diamond geezer

 Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Capital Ring footpath starts on the banks of the Thames, which you'd think would be nice. You'd be wrong. The official start is in Woolwich, more specifically round the back of a council leisure centre. Think 1980s tradesman's entrance, think glass and brick, think zero scenic ambience. Listen to the sounds of bathers splashing in the pool round the corner, and steel yourself for the smell of chlorine seeping out of bright blue pipes. There is a proper reason for the start being here though, which is the southern shaft of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. This 99-year-old tiled passage is the only under-river walkway for miles, so it's the ideal spot for a round-London footpath to begin. Or at least it would be if it were open. Greenwich Council are spending a year repairing the stairs, which shouldn't be a problem because there are also lifts you can use. Well that was the plan, but they've had to install emergency scaffolding in the lift shafts so the entire tunnel's now sealed off behind a blue hoarding. If you want to walk or take your bike through to North Woolwich you can't, until at least March. It'd be nice if the council had updated their sign on the hoarding to explain this, but no. Potential tunnellers are told that the lifts should be working, even though they're not, which is sheer municipal laziness. Instead they point out the Woolwich Ferry, which leaves from a pier almost immediately alongside, as an alternative means of crossing. According to the sign the ferry runs between 0630 and 2200, but this also turns out to be a slapdash council lie. I was trying to get across the river on a Sunday morning, but on Sundays it turns out the ferry never kicks off before half past eleven! For those with cash to spare who fancy a half-mile detour, there is of course now the DLR, but the crap council sign never mentions this. Plus the DLR doesn't accept bikes, so if you're a cyclist on a Sunday morning you're not going to get across here at all. Come the morning of Sunday 23rd January things'll get even worse because the Woolwich arm's of the DLR's going to be closed for engineering works. That'll be no tunnel, no ferry, no DLR... and no useful information on the South Stairs either. West London never allows its cross-Thames traffic to be screwed in this way, but the river out east can be an impenetrable barrier. The Capital Ring footpath starts on the banks of the Thames, which you'd think would be nice. You'd be wrong.

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