diamond geezer

 Monday, August 10, 2015

A walk around the edge of Tower Hamlets
Blackwall → Island Gardens
(2 miles) [18 photos]

A walk around the Isle of Dogs anyone? The perimeter trail doesn't appear on many tourist itineraries, which is odd because this Thames meander forms possibly the most iconic physical representation of the city of London. Even the Thames Path gives up halfway round and crosses to the southern bank, abandoning Tower Hamlets in favour of Maritime Greenwich. On this section of my walk I'm going to follow the ignored eastern half of the peninsula, through Cubitt Town, which is less blocked off (and I'd say more interesting) than the more popular west. [map]

I'm starting this section of the walk at the entrance to Blackwall Basin, located roughly where the Thames finally turns to bend east. This broad channel, opened in 1802, was once the entrance to the West India Docks and thus an exceptionally important conduit for trade. The West India Dock Company dealt in sugar and spice, and many a transatlantic sailing would have ended with a ship's passage into the basin, then on to be unloaded where the Canary Wharf development now stands. The entrance's hasty construction led to numerous problems over the years, eventually being trumped by an entrance further south and falling into disrepair. Thirty years ago all waterborne access was sealed off by the island's main ring road, and today the channel is lined by lacklustre lowrise housing. But you can still walk across the gates by the river (from which the view inland is excellent), and then head out onto a restored pier overlooking the O2 (from which the view might just be better).

A brief treat follows, through one of the few remaining pockets of 18th century maritime buildings on the island. Coldharbour is a narrow kinked and cobbled street off the main drag, with period houses that back immediately onto the Thames (and are thus visible from that pier I mentioned). Two Dock Official's houses survive, each with full-height bay windows to make it easier to watch the ships, while Admiral Nelson is reputed to have stayed at Nelson House during a fleet refit (although that may just be a story). Charles Dickens definitely enjoyed a drink at The Fishing Smack, alas now demolished, but today's ale-lovers should still be able to get a pint (or a posh gastromeal) at The Gun, the almost-extremely-old pub on the corner. Compared to what's coming next, Coldharbour is Tower Hamlets at its most enchanting.

Exit from Tower Hamlets: Jubilee line

A massive lifting bridge spans the entrance to the South Dock, this still the main access to the chain of waterways on the island. Three tall cranes have been preserved as reminders of the past, but the immediate future is even taller flats, especially at Wood Wharf, the next intensive phase of Docklands' commercial-friendly expansion. A first outlier is the Dollar Bay tower, where even a tiny one bedroom studio will set you back over half a million pounds, currently rising above the back of the small Ladbrokes on Manchester Road. Indeed this crossing into Cubitt Town marks the point where the Isle of Dogs changes from bankers' playground to communal backwater, because the social housing got in first, well before riverside living became the prerogative of the wealthy.

The path heads back to the riverside here, though initially not in friendly terms: CCTV in operation, no fishing, and strictly no loitering. The fa├žade of the Isle of Dogs Pumping Station comes as a jokey surprise - part classical, part children's playground - with vivid fins atop thick brick columns, and an extractor fan winking out like a Cyclops' eye. Ahead is the Samuda Estate, one of the GLC's very first estates, consisting of four and six-storey blocks, plus a 25-floor stack of maisonettes called Kelson House. The neighbourly spirit here is evident, and will hopefully survive the complete redevelopment of the riverside quarter into five bland stacks, currently at early partial-knockdown stage. In the meantime a lengthy inland diversion is required, through the heart of a community enduring forced evolution.

Next, a beach! A long strip of sand runs along the foreshore by Amsterdam Road, easily (and properly) accessed down a parallel set of steps. Its presence made sense when this eastern shoreline was all wharves and industry (as today's entire walk used to be), while now it's simply a top recreational amenity for those who live close by and others in the know. A couple of families were taking advantage as I walked by, but buckets and spades seemed essentially unnecessary. The view's not bad either, namely the whole of the western side of the North Greenwich peninsula from the Dome down to almost Greenwich. One day that'll all be luxury highrise and yacht terminal, a fate this Isle of Dogs borderline summarily avoided, but for now it's the far shore which appears desolate and underdeveloped.

As Blackwall Reach bends round, the housing facing the Thames has a more 1980s feel, providing many fortunate residents with the chance to live on the river. One run of Dutch-style townhouses is blessed with pergolas out front, draping the waterside path with trailing greenery, in a brief splash of architectural personality. An information panel explains that this is Saunders Ness, a marshy foreland originally stabilised by a bank of earth and stones before industry moved in during the 1840s. There is a brief return to the interior at Newcastle Draw Dock, the pub at the far end once the Newcastle Arms, then the Watermans Arms - it appears in the film The Long Good Friday. Once a mainstay of the Island's working class community, it's now the Great Eastern and does Sunday Roasts and Craft Beers, because doesn't everywhere?

The management of the Luralda Wharf development go to great pains to remind walkers that they're only here under sufferance, and technically barred between 11pm and 10am, such is the nature of private public space. And this leads through to Island Gardens, the attractive strip of parkland at the foot of the peninsula, and which gives the adjacent DLR station its name. Still a popular place to sit or sprawl, there are also two refreshment opportunities, one the official council cafe, the other a smaller kiosk by the entrance to the Foot Tunnel. And this is your escape to Maritime Greenwich beneath the Thames, should you choose to enter its Stygian depths and dodge the tourists, the pushbikers, and the naughty cyclists who pretend not to read the signs. What these tourists make of Island Gardens I'm not sure, but its finest feature is probably the view back towards whence they came.

Exit from Tower Hamlets: Greenwich Foot Tunnel, DLR

» today's 18 photos; 214 photographs from the whole walk; slideshow
» Map of the boundary of Tower Hamlets; map of my walk
» step on to section 4 »

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
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 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  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

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

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
Herbert Dip
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