Archive for the ‘Thames Path’ Category

Ending Enderby’s Agony (Or at least making a fist at it…)

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

I’ve been banging on about the plight of Enderby Wharf for years. Not just me, of course – in fact I’ve been a lightweight in comparison to some, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that we have a truly important piece of industrial history that faces a not just uncertain future, but is mouldering away before our very eyes.

It is, of course, the birthplace of transatlantic communication; the place where the cables that connect us to the USA were manufactured before being shipped out and lain under the seabed.

Some of the winding gear is still there on the riverfront as is, of course, the once-smart Enderby House, but both languish under uncertain futures. Enderby House was even left with the front door wide open for vandals, foxes, whoever to just go in and do whatever they wanted.

Barrett are to redevelop the area (so much for the pledge to keep the area as a working one…) and are demolishing everything they can, but a group, Enderby Wharf has been formed to try to save Enderby house, the winding gear and other river front curiosities like these fabulous steps.

They have a lovely little leaflet which tells you more, and there’s loads on the website.

There’s a meeting on 25th June with Hard Hat, the PR firm working with Barrett, and it would be great to get a head of steam working over what could happen with Enderby House and the Winding Gear, so that they can not only be used for something good, but cherished as much as some of Greenwich’s Royal and cultural history.

I am very excited about the formation of this new group. We can’t stop the relentless development of the riverfront, but we can act to save what history we have left.

The Sail Loft

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Never heard of this pub? That’s because it’s not built yet. Phantom Brewer Rod tells me that it will be in New Capital Quay, operated by Fullers and opening early 2015 with the usual riverside terraces and views.

Let’s hope it has a more illustrious future than the doomed restaurant in Wood Wharf, opened to a (very) small fanfare, almost immediately turned into a noisy nightclub and now full of what looks like abandoned gym equipment; or the INC-owned shell in the new development between the power station and the Cutty Sark pub, which never opened at all and was full of abandoned chairs last I looked.

Fullers, I am told (as a non-beer drinker – sorry, Rod) is a decent brew, and there will certainly be enough residents up that end soon. It might even chivvy up the footbridge and force the opening-up of the currently-non-existant Thames Path – one of the (many) presumed reasons for the brief life of the Wood Wharf establishment.

Personally I’d like to see the refurbishment of the currently-closed Thames Pub

which although not with those riverside views that are making Fullers build new, would make a marvellous Greenwich answer to the Dog & Bell.

The other place that really needs (or will need, since we are to lose the businesses and get yet more housing up there anyway) is the Peninsula. My favourite venue for this is still Enderby House – an historic house for Greenwich, but in terrible shape

It fits the riverside setting publicans crave, would be a use for a building nobody wants to lose but can’t think of anything to do with and would add something other than relentless steel and glass towerblocks.

Personally I’d keep the businesses – it’s the last little hurrah of London’s industrial past and I love the urban wildness of that bit of Thames path pretty much more than any other part of it, but if we have to have the glass and steel, a rejuvenated Enderby House wouldn’t be too much to ask would it?

High Tide

Friday, November 8th, 2013

Thanks to Mike Purdy for sharing these pictures of the extraordinary high tides we have at the moment.

It happens more regularly that one might think, but it’s still pretty spectacular when it happens and always amusing to watch people trying to walk along the 5 foot walk when it’s rising. It’s less funny when you’re trying to do it yourself.

Just one of the reasons I love living here. I spend a lot of my time moaning about Greenwich, but ultimately I love it. It’s worth my while remembering that sometimes…

Health & Safety Gone Maaaaad

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Paul says:

According to The Greenwich Society newsletter The Cutty Sark Tavern are seeking planning permission for a safety rail for their famous and fabulous wall where people like to sit dangling their legs over the river, while supping pints and watching the world go by.

Surely this is one of the worst mistakes a Greenwich pub could ever make? Isn’t the point of this pub that you can sit on that wall?

Other changes in the pub have been positive, well refurbished, with a good new menu, and feature evenings (even though we miss the uncomfortable barrel chairs!).

The Phantom agrees. Whatever happened to the concept of personal responsibility? If you’re old enough to hold a pint in your hand, you’re old enough to take care. If you’re responsible enough to have a small child with you it’s up to YOU to make sure said small child doesn’t fall in the water. It’s not someone else’s problem. Sea and river walls have been around for centuries – yes, they can be hazardous but it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of humans to just use a bit of common sense and not take stupid risks.

I guess the pub doesn’t want to be sued if some idiot falls in. But if I recall there’s already a notice whereby they take no responsibility for stolen items etc. I don’t see it’s their problem if someone across the road from them does something stupid. I guess they could put up another ‘at your own risk…’ type notice though I seem to remember there’s also already a ‘danger’ sign. Stating the bloomin’ obvious, of course, but frankly enough as far as I’m concerned.

IMHO a safety rail is totally unnecessary. We shouldn’t be whinging to others the second we do something silly and Bad Stuff happens. It ISN’T always someone else’s fault. This wall isn’t intrinsically dangerous if it’s treated with respect. We shouldn’t be turning our riverfront into a fortress.

If you agree, do email the new managers Andy and Monse at and let them know what you think. If you don’t, tell me here ;-)

Lovells Thames Path Reopening – An Enigmatic Message

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Meirion asks:

The Lovell’s stretch of the Thames Path is ready to open any day. Photo shows the Drawdock section near the Dome (which will have reedbeds and everything) is coming along nicely – another couple of months maybe? Does this mean there’ll be a short window later this year when we can walk from Greenwich to the Dome on the Thames Path before they close it again for the cruise ship terminal development? Even if it is just for one day?

He goes on to ask an even more interesting question:

And will Greenwich Council say to the cruise ship lot “You can close the path for a month to do essential works for free but after that we’ll charge you £20K a week if you want to keep it closed” or something to that effect. That would have cost Lovell’s millions or much more likely they would have found a way to reinstate the path promptly.

And please let’s not have the excuse that developers need to import/export by river so there can’t be a path during development. Hanson’s ship tons of aggregates every day into the Victoria Deep Terminal and the path is never closed for more than a few seconds until the banksman waves you through. Until ten years ago you’d stumble along the alley after the power station through Anchor Iron wharf, completely unsupervised, with random chunks of scrap metal hurtling over your head.

Good points. Sadly I think I can guess what Greenwich Council’s closure conditions will be – ‘As long as you feel like it, mate, no hurrry…’

But we do have hope for the Lovell’s Wharf section now. In a very enigmatic statement they say:

“I am delighted to tell you that the footpath will be open this Friday and then the other path will be taken out of use to the public”.

Quite what they mean by ‘the other path’ is up for debate…

Curious Carvings in the Thames Wall

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Here’s one of those Greenwich oddities that gets my mouth watering. It was spotted by local author David Ramzan (it’s in his book ‘Royal Greenwich Through Time‘) but he knows nothing more about it and is wondering whether anyone here does.

It’s in the Thames Wall up by the power station and David says:

None of my friends or relations who know riverside Greenwich well, had any idea this inscription was on the riverside wall close to the old Power Station, and it would be interesting to find out if anyone knew any more about it. 

For example would this type of inscription have been commonly found along the riverside walls close to old historic landing places? Unfortunately like a lot of the historic Greenwich riverside architecture, these little curiosities are also gradually beginning to be lost to time. 

To me it looks like re-used stone, though from what and when it was built is a mystery. Perhaps it was built when the power station was built, between 1902 and 1910, but the stone could have come from anywhere.

It also looks as though they broke the stone – either in transport, during the build – or, how about this for a theory – actually at the stonemason’s yard, when the junior carver got a clip round the ear and a month’s wages docked for spelling ‘friends’ wrongly..? Perhaps the master mason decided to sell the stone off for scrap and it ended up here?

I wonder what the message was – all I can make out is

Neighbours and Freinds (sic) welcome ar (e?) XXXXwill strangers XXy XermiXX

Okay – let’s see who can fill in the gaps with the best phrase… (Scared of Chives, I still haven’t forgotten ‘…and gut your first octopus‘…)

In the meanwhile – does anyone know anything more about this – or, indeed, has anyone ever actually noticed this before? Do you know of any other places strange messages are carved into the river wall?

Thames Path Current Routes

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Thanks to Mary for making this map available, showing the current closures on the Thames Path. It’s what we’ve been asking for for some time.

Some of it’s good news – looks like the eastern section will be reopened next month if when the cable car gets looped up and running. I’m okay with that closure – no one wants a Boris-pod dropping our of the sky onto them.  And in theory the top bit which has some kind of weird double-closure thing going on is due to open in July (can’t think why they’ve hit on that date…)

Some of it’s much less impressive. The Lovell’s Wharf part is, ‘closed until further notice.’ I have serious worries about that stretch – nothing seems to be happening and the developers seem to have carte-blanche to close it as long as they damn please.

For now it’s a pretty dull walk around the Peninsula, and an even duller cycle. After July it should get better. But that Lovell’s Wharf closure remains a serious blight on the path.

UPDATE: I’ve just read on Darryl’s site that developments include “changes to the adopted alignment of the Thames Footpath”. No details yet, but I don’t know about you, folks. I’m up for a fight on that one if I hear our path is to be eroded piecemeal on a permanent basis.

Ballast Quay -Part One – Scrap City

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

At last. I know lots of you have been asking for this; ever since I got talking to Hilary Peters I’ve been promising to tell you her story – a remarkable tale of a time within living memory, but one which is in danger of being forgotten. It’s going to have to be in serial-form, as there’s much to cover, but it’ll be worth the wait, I promise. As with the Foot & Mouth Memorial, I’m leaving most of the post to Hilary herself, adding puerile comments of my own along the way…

Ballast Quay always used to be known as Union Wharf. I’m never quite sure where Crowley’s Wharf ended too – perhaps it’s another, earlier/later name for the same place, or it might be where the power station is now. I’m sure someone will put me right. The picture at the top of this post is from the 1930s ( I don’t know whose it is, but if the owner objects to my using it just let me know and I’ll take it down…) but it would have been much the same in the 1960s – change really hadn’t started then.

The Cutty Sark pub, as we know it, was called the Union Tavern, and before that it was the Green Man (which must have been confusing as there was another Green Man at the top of Blackheath). One book I was reading claims parts of the building go back to 1690 but there would have been an inn on the site even before that. The current building says 1795. Perhaps there will be a picture of the older pub in the forthcoming book by Messrs Rhind, Kent and Watson about the lost panorama of that bit of the Thames. Whatever its name or vintage, though, it changed its name in 1954 in honour of the arrival of the Cutty Sark ship. Hilary says

The pub then had two sections, as all pubs did. The public bar was crowded with dockers for short, regular bursts – and the landlord’s wife who sat on a stool all the time and drank gin. I don’t know who went in the other end but they wore suits. Sailing barges were still around on the river, shorn of their rigging and used as lighters and it was only just before my time that they cleared away the old  barge moored outside (the pub) and known as the brothel.

In 1963, Hilary Peters found the house of her dreams in Union Wharf by walking along the river until she found a Georgian house with site for a nursery garden. It was (and still is) owned by Morden College, over in Blackheath. Just in case you don’t know, you can often tell that something belongs to Morden College because it will have a little iron badge on the wall somewhere:

You’ll find these badges all over town, and once you start looking for them, they’re everywhere. This one is on the Cutty Sark Pub.

She remembers that it took months to persuade Morden College to let it to her. She says that the universal attitude to old houses in those days was just to pull them down, something she couldn’t begin to understand.

They wanted to pull down the whole row and build flats. They said that to do up the houses and put in bathrooms would cost so much that the rent would have to be SEVEN POUNDS A WEEK and none of their tenants would pay that. I finally persuaded them that I would pay that rent and even found someone else who was mad enough to do the same, so that was two houses saved.

We moved in in November. It was incredibly beautiful – misty and busy. The river was full of shipping. The wharves on either side of us were working. Robinsons (known as Robbo’s) on Anchor Wharf handled scrap. (Anchor Wharf is the bit in between the power station and the Cutty Sark, where there are new flats now. There’s a giant anchor on the Thames Path to mark it. TGP)

The scrap from the yard spilled all over the neighbourhood – Anchor Wharf, the whole area between Hoskins St and Lassell St, back as far as the British Sailor pub (recently gone, the site is now Barrett Homes) the area behind the pub and behind our houses (which I later landscaped for Morden College).

Scrap encroached and littered the road and punctured your tyres and fell in your garden and nobody minded. The street was usually crammed with lorries queuing up to deliver endless gas stoves to Robbos. The whole of South East London must have had new gas stoves that year.

Lovell’s, on our other side, also had queues of waiting lorries. (Lovells is now the half-built blocks of flats stopping anyone from using the Thames Path – TGP) Lovells was import and export. It looked like a lot more import than export, generally ingots of metal but often crates of almost anything.

Both wharves had creaking, groaning cranes. Sirens went at 8am and the lightermen took the covers off the barges – bang, bang, bang. And the barges banged together and banged against the wharves. Then the dockers took over, some in the hold, some on the wharf, with a whole, forgotten language of hand signals and whistles. Coasters came in and out on the tide, with much hooting and shouting.You couldn’t live there for long and not know that four short blasts on the hooter followed by one long one meant that a ship was coming in.

The wharf between these two giants (Ballast Quay) became my wharf. It had been used in its time by both neighbouring wharves and before that by the Harbour Master.

The wharf was too small by then to be practical but its steam crane still stood proud on the upper level and a very high wall separated it from the street. The rest was covered in barrels of bitumen.

It was only used by the dockers from Lovells to stash their loot; pilfering was part of the job before containers spoilt the fun. Some docker I’d never seen before would knock on the door and say ‘ere’ and slip me a tin with no label. It usually contained pineapple chunks…

Morden College agreed to rent me the wharf for £1 a year but kept a bit to build four garages. (Their idea had been to build garages on the whole thing) Dockers still used the wharf – a lighterman is supposed to need three feet of riverfront to walk on. Indeed the first three feet of the river front was still officially part of Lovells.

They took down the wall and put up the railings but I couldn’t save the steam crane, which I would have loved to do. It was cut up for scrap which paid for the railings. I made a garden for the neighbours, built the greenhouse and started a gardening business.

The ‘garden for the neighbours’, of course, is the delightful little garden on the riverfront we know and love now. Few of us have actually been able to step inside, but anyone can peer through the railings and sigh a little sigh of rural contentment. What I love about it is its simplicity – the dappled greens,  the one or two pots and the handful of daffodils in the spring. Perfect. It could have been a riot of colour or something formal, but this is utterly the right thing for the setting.

Morden College changed the name of the street to Ballast Quay. Not to be outdone, Hilary changed the name of the wharf to Union Wharf. But, she says, the changes were purely cosmetic. Real change came with the failure of the docks and the property booms.

But that’s for next time…

Rear Window (16)

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Thank you to everyone who’s been sending in pictures from their back windows to resurrect this series – I never fail to be fascinated by those private little vistas that other people enjoy.

Today’s is from Patrick who’s over at the Greenwich Millennium Village, including one of those weird skies we’ve been having recently thanks (according to Peter Cockroft, who knows everything) to a large amount of Arabian dust in the atmosphere, no doubt kicked up bay the various revolutions that have been going on in the Middle East.

GMV is remarkable for its quietness. It doesn’t matter what day of the week, what season of the year or what time of the day it is, you’ll never see anyone around – though the place is fully inhabited. Because of this it always has a slightly etherial feel for me, a cross between fairyland and a small town in the Netherlands. It’s a fascinating place to wander around; I get the feeling that even when the other consortia have built whatever they’re going to build it will still be as quiet as ever.

Which reminds me. Darryl over at 853 has some Good News (not of the biblical variety) for Thames Path lovers. The builders, Bellway Homes, who deserve a mention for having stuck to their word, have re-opened the bit along the east side of the peninsula, which, along with the re-opened bit where Amylum was, means that the only section still closed to the public is Lovells Wharf where evil London and Regional Properties have not stuck to any kind of word, have destroyed the path, re-routed what’s left of it to their sales office and show no signs whatsoever of actually doing any building work.

Darryl points out that this is a disgrace, and I wholeheartedly agree. If they are not going to be building for months (or perhaps years) they should be forced to re-open the path until they do. And if that involves their having to rebuild what they destroyed, so be it. I have written to Thames Path National Trail Office to see on whom we need to put pressure to put pressure on LRP to get our path back. They won’t be able to do anything about it themselves, but maybe they will know who can. In the meanwhile,  the bit outside Lovells Wharf won’t be getting a shiny new glass plaque like this:

as it’s being deliberately left out of the Jubilee Greenway. I’m hoping the creators of the Greenway are just being pragmatic, knowing that it’s just not going to be open in time for the 2012 Jubilee – but is there something more sinister afoot? I think we should be told.

Update: Very nice lady from National Trails has directed me to Walk London, though it could be a local authority issue too.

Walk, Don’t Walk

Monday, April 12th, 2010

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…