Thursday, April 28, 2022

Greenwich Foot Tunnel

London The Unfinished City
The entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel at Greenwich.

Of the roughly 40 tunnels beneath the River Thames, the majority of which carry utilities, railway lines and motor vehicles, only three allow pedestrians to use them: The Greenwich Foot tunnel, the Woolwich Foot tunnel and the Rotherhithe tunnel, although the latter is not advisable, unless you want to look like a chimney sweep and breath in noxious fumes. 

The Greenwich foot tunnel, which I have traversed on numerous occasions, is the oldest pedestrian foot tunnel in London, linking Greenwich with Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs.

The south entrance is located in front of the Cutty Sark, while the north entrance is situated in Island Gardens.

You have the option of descending the stairs or wait for the lift to be free. I always take the stairs, which spiral down to the white-tiled tunnel.

London The Unfinished City
The Greenwich foot tunnel.

Running in a straight line it takes roughly 8 minutes to traverse. The northern end has some thick concrete and steel lining, which covers bomb damage from World War II, that does narrow the interior of the tunnel for a short distance.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Walking from Borough Market to Deptford, via the Isle of Dogs

With Covid-19 and the various lockdowns putting a pause on my walks with friends, around The Unfinished City, it is great to be able to start them up again.

Saturday April 2, 2022

After a breakfast of Pulled Pork Burger with apple sauce and sage & onion stuffing, from Hobbs in Borough Market, my friend Stephen and I began our first walk of 2022.

London The Unfinished City
Borough Market is a food lovers paradise.

Heading towards the River Thames we made our way through the Contorted Tunnel, which Stephen had never seen, to the basement of Hay's Galleria. Climbing the stairs we headed out on to the embankment, by HMS Belfast, and followed the path to Tower Bridge. 

London The Unfinished City
Tower Bridge and the Girl with a Dolphin.

Taking the eastern pedestrian path, across the bridge, we headed to St Katharine Docks Marina, where various yachts, barges, lifeboats and the Queen's Rowbarge 'Gloriana' were moored. As we rounded one of the buildings I pointed out Stanley Kubrick's original 'Monolith' from 2001: A Space Odyssey, which had been affixed to the wall of one of the buildings, back in 1977.

London The Unfinished City
'Monolith' by Arthur Fleischmann.

From here we headed eastward towards Hermitage Basin and the Ornamental Canal, through Wapping Woods and on to Shadwell Basin. A small area of the basin was being used by Wapping Docklands Market, so we had a look around the different food stalls before heading in to the historic The Prospect of Whitby, for a well-deserved drink.

London The Unfinished CIty
Our first drink in London together for a number of years.

Suitably refreshed we continued our journey by joining the Thames Path, at King Edward Memorial Park, which took us past the old converted wharf buildings to Limehouse. Beginning to feel a bit hungry we stopped at The Grapes on Narrow Street for a bite to eat and a drink. 
London The Unfinished City
The Grapes is a narrow pub on Narrow Street.

With bellies full and plenty of photographs of the various 'Lord of the Rings' memorabilia taken, we continued along Narrow Street and rejoined the Thames Path, which took us to the Isle of Dogs. 

London The Unfinished City
Looking towards The Shard, from where our walk had begun.

We continued along the Thames Path until we joined Westferry Road, in search of a watering hole. Fortunately, we discovered The Ship just as the Heavens opened and rain, sleet and snow cascaded from the sky for ten solid minutes. 

London The Unfinished City
The Space Theatre and Bar

Once hydrated we rejoined the Thames Path and discovered the launch ramp for the SS Great Eastern, something that I had wanted to see for many years. The SS Great Eastern was the largest ship in the world, at the time of its construction in 1858.

London The Unfinished City
Preserved for Posterity.

Continuing along the Thames Path we discovered The Ferry House pub, which, it turns out, is the oldest pub on the Isle of Dogs. As it was a historic pub and been serving the locals since 1722 we had to enter.

London The Unfinished City
The oldest pub on the Isle of Dogs.

From here the Thames Path took us to Island Gardens, a 3-acre park which also houses the north entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. A short conversation ensued as to whether to stick to our route or use the tunnel and walk along the south bank. The latter won out, so we descended the 87 steps and started the 370-metre walk, 15 metres below the River Thames, to the south entrance and its 100 steps up to the surface.

London The Unfinished City
The Greenwich foot tunnel, looking north.

Emerging into the late spring afternoon sun, with the sounds of a carousel, the smells of street food and the sight of the historic Cutty Sark made for a magical moment. 

London The Unfinished City
The historic Cutty Sark.

Deciding to make the most of the afternoon we turned westward and made our way along the river, crossing Deptford Creek via the Greenwich Reach Swing Bridge, until we reached Deptford. One of the first statues we spotted was of Peter the Great, who studied shipbuilding here in 1698.

London The Unfinished City
A statue of Peter the Great.

It was as this point that we thought that a drink on the south side of the River Thames was in order, so we stopped at The Dog and Bell, which was perhaps the busiest London pub that we had visited... ever. 

London The Unfinished City
The Dog and Bell entrance.

With the evening drawing in we continued our journey towards Surrey Quays station, but were shocked to discover that we had reached The Black Horse pub. Now, a few years ago Stephen, Gary and myself had attempted to walk the south bank from Borough Market to Greenwich, but we only made it as far as The Black Horse pub. Realising that, in a way, we had completed a full circle Stephen and I stepped inside to celebrate, making sure to also call Gary to let him know of our achievement.

London The Unfinished City
A wonderful selection from which to celebrate.

Suitably pleased with ourselves we continued our journey to Surrey Quays station and headed for home, having completed almost 11 miles of walking in 8 hours.

It is so much more enjoyable walking through London with friends, than it is by oneself, that I can't wait to see what we can discover and learn, before it is lost forever, on our next walk.

Monday, April 04, 2022

SS Great Eastern Launch Ramp

 

London The Unfinished City
SS Great Eastern launching chains

Saturday, April 2, 2022

It had long been one of my ideas to walk along the Thames Path around the Isle of Dogs, to take in the historic aspects of the area.

And so, having left Borough Market and crossed the River Thames via Tower Bridge, I made my way through St Katharine Docks to Wapping and on to Limehouse, before finally making it to the Isle of Dogs.

Much of the area around West India Docks, which became disused in the 1980s, were redeveloped between the late 1980s and the 1990s, and became the second financial district for London, commonly known as Canary Wharf.

Continuing on my walk I finally reached one of the most historic places on the Isle of Dogs... Napier Yard and the launch ramp of the SS Great Eastern.

London The Unfinished City
SS Great Eastern launch ramp.

This was the exact spot from where, on January 31, 1858, following thirteen unsuccessful attempts, the SS Great Eastern was launched sideways into the River Thames. She was the largest ship ever built, at the time, and was the brainchild of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

The slipway had been lost to the ravages of time, but was finally rediscovered in 1984 when redevelopments took place in the area. As the timbers were uncovered they were sprayed with water before they could be injected with a preservative.

London The Unfinished City
Preserved for Posterity.

The reason for the thirteen unsuccessful attempts stems from the fact that two slipways were required, rather than the usual one. Both slipways had to be at an identical height to carry the weight of the 12,000 tonne ship, but a miscalculation made the slipway at the bow of the ship being steeper than that at the stern.

London The unfinished City
A history of the SS Great Eastern.


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