Rotherhithe to The Barrier,
Back at Rotherhithe I had time to look round St. Mary’s Church where Christopher Jones, the captain of The Mayflower, is buried. There is a commemorative statue to him. The Mayflower set sail from Rotherhithe on its voyage to America with the Pilgrim settlers in 1620 and returned the following year. The Mayflower Pub, one of the oldest on the Thames, is near the departure point. The day started off well alongside the river by converted warehouses and new builds, old wharves still existed and views across the river to Wapping and Limehouse highlighted more development some better than others.
There was a lot of weaving around new apartment blocks. In places marinas have been created in the old wharves. At one point I found myself walking through a riverside hotel.The tide was out with a lot of mud exposed, a display mentioned the 19th century children who would scour the river bed for anything salvageable for a few pence – ‘mudlarks’.
Canary Wharf on the north bank is a glistening financial area rising phoenix like from the wastelands.
The naughty bit –
I was being diverted more and more into the streets away from the river which was frustrating. I was thinking to myself it would have been easier to have hired one of those Boris Bikes but I didn’t have the app. Round the next corner was parked one of those bikes, I was looking at it out of interest and realised it hadn’t been locked, there was no one in sight [honest I double checked] it had been abandoned. So for the next couple of miles I rode the rather unwieldy beast through the streets of Deptford towards Greenwich. A curiosity along the way was a reference to Peter The Great of Russia who in January 1698 came to Deptford to study shipbuilding. A rather odd statue at Deptford Creek marks his visit as well as an old mulberry tree he may have planted. The latter is receiving some care and attention at the moment.
I cycled on to Cutty Sark, the famous clipper, where I locked up the bike which will be located by satellite. Greenwich was a tourist trap and there was too much to visit on my short transit. I’ve marked it down for a future visit. A former royal palace Greenwich developed as a naval college and is notable for the Meridian 0° longitude. It is here that the footway under the Thames resurfaces in a small dome – another place to explore.
There was a pleasant cafe in the Old Brewery where I relaxed before the final stage around Blackwall Point and the Millennium Dome [the O2 arena]An area of Georgian Streets was a pleasant interlude before some awful walking. The way forward was blocked by building sites and you end up walking down a busy road towards The Blackwall Tunnel. An effort to get the path back to the river is down a fenced in lane and even when reunited high wire fences separate you from endless development. All fairly depressing.
The O2 arena is being swamped by high rise apartments each tempting you to riverside luxury living.The river itself is busy with high speed ‘taxis’ plying between various quays. The far bank is all high rise banks above dockside buildings, so this is where our money goes. Above us the Emirates Cable Cars go back and forth from here to the Royal Victoria Dock on the north side. In the water at this quay is a Gormley installation ‘Quantum Cloud’. Meanwhile there are fairly regular planes taking off from London City Airport.
The barrier comes into view around the bend and a further dreary mile, including a gravel extraction plant full of noise and dust, is accomplished to be alongside it. The high tech Thames Barrier can protect London being flooded from high tides and storm surges from the North Sea. I am happy to finish The Thames Path here although I believe there is now an extension 10 miles downstream to Crayford Ness but I’ve had enough industrial landscape for now. It is debatable where the Thames actually finishes before becoming part of the North Sea. Where I am now seems a long long way from the Thames Source trickling out into a field in the Cotswolds.