Saturday, 27 December 2014

North Woolwich

A walk in the far east of London, which takes in the Thames, the Woolwich ferry, dockland history and provides a chance to see the contemporary regeneration of London. We found this gem of a walk here at the Discovering Britain site, developed by the Royal Geographical Society. It's 2.5 miles long. 

How to Get There 
To Bank and then on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), our toy town train high on raised tracks, offering vista's of London's old and new squashed together and snatches of dockland water with posh yachts and canal boat homes. After docklands the DLR passes the new developments along the Thames, starting with Blackwall, an interesting experience in itself. 

DLR ride towards Docklands. 

The Walk 
The leaflet and podcast which you can download here from the Discovering Britain site, provides easy to follow directions, so no need do duplicate these here. They are also packed with interesting and accessible history and information about the area without overloading you. 

I had rarely been this far east. As you step off the train at King George V the neglect and poverty in this area is apparent.  As you near the Thames the sleeping Victorian edifice of North Woolwich Railway Station typifies an area which has seen better days. It's a rather sad sight with its windows boarded with sheet metal and balconies laced with buddleia. 

You catch glimpses of ornate ironwork through barbed wire and peeling paint.

150 years ago wealthy passengers arrived here to catch the steamboats which departed from the now disused jetty opposite. 

Next we descended to the Woolwich foot tunnel. Built in 1912 thanks to Will Crooks who worked in the docks and campaigned for improvements for local people. 

Entrance to Woolwich foot tunnel

I later found that my dad cycled along the tunnel each morning from his digs in Woolwich in the 1950s to his job in the Cable and Wireless factory on the north bank of the Thames. 

Woolwich Foot Tunnel 

This was only a small detour  and we return across the Thames on the free Woolwich ferry, which seems to belong to a different era. 

Woolwich Ferry 

Interior of the Woolwich Ferry 
There are of course great views through the Thames barrier to docklands. The tug boats and barges which pass seem straight of a 1960's children's book. 

View up Thames from the Woolwich Ferry with the Thames Barrier in front of the Millenium Dome and then Docklands. 

Back on land its through a Thameside park once part of a 19th Century pleasure garden, then along the Thames path, passing a collection of modern estates. A Victorian hotel ' Gallion's Hotel' sits incongruously in the middle of these. It served as a stop off point for the wealthy before they began their journey on the ocean liners which departed from the Royal Albert Dock. 

Next it's the vast areas of water which make up the Royal Docks, with City Airport bang in the middle where warehouses used to be. 

The modern buildings of East London University brighten the final section of the walk. 

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting post. I love the older architecture... the tunnel footpath is so different. Thanks for sharing your walk.