diamond geezer

 Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A walk around the edge of Tower Hamlets
Island Gardens → Limehouse
(2½ miles) [21 photos]

The western rim of the Isle of Dogs is part of the Thames Path, indeed from here to Teddington this National Trail can be followed on both sides of the river. The Thames is quite wide at this point, and not at its most exciting as it sweeps past Rotherhithe and Deptford. As such today's walk may have more to excite estate agents than sightseers, but bear with me, it has its moments. [map]

Island Gardens, at the foot of the Isle of Dogs, is also the point where the perimeter road changes its name from Manchester to Westferry. The riverside was once lined with berths and cranes: sequentially Midland Wharf, Livingstone Wharf, Felstead Wharf, Parry's Wharf, Locke's Wharf... and that's just the next 200 metres. It's all housing now, of course, plus one very 70s boathouse built on top of the terminus of the London and Blackwall Railway. The Ferry House claims to be the oldest pub on the island, although the building's changed a lot since 1722, and local residents are possibly more tempted by the Thai cocktail bar on the foreshore. From here the bend of the river is clearly seen, with Maritime Greenwich now fading into the distance and the occasional Thames Clipper or speedboat zipping through. Focus your eyes on the water here, because that's where all the interest is.

Exit from Tower Hamlets: Masthouse Terrace pier

Except Burrells Wharf is rather nice, as converted ironworks go. This residential cluster was once a shipyard, and it was here that the heaviest ship of the 19th century was built, Isambard Kingdom Brunel's SS Great Eastern. Clad in iron, this six-masted transatlantic liner was so long that it had to be launched sideways, a groundbreaking approach which nearly bankrupted its manufacturers. A sizeable chunk of the 1858 slipway remains, laid out as a wedge of parallel low wooden beams, adding a little wow factor to proceedings on the promenade. The other sight of note is across the water, the enormous iron-roofed Olympia Warehouse, part of the historic Deptford Dockyard and about the only building due to be retained when the whirlwind of residential redevelopment finally hits. Oh, and the City looks impressive from here, don't you think?

Before long the riverside housing on the Tower Hamlets bank becomes too self-important and the Thames Path is diverted back inland. This provides a useful opportunity to be reminded that there's another community here, living in former dockers terraces rather than modern highrise stacks. The fabulous building that looks like a brick pumping station is in fact a church, or was until 1989 when it was taken over by a community theatre called The Space (patron Sir Ian McKellen). Ahead the far end of Millwall Outer Dock abuts the main road, on which canoes and yachts are often seen, although for landlubbers the watersports centre blocks the view. And alongside is the huge West Ferry printworks, where the Telegraph, Express and Star used to be printed until Richard Desmond sold up in 2009, hence a printworks of the same name now graces an industrial estate in Luton.

It's a relief to eventually slip back to the river, beneath the silver and bronze turrets of New Atlas Wharf. Seven windmills once stood on the waterside along this stretch, hence the name 'Millwall'. The mills disappeared in the early 19th century, replaced by factories and workshops, whose owners eventually got tired of residents walking along the embankment so the right of way was sealed off. Only in the 1960s was a park laid out between declining wharves, reconnecting residents to the river, and now the Thames Path runs all the way. Major housing developments are named after the industrial features they replaced (Ocean Wharf), or else given aspirational names (Millennium Harbour, the Cascades) to make them sound less like interconnected boxes. Some quite peculiar apartment blocks with portholes and funnels now grace the shore, as was early Docklands' habit. But look out for one nod to a more humble past, a plaque commemorating 40 people killed by a direct hit on a bomb shelter at Bullivants Wharf (of which, more here).

Exit from Tower Hamlets: Jubilee line

After a good four miles my walk has finally returned to the neck of the island, the narrow strip across the top of Docklands where the towers of Canary Wharf reign supreme. To enter the promised land requires crossing a narrow channel, once the Lower Limehouse entrance to the great South Dock, now sealed by a strategically critical pumping station. A huge tract of land to the south of Westferry Circus remains somehow undeveloped, despite being prime skyscraper territory, and of considerable commercial interest. Investment bank J.P. Morgan & Co. are the current owners of the Riverside South site, which they flattened several years ago in readiness for building a new twin towered HQ, but then moved to new offices in the City instead. At least they've reopened a footpath along the river, saving a major detour, but it's a desolate slog.

Exit from Tower Hamlets: Canary Wharf Pier

Canary Riverside is not my kind of London. Options for financial workers at leisure include three waterside terrace restaurants (attempting atmosphere by erecting box hedges), a large hotel and a Virgin Active Health Club. If it weren't for the Thames Path, and the chance to catch a clipper from Canary Wharf pier, I'd be more than happy to avoid this commercially bland cultural vacuum. But I've always loved the balconies at Dundee Wharf, arranged in a tapered iron tower, and accessed via walkways from the flats with the best river views. Alongside is the short inlet of Limekiln Wharf, where quicklime was produced in medieval times and porcelain in the 17th century. Very much a silted sleepy backwater, it's hard to imagine that the Limehouse Link (the most expensive mile of road tunnel in Britain) runs directly underneath.

» today's 21 photos; 214 photographs from the whole walk; slideshow
» Map of the boundary of Tower Hamlets; map of my walk
» step on to section 5 »

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards