t care what it is, as long as it’s interesting. A city like Canterbury, a Roman villa like Lullingstone, go-kart racing, strange tumuli,   London things, weird stuff, like the shell grotto in Margate (or the equally nutty Mad Hatter’s Tearoom, also in Margate, where it is forever Christmas, sometime between 1870-1945), the only constraints are that they have to be visitable in a shortish amount of time.

In order to entertain people that have more powers of organisation than me, I’ll open it out to being things that are visitable in a whole afternoon, or the odd day trip.

Mad Hatter Tea Rooms


I don’t mind what mode of transport you need to get there – walking, cycling, train, car – whatever, just make the journey doable in an hour and a half tops. If I manage enough suggestions, I’ll try to set up some sort of database thingy for days out from Greenwich (most days out features try to get people to go to it…). I might even make it a wiki if I can work out how the hell to do it. But in the meantime, I’d just like to cull a few ideas from you, even if only so I have something new to do of the odd Sunday half-afternoon. 

Lots Road power station, from the Southern Thames Path. Owned by the same people as Greenwich power station, they chose one to turn into luxury flats. Can you guess which one?

the attachments to this post:

Battersea Power Station's hoardings, leafier than anything at Greenwich
battersea power station hoardings

Lots Road power station, from the Southern Thames Path. Owned by the same people as Greenwich power station, they chose one to turn into luxury flats. Can you guess which one?
lots road power station

Coldrum Long Barrow, North Kent
coldrum long barrow

The mysterious shell grotto at Margate
shell grotto

Mad Hatter Tea Rooms
Mad hatter tearooms

18 Comments to “Half-Day Sundays”

  1. Benedict says:

    Train to London Bridge, walk along Thames to Tate Modern…..(how I miss free galleries)
    Get the end of Columbia Rd flower market , lots of bargains to be had while all the traders are packing up ( a car helps alot for this one.
    A walk through the Square mile, totally unimpeded by traffic or pedestrians.
    Try and visit all 6 (maybe 7 if you count St Lukes Old Street) Hawksmoor Churches ……..

  2. Robert Number16 says:

    Dear Phantom.
    Go down the A2 for about 40 mins and take the turning to Faversham. Drive into the town centre, full of amazing buildings ( Home of Sherpard Neame)Find Abbey street drive to the end until you come to a Pub .Turn right, and follow a narrow road that brings you to Faversham Creek A place that still seems to be locked in the 1950`s Full of classic sailing boats and working barges.Lots of arty people live on boats there.A real Shipwrights ( Alan Staley`s) where you can find mouth watering classic boats being restored.( Faversham creek was where gunpowder was made, and then brought up to Woolwich by boat) Find someone with a small boat to take you to the top of Faversham creek where it meets Oare Creek. On your left (or port if you are of a boaty nature) you will find “The Shipwrights” A pub that still has beer in large barrels and a generator for LX!!. Find out the date of the next Swale Match and see if you can become crew on a classic saling boat on the day of the match.Usually in August. I did this one afternoon,and it changed my life.That was twenty years ago!! If you really are bored there is a showreel on my website, and towards the end you can see me playing boats in Faversham Creek.www.robertgray.tv

  3. Brilliant – Robert – that’s exactly what I want – I already want to go!

  4. Brilliant idea Phantom, just the kind of database I need! My first thoughts tend to be as follows:

    1. train to any station from here to Ramsgate, take your bike and do a section of National Route 1 along the Thames estuary and beyond. The distance I go and the distance I cycle depend on the weather, what time of day I set out, and how I’m feeling. Head for the nearest station and get the train back when you’ve had enough.

    2. country parks in Kent that I have tried are Shorne Woods (great for sweet chestnuts in October and also fascinating fungus) and Trosley Park (fabulous views across the Weald of Kent and the Coldrum Longbarrow you feature on your page). Both are accessible within a half hour drive, have parking and cafes, and accessible trails for prams/wheelchairs as well as longer waymarked routes for those wanting a yomp.

    Incidentally, one thing I’m always looking for but failing to find is a pick your own fruit/veg farm within an hour’s drive max of SE8. Can anyone suggest somewhere?

  5. Robert Number16 says:

    Dear Deptford Dame
    I`m pretty sure there are several pick your own all round Faversham.

  6. Ebspig says:

    And a PS to Robert’s suggestion: if you turn in the other direction at Faversham (so as to speak) you’ll find yourself at Brogdale, which is the National Fruit Collection, and THE place to see apples, pears, cherries, cobnuts, quinces, medlars, and stuff like that. Terrific food shops, wonderful knowledgeable guides, and you could pick up the odd fruiting tree while you are there.

  7. anon says:

    And I bet Mary will have some good suggestions…

  8. Linda Brown says:

    There are some amazing walks around Faversham all available on the web site. Along the creek is a beautiful stretch and after walking stop off at the Three Mariners for lunch beautiful food, excellently presented and served by a very amazing, humerous lady

  9. Rob says:

    Deptford Dame

    You might want to check out out Valley Arch at Southfleet, just down the A2

  10. valley_girl says:

    The Docklands Museum makes a good Sunday afternoon destination (and it’s free). Interesting exhibiton on The Houndsditch Murders and Siege of Sidney Street on at the moment. Nice caff and bookshop and child friendly. Easily reached by DLR and Jubilee line.

  11. Luke says:

    It might be pushing the hour and a half limit, but broadstairs is a delight on a lovely sunny day, a great one for the kids as the main draw is the lovely sandy beach.

    Heading over that way and quicker to get to (the A20 seems a faster road than the A2?) is Hythe, a nice little town with a load of antiques / bric a brac shops. My personal highlight is hiring a rowboat for a gentle paddle along the military canal.

  12. scared of chives says:

    Can endorse valley girl’s suggestion – it’s a great museum – and the current exhibition – wot with guns, bullets, Churchill’s coat etc – is very interesting.

    The Glades at Bromley makes a cracking Sunday jaunt.

  13. You know – I am just loving these suggestions. I hadn’t thought of any of them – I’d made a list – but it was nothing like these. I’ll add a few of my own when I come to do this – it could be a really useful thing for those ‘what-to-do’ days.

  14. Paul says:

    Faversham is lovely.

    In a similar, more intimate vein, go to Upnor. It has a Tudor/Stuart artillery castle overlooking the Medway – which was the centre of the only English opposition when De Ruyter sneaked down the Medway in the Anglo-Dutch wars.

    THe castle is tiny, complete with one of those old fashioned papier mache and wood models depicting the Medway raid, with a posh voiceover and little red lights that illuminate bits of the action (am I making sense? There’s a similar one devoted to the Great Fire in the Museum of London). A tiny high street, with little Georgian and Victorian weatherboarded cottages, and two great pubs, and at the bottom, sailing boats sitting by the Medway’s edge.

    Two other faves are Whitstable – altho avoid the now indifferent and overpriced Royal Oyster Stores – and Dungeness, a place of rare, stark, windswept beauty, noted for Derek Jarman’s garden and a huge nuclear power plant – although each of those is really a day trip.

    I feel compelled to point out also that WHitstable is where the British dream of breaking the sound barrier before the americans was shattered, when Geoffrey de Havilland, heir to the plane-building family company that produced the wooden Mosquito, died when his beautiful, gull-winged, metallic silver plane, the DH108, broke up in the air (some say he broke the Sound Barrier, altho that’s unproven). THe plane crashed in Egypt Bay, and they pulled his body out of the sea in WHitstable. He was the second test-pilot son to die, and that was pretty much the end of the family firm, which was sold off soon after Geoffrey De Havilland Senior retired.

    Rochester is another interesting town, great book shops, and – of all things – a Russian Cold War submarine, rusting quietly away, and a beautiful Norman cathedral.

    Lastly, just beyond Whitstable is Reculver, which has fossilised sharks’ teeth on its beach, is where Barnes Wallis conducted the tests on the Bouncing bomb, and has an old Roman fort which was later built into a church, and then a Georgian folly.

  15. Dennis says:

    How about evensong? There are a dozen cathedrals, parish churches and chapels in, or within easy reach of London that do the full thing, either mid or late Sunday afternoon. It’s a short service, where the choir sings for almost all of it, and are as likely to sing something written five hundred years ago as last week. Often, you can sit in the choir stalls (the bit that’s normally roped off) with the choir, and experience the miracle of intimate music in a vast space.

    It’s traditional to follow this with a visit to the local pub. Which pub? Ask the choir, of course.

  16. Stephen says:

    Eltham Palace is well worth a visit.

    I was in English heritage for 5 years but gave up last year because once you’ve visited properties several times it does become dare I say a bit samey.

    Further out is Down House in Downe village (not far from Bromley) where of course Charles Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’ He lived there for the last 40 years of his life.

  17. Capability Bowes says:

    Pah, Stephen beat me to it. So I will expand on his suggestion of Eltham Palace into “An Afternoon in Eltham”, starting off with Well Hall Pleasaunce, which was the site of a Tudor manor house (eventually becoming Well Hall Farm, home to E. Nesbit). The Tudor Barn is still there, along with the moat which surrounded the house, as well as some of the original garden walls (the rose garden used to be the manor’s kitchen garden). Then its a short stroll up the hill past Eltham Station, turning left into the alleyway immediately prior to the police station for a look at The Orangery (late 18th/early 19th century)from the car park, then back down the alley and across the road into the cemetery, which you enter through the gap in the wall behind the bus stop. The first stone on your left marks the burial place of an australian aborigine from the 1730s. Then we head to Eltham Palace to meet Henry VIII and the Courtaulds, then if there’s any time left, its a quick bus ride to Avery Hill Campus to inspect the 19th century Winter Gardens (or maybe you should do that first as it closes at 4pm). All this is rounded off with a cuppa at Cafe Dee in Pound Place, which serves the biggest jacket potatoes I’ve ever seen.

  18. Azofkid says:

    How about a cycle under the Thames tunnel and along through to Wapping to visit the Wapping Project – very cool space with great restaurant and interesting art, music, photography installations…http://www.thewappingproject.com/ : )