Archive for the ‘Thames Walk’ Category

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 ;-)

Stubnitz and Lancaster

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Sounds like an old music hall act, doesn’t it. But it’s actually two ships at Canary Wharf this weekend. This chap is arriving for a fancy dress party on MS Stubnitz on Saturday, when Mike snapped him (at least I hope it was fancy dress, I know the embarrassment of turning up in a stupid outfit only to find it’s just a straight party…)

While he was there, Mike noticed that HMS Lancaster, moored opposite Stubnitz, was going to be open yesterday – so he went to have a look:

The Queen is supposed to be visiting tomorrow. I’m guessing she’ll be taking a raincheck given where she is today…

Cheers Mike.

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?

Walking Back To Happiness

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Tony asks:

“For reasons best known to myself I’m planning to use a free day coming up to walk from Greenwich into the West End, something I’ve wanted to for a long time. However, I’m stuck on which is the best route.

Taking the Thames Path on the north side of the Thames seems the most obvious route. It takes in a number of classic sites – Canary Wharf, Wapping, The Prospect of Whitby etc. However, my loyalty to South London makes me wonder about the mysteries of the southern route – I know far less about the areas I’ll be going through.

Can anyone recommend one path over the other (I won’t have time to do both, alas)? Or is there perhaps a third way – Evelyn St, Jamaica Road? I’m looking for history, sights I haven’t seen before, a chance to experience a different side of London.”

The Phantom rubs spectral hands with glee. This is the sort of question I live for…

At first sight, yes, the Thames Path to the north does seem to offer delights – and I’m not pretending for a moment that it’s not an extremely pleasant affair, especially if you’re into the ancient pubs of Wapping. A walk through Canary Wharf will yield all kinds of hidden joys – I love the new glass city, but the history and old architecture isn’t completely gone – in fact its hidden nature makes it even more fun to find. And short deviations later in the route take you to wonders such as Wiltons Music Hall and St Georges in the East (who have got our cast-off church tower…) not to mention St Katherine’s Dock and the Tower.

But the path isn’t always distinct, and while I can’t claim perfection on the southern route either, let me be a cheerleader for the south in this post (as opposed to all the others, ahem) and tell you a few of the highlights I enjoy most about the walk between Greenwich and Tower Bridge (after that I’m guessing you’re already familiar with the South Bank, though maybe it would be worth another post sometime to deal with that. I’m a Greenwich-oholic but I’m not beyond spending far too much time wandering round the rest of the capital…)

The first thing I would recommend is the Thames Path National Trail Guide, by David Sharp. I got mine from the Visitors Centre in Greenwich but I’m sure Waterstones have it too. If memory serves it’s about twelve quid – but it may have been updated to include the new bit east of the barrier. I like it because it covers both sides of the river on the same page when it gets to London, and it tells you good things to look out for along the way.

I can’t put my hands on it at the moment, so I’ll have to talk about the Southern side from memory – I’m sure other people will chip in with things you shouldn’t miss too.

At the moment the start is a bit inauspicious, as it involves a trudge across the bridge on Creek Road, but hopefully when the building work is done(fingers crossed) we’ll have a nice footbridge connecting Millennium Quay with Greenwich. Don’t miss the slightly creepy statue of Czar Peter the Great and his even creepier dwarf…
You can walk up past, on one side, new build flats, on the other side some old piers, then fiddle your way up a small cobbled street behind old warehouses. Planning permissions currently being haggled over for the site, so see it now before it all changes (again.)

Continue until you get to Watergate Street, where the walls for the old wharves get in the way of the path. Still – it will give you a good excuse to see the wartime stretcher railings around the flats there.

If you get the opportunity to divert and pop to St Nicholas Church, it’s a fantastic sight inside, with a famous wood carving by local-ish boy Grinling Gibbons, but even if it’s not open, it’s worth the detour just for the gateposts with the sinister skull and crossbones. Legend has it they were the models for pirate flags; I don’t know if it’s true, but I don’t really care. It’s a good story. Just round from there is the Dog & Bell pub, a bit of a Mecca for real ale enthusiasts round here.

Cut through what’s left of poor old John Evelyn’s estate, Sayes Court (I’m convinced the mulberry bush in the park there is a remnant of his garden) and through the more modern estate to get back onto the Thames Path. It will lead you up past the groovy ex-council block that was turned private and became the subject of the TV docco last year. It has good ‘head’ sculptures round it.

The bits all around Surrey Docks are fascinating – in that there are still little pockets of history nestled among the 1980s reworking. Just be aware that if you start walking round the docks, it’s lovely – but a loooooong way round.

From now on, it gets really interesting – and frustrating – in equal measures. I keep meaning to log all the gates onto bits of path by the Thames that have been gated and locked outside new-build flats to find out whether or not it’s been done illegally. I’m willing to bet developers have been forced to create access, but when no one’s looking they’ve just locked the gates – there seem to be an awful lot of restricted access places in builds that are too young not to have had a Section 106 access order stamped on them. A project for the future – and perhaps one for the Ramblers Association.

Even with the annoying detours around modern flats, there’s still much to see. The City Farm, for example, which always manages to be closed whenever I’m there, but which advertises random produce available if you don’t mind carting a leg of organic pork around with you on your walk.

Hmm. What else? Oh, yes. The old Custom Houses are fun, and further on, I take great delight in arrogantly marching straight through the Hilton Hotel which has annoyingly plonked itself in the way of the Thames Path (though I’ve never had the gall to traipse the bike through too.)

By now, you’ll be coming up towards Rotherhithe, which, frankly, is worth a trip in itself. The ventilator houses for the Rotherthithe tunnel are curious, one each side – at least I’m assuming that’s what they are.

Just before you get to the villagey part of Rotherhithe, don’t miss one of the saddest sculptures in town, Dr Salter’s Dream, depicting Doctor Alfred Salter, who stayed in Bermondsey at a time of serious contagious illness to tend the sick at the cost of his own family – his daughter died, aged 8, from scarlet fever. Dr Salter now sits on a bench in perpetuity, fondly watching his daughter play with a pet cat by the river wall.

Moving onto Rotherhithe, if you have an opportunity to nip into the Brunel Engine House Museum, it’s worth it. It will take about 20 minutes to see the exhibits and another hour and a half to talk to the passionate curator there. They do nice cake.

The Sands Film Studios almost certainly won’t be open to the public on your visit, but they occasionally have guided tours and I would highly recommend joining one if you can. The also have a very eccentric film club, where you can see extremely obscure movies for free – just put a donation in the film cannister at the end.

Also in Rotherhithe, the Mayflower pub (the esteemed Dame was unimpressed with the fare last time she visited, but a pal visited the other night and reckons it’s improved. On the plus side you can fulfil your US postage stamp requirements at the bar…

Oh – and look out for the Charity Children on St Mary’s, a classic riverside church.

Right. Where are we… Ah, yes. More sundry Bermondsey new-builds with the odd bit of Tudor ruins and curious stuff (that’s where the guide comes in handy, telling you what the hell it all is – and where to go when the path runs out) before reaching the area around Shad Thames street/ Butler’s Wharf, Tower Bridge etc.

I could go on, but I’m really out of the blog’s area now. Besides, this post is indecently long. Tony – whichever path you choose, you’ll get a great view of the other bank of the river as you walk. And let’s face it – unless you’re planning emigrating to Mars anytime soon, presumably you’ll have other days off when you can explore different routes. Take the Clipper home afterwards to see yet another view of the Thames.

Ahhh. I almost wish I was coming with you. But I think I’ll leave the weather to warm up first…

Anchor Iron Wharf

Monday, February 9th, 2009

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’m confronted by a large amount of text on a sculpture I diligently read it all. It just doesn’t make it to my brain.

The giant anchor at Anchor Iron Wharf is a perfect example of what I mean. I stand there, read it, and ten seconds later it’s completely left my mind. I couldn’t tell you a thing it says.

So today, I thought I’d do a very simple thing. Transcribe it here. Chances are it won’t go in this way either – but it might just work. I’ve added some punctuation to make it read a bit better…

“In 964 King Edgar granted this land to the abbey of St Peters in Ghent, Flanders. Henry V re-posessed it in 1414. After the English Civil War Charles II granted the land to Sir William Boreman in 1676. He was clerk to the board of Green Cloth and involved with the design of Greenwich Park. He also founded Green Coat School. In 1695 his widow sold the estate of Old Court Manor to Sir John Morden. He had already built Morden College in 1695 to accommodate merchants who had lost their estates by accidents and perils of the seas. In 1705 Sir Ambrose Crowley, an iron-maker, moved to a riverside mansion which he renamed Crowley House and built Crowley’s Wharf. In 1953 Charles Robinson moved his premises to what became Anchor Iron and Crowley’s Wharf. The principal cargoes were scrap iron, lead ingots, metal and glass.”

Phew. Now I know why that doesn’t go in. There’s just too much information in too little space. In trying to edify the nation, the designers of this sculpture have just managed to do my spectral head in.

It seems a futile attempt. Either people are interested – and they go off and find out stuff – or they just use it as somewhere pleasant to get a good view of the river, or they’re not – and are happy to use it to lean against while they enjoy a fag outside the Cutty Sark.

And surely great chunks of dense text aren’t going to interest anyone on a nice riverside walk?

The information given is sound enough but where’s the interest? The excitement? The joy of art for art’s sake? Everything seems to have to have an educational purpose these days.

I would have rather had the nice anchor with a tiny bit of info and trust that people who are interested will follow it up. Those that aren’t won’t read an essay anyway. In fact, given the length of this post, I probably lost them in the first paragraph. And that’s ok.

Thing is, there are clues to the area’s history all around if you look. Take the wall of the Cutty Sark. I don’t have a close-up of this so the pic below is small, but you can just make out on the side, the stamp of Morden College, which shows that it owned the land.

You’ll see this sign all over Greenwich – it’s a good thing to get bored children to look out for on walks:

As for the wharves – well – a little trot around the curve in the river (with a slightly larger than is desireable detour just now) will show you wharves still at work. And William Boreman? Well he also seems to be everywhere. From planting those chestnuts to tending the Dwarf Orchard, to setting up schools – a seriously Greenwichian Greenwichian. More about him on another day very soon…

And yes, I do know that the picture at the top includes a ghostly shadow. Enjoy…