diamond geezer

 Monday, July 18, 2005

Random borough 6: Southwark (part 2)

Somewhere historic/famous: the Thames
Southwark drips with history, particularly the northern slice alongside the Thames. This was the rough lawless side of the river, safely tucked away from the wealth of Westminster and the pomp of the City, a bolthole for criminals, prostitutes and the poor. But Southwark also developed as a thriving home to traders, travellers and entertainers, thanks in particular to its location beside the one bridge across the Thames out of London.

So, when I came to select 'somewhere historic' to visit in Southwark, I was spoilt for choice. All along the Thames there were far too many fascinating sites to choose from. So I walked the lot, from the Oxo Tower in the west to Greenland Dock in the east, and very pleasant it was too. Below are the highlights. For the full walk, go view my annotated photos. Go on, I took them for you, you know.

www.flickr.com : Take a virtual walk through Southwark-on-Thames.

A riverside stroll from the Oxo Tower to Greenland Dock
Mile 1: The first mile took me along the world famous South Bank, beside the Tate Modern and past the recreated Globe Theatre. Tourists streamed along the gleaming river's edge, flitting from sight to sight and from pub to pier. Just before London Bridge there was an embarassment of historical riches, including the infamous Clink prison, Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde and the immaculate Southwark Cathedral. Beat that, Barking & Dagenham.
Mile 2: Further along the Thames the testicular City Hall is still totally eclipsed by the iconic sight of Tower Bridge. Redevelopment is key along the cobbled Shad Thames and past the Design Museum. All along Bermondsey Riverside wharves are being converted, or more likely demolished, to make way for new blocks of housing. Nobody works here any more, they just live where work used to be. An old lady stopped me in Chambers Street, bemoaned the lawless nature of the local children and then encouraged me to go and view a local apartment being sold by a friend of hers. Just in case any of you have £425K to spare here are the details, and tell them Brenda sent you. New London is way out of my price bracket.
Mile 3: It was quieter through Rotherhithe, but with a brief stretch of genuine historical significance around Brunel's Thames Tunnel Engine House. The Pilgrim Fathers set sail in the Mayflower from the quayside here in 1620, and Captain Christopher Jones returned to be buried at St Mary's in 1622. The rest of Rotherhithe's riverfront would be unrecognisable to him now - an endless swathe of modern apartments hugging the river's edge.
Mile 4: It's a very long way round the rim of the Rotherhithe peninsula. Every now and then a watery inlet hints at the area's maritime past - originally 85% of the peninsula was dockland, now it's almost all residential. One of the few docks not to have been filled in is Greenland Dock, now an attractive backdrop to several waterside developments. Read the full redevelopment story here, or take a BBC 'Coast' walk here.
by tube: Southwark, London Bridge, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Surrey Quays, by bus: 381

Somewhere diverse: the Rise London United festival
Every year the Mayor (or rather his hard-working staff) organises a free music and dance event celebrating the capital's diversity and promoting anti-racism. Every year the festival is hosted by a different London borough, and last Saturday it was Southwark's turn. So I went along. In the aftermath of last week's terrible events the official title of the festival had been changed to 'London United', but it had been too late to change the Rise programme, the Rise stickers and most of the other Rise branding. Still, if the day was meant as a celebration of all things multicultural then it was a huge success. I joined the masses flooding into Burgess Park, many no doubt from the neighbouring Aylesbury Estate, to bake in the afternoon heat. Every colour of skin was present - except white, because that had all tanned a nice shade of brown thank you very much. A huge crowd mixed around the main sound stage enjoying performances from such global superstars as Raghav, Horace Andy and (erm) Goldie Looking Chain. Elsewhere there was an Urban stage, a Mela stage, an African stage and a Cuban stage - there really was something for everyone. Alcohol became an essential tool for quenching one's thirst, while an understated police presence ignored the funny cigarette smoke wafting over certain parts of the crowd. There were the usual worthy stalls supporting downtrodden workers and communities. But most of all there were the happy smiling faces of a cohesive London community out enjoying themselves, together. London, united.
by train/tube: none, by bus: 42, 343

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