I love to walk! I am usually down in Cornwall walking the South West Coast Path but of course my visits there this year have been limited, so I have had to walk locally instead. One of my favourite walks near my home in Plumstead, South London is The Thames Path. Sometimes, on a bright sunny day the Thames looks like glass, there is barely a ripple and on other, more windy, days the water can batter against the embankments and, at certain points, even spray over the walls. No two days walking there are the same. I can’t remember how many times I have walked this route this year, but I have walked it on hot days, wet days, windy days and (recently) very cold days. I thought other Silver Travellers might like to know what the attractions are on this 6.2 mile (10 kms) walk.
To get onto the Thames Path I just have to walk down the hill from my house to the new Royal Arsenal Housing Estate. Numerous high rise flats now occupy this area where once the armaments were made for the last war. As well as new high rise buildings, lots of army buildings and parts of the factory itself have been turned into luxury homes. It is really interesting to just walk around the estate and look at the different buildings that have been converted. In the heart of the estate is a sculpture by Peter Burke called “Assembly”. This consists of numerous steel figures and is meant to represent people coming together (although as all the figures are male it actually represents men coming together). After you have passed this you will see the Woolwich Ferry just ahead of you as well as the Foot Tunnel which lets you get across the Thames when the Ferries aren’t working. Also, nearby is the Waterfront Leisure Centre (my go-to place for my weekly swim). A great place to swim or work out with clear views of the Thames. At the moment you cannot cross the road by the ferry as a section of the Thames Path is closed for repair but a short detour past another high rise building brings you back onto the Path. Along this stretch you will see a couple of canons, a reminder of the military history of this area. Look out for swans along this stretch, they are often swimming along, sometimes with their cygnets in tow, hopefully waiting to see
if any tourists have any sandwiches to share! The Path leaves the Thames side as you approach Charlton and takes you around and old factory, now derelict and empty. This is the old Siemens Factory and was built in 1858 and produced electrical engineering parts. In cooperation with a local school the building has its history portrayed on a number of hoardings around it, and it is really interesting to read the history and see the photos shown. Once back by the river you can see The Thames Barrier ahead of you and (when we are not in lockdown) there is a cafe and really interesting information centre. You can check online for when the Thames Barrier is going to open, it is an impressive sight. The Thames Barrier was opened in 1984 by Her Majesty The Queen and, if you are as old as me, you can probably remember how badly London used to get flooded before they had this deterrent. Along the route between Charlton and Greenwich are numerous good pubs where you can take a breather, The Anchor and Hope is one of these and nearer to Greenwich you can find The Anchor and The Cutty Sark Tavern. All of these are an enjoyable place to have a rest and cool down with a glass of something cold!
As you leave the Charlton area you will pass Greenwich Yacht Club with its beach area and a little further on the Polar Sundial (I have seen this numerous times and still don’t understand how it works!). You also pass Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park which is worth a quick visit. Ahead of you will appear the support towers of the 02. Once called the Millennium Dome this building is now one of the most popular entertainment complexes in the UK. It has 12 x100 metre high support towers (one for each month of the year and each hour of the day) and it is 365 metres in diameter (one metre for each day in a standard year). You can walk up onto the 02 but make sure you book in advance, there are wonderful views from the top, and it isn’t too strenuous. As you come up to the 02 look out for “The Tide” this is London’s first ever elevated riverside linear park and, at the moment, is 1 km long but when finished should reach 5 km). There is also an Art Installation walk near the 02, and you can see sculptures by Damien Hirst, Allen Jones and Morag Myerscough to name but a few. The Thames Path now heads towards Greenwich town, and you can make out The Royal Naval College in the distance. The Path eventually passes right by the College and then arrives at the site of The Cutty Sark and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. There are lots of shops and restaurants in Greenwich if you want to stop here for a bit of shopping or a bite to eat. Greenwich has a market on certain days of the week and the street food stands are exceptionally good. This is usually where I buy something to eat before heading home (on a number 177 bus), or, if I am feeling particularly energetic turning round and walking back the route I have just done!
This is a London walk that really does encompass the history and the development of London.