Despite having lived in Wapping for 7 years, my forays across the river have been limited to Surrey Quays/Canada Water and B&Q on the Old Kent Road, so when @potoft informed me she would be cooking Sunday lunch, I took the opportunity to get out and about and have a walk.
In a bizarre burst of good fortune, the D3 arrived at the bus stop just moments after I did and I hopped aboard and gazed out of the window as it wound its circuitous route around the Isle of Dogs.On the route through the Canary Wharf development and back onto Westferry Road, I spotted little details, like a small weather vane attached to a bus stop by the HSBC building, and the very modest obelisks of the Sir John McDougall gardens (or is it the Barkantine gardens?).
Alighting from the bus at Island Gardens, I looked back towards Canary Wharf across Millwall Park and was reminded of the bleak and desolate landscape on the cover of Nebraska by Springsteen, which I bought at the record fair at Spitalfields yesterday.
Crossing over Manchester Road into Island Gardens, you are afforded a most satisfying view of the English Baroque Naval College, though somewhat diminished at high tide by the rubbish barge which appears to be permanently moored in the river that spoils the symmetry by sitting just below the Queen’s House. Its location would suggestion a deliberate attempt to spoil the view.
I’ve never been down the foot tunnel before and the absence of @potoft (who has always shown a distinct aversion to visiting any Thames crossing that isn’t a DLR or tube tunnel, or bridge) gave suitable opportunity.
First impressions weren’t brilliant, with the Isle of Dogs end still looking like a building site (it is in process of being refurbished – nearly 2 years behind schedule at present). However, I was very impressed by the lift. As I stood waiting for it to arrive, I stood looking through the glass doors down the shaft.
However, when the lift arrived, I was blown away. I don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t a wood panelled tardis of such scale (marginally smaller than my lounge). Having been in a lift at a colliery, it seems that dockers were able to cross the river in luxury!
Arriving in the tunnel, it was difficult to judge quite how long the walk would be, as the tunnel slopes down before reaching an incline, so you can’t see its full length. It could do with a little clean, but the white glazed brick tiles were in good condition and reassuringly there was little evidence of water seeping in.
After the first section of tiled tunnel, we reached a section with iron bands – I don’t know if these are original (though I assume so), or why they are exposed (I understand from wikipedia that the tunnel is constructed from bands which are lined with concrete and then tiled ), but it added a bit of variety to proceedings and shows nicely how the tunnel was built.
After the cast iron section, the tunnel returns to tiles again.
The acoustics of the tunnel are interesting – at points you can hear word perfect conversations being carried out by people you can’t see. At one point a deafening roar came down the tunnel – it transpired to be a group of boys on microscooters attempting to use the tunnel (very unsuccessfully) as a halfpipe. I attempted to capture this noise, but failed to start my camera recording in time, though I did manage to accidentally record part of the walk through the tunnel (and tying my shoelace) and for your entertainment I include the video below:
Setting off on my walk from alongside the Cutty Sark, I turned westward and within a few metres came upon a delicate tinkling chime, caused by tide rushing over and receding over fragments of bricks. If you watch the video I recorded below and turn up your speakers, you should be able to pick out the musical tones.
Unfortunately, contact with the river is soon lost, and you’re forced to turn south and walk along the busy Creek Road. Once Deptford Creek has been crossed, the path rejoins the water and I found myself at a podium commemorating Peter the Great who lived in the area for four months during his stay in England.
The sculpture is equal parts madness and genius and I love it and was the definite highlight of the walk. Not only is Peter the Great featured, but also a strange dwarf figure. There’s lots of great detail on the bronze work, including a little angel/cherub on the dwarf’s shoulder.
There’s lots of construction in the area and I hope some of it improves access to the river. Again, I was forced away from the river, into a residential area.
Again, it looked like I was being thwarted in my attempts to walk along the river, with even more construction and work, though fortunately it turned out to be the relaying of setts on the road.
Fortunateley I was able to squeeze through and continue with my ‘riverside’walk.
However, I was now blocked from the Thames by a large warehouse.
Continuing around the corner, I discovered what appeared to be an old Soviet gulag (Peter the Great clearly isn’t the only Russian influence in the area). Despite looking as derelict as the site itself, the security hut was occupied, but looking through the gate, I discovered a massive empty plot between me and the river.
I traipsed onwards through a series of housing estates and eventually found myself….on the River Thames! However, to make the path more interesting, a variety of objects have been deposited. First up was a pair of stone posts.
Then there was an old wall that marked the boundary between Kent and Surrey, but had been relocated, but it wasn’t clear whether its new location was still on the boundary. Next, was a set of steps, that led nowhere. The river wall isn’t particularly high, so I’m not sure what it was intended to add to the footpath.
However, curiosity got the better of me, and I ascended the stairs, to find exactly the same view above as below.
Remnants of a jetty
One unifying theme of the entire walk was the poor signage of the route, with various turnings not sign posted. However, where signs did exist, they weren’t particularly useful, and it seemed to me that perhaps the locals devote a significant amount of time to defacing, or rotating the signs to thwart the enemy invasion and reminded me of the opening to Bedknobs and Broomsticks (not the Nazified Bayeux tapestry):
Captain Ainsley Greer: You there, which way to Pepperinge Eye?
Elderly Farmer: Couldn’t say, sir. It said on the wireless to paint out the sign posts in case the Nazis drop in.
Captain Ainsley Greer: I’m not a Nazi, I’m a British officer!
Elderly Farmer: That’s what you’d say if you *was* a Nazi, isn’t it sir?
My shortlist of the three worst offenders:
Number 1: Blanked out and a bit pulled off
Number 2: All roads lead out to sea
Number 3: Three choices for Greenland Dock Walk, though in which direction, nobody knows.
I had intended to walk to Stave Hill and see the view from there, but growing increasingly fed up of checking google maps to compensate for inadequate signposts, discovering the signposts had sent me in a loop and @potoft ringing to say we had run out of ground almonds, I gave up on my walk and headed back to the bit of this area I know: Surrey Quays shopping centre.
I can’t say I was particularly inspired by the scenic nature of the footpaths I was directed down. I will return to have a walk around Stave Hill but not by trying to follow signs, lest I find myself on another walk through housing estates.