Tuesday, July 02, 2024

Walking with Keilyn: Severndroog Castle to Woolwich... and beyond

Royal Victoria Docks
Royal Victoria Docks from Connaught Bridge.

Sunday June 30, 2024.

It was a slightly overcast morning as Keilyn and I hopped into a taxi and headed to Watford underground station, to start another epic walk.

Metropolitan line to Finchley Road, then Jubilee line to North Greenwich and finally a 486 bus towards Bexleyheath, grabbing the front seats on the top deck, although our walk would start form Shooter's Hill.

As soon as we boarded the bus the rain, which had been threatening all morning, finally made an appearance, but it didn't dampen our spirits, as the bus meandered its way towards Shooter's Hill. Thankfully, as we alighted from the bus, the rain stopped and slowly the clouds began to lift, as we made the short walk to Castle Woods and our first stop of the day... Severndroog Castle.

Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle.

Now, this is not really a castle, but a folly or memorial, and it is unique in design, being three-sided. It is an 18th century Gothic Tower, with a viewing platform on its roof, which, on a clear day, allows you to look out across London to the edges of the six counties that surround her (seven for those who still include Middlesex).

Due to staffing and technical issues the Castle was late opening, but we could still avail ourselves the use of the Tea Room, which we promptly did. 

Suitably refreshed we were informed that the Tower was now open. So, with Keilyn leading the way, we made our way up the spiral staircase and found ourselves in the Lady James Room, where a small shop was set out, with information boards and a model of the Folly. It was here that we purchased our tickets for the viewing platform. Thankfully I had some cash on me, as the card machine was still causing issues for the volunteers.

Severndroog Castle Donation Box
This model is actually a money box.

We then headed up to the next floor and the William James Room, which is now a community, learning and exhibition space. 

Severndroog Castle Viewing Platform
Heading up to the Viewing Platform.

Then it was up to the roof, where we discovered that, although it was still overcast, the views were incredible. A volunteer handed us both a pair of binoculars and began pointing out various points of interest, related to the James family, along with other landmarks. 

As the viewing platform is 151 metres (496 feet) above sea level, you can see out over the tree canopy of Castle Wood and Oxleas Woodlands, which is one of the last remaining ancient woodlands in London, Parakeets flew by, below us, while a Woodpecker could heard somewhere in the trees ahead of us, too. We took our time checking out the view, as with every passing minute the clouds lifted a little more, until we could see Battersea Power Station, the mast at Crystal Palace and so much more.

The View from Severndroog Castle
Slightly overcast, but still an incredible view.

Once we had seen all that we could we thanked the volunteer and made our way back into the folly, stopping to sign the visitor's book and peruse the shop, before heading back out into Castle Woods, ready to begin our walk proper.

Royal Military Academy
The Old Royal Military Academy.

Reaching Shooter's Hill we followed the road westward, before turning north onto South Circular Road, heading towards Woolwich. We passed the old Royal Military Academy, which has now been turned into private apartments, before we reached our second place of interest... St George's Garrison Church.

St George's Garrison Church Exterior
The exterior of St George's Garrison Church.

This was another place that I had wanted to visit for quite a while. But, like Severndroog Castle, it is only open on Sundays. 

St George's Garrison Church Interior
The ruins and the memorial gardens.

Making our way through the gates we made our way to what is left of the church, with its canopy protecting the mosaics and brickwork from the elements. As I studied the mosaics and the Victoria Cross Memorial, Keilyn took herself off to look at the Memorial Gardens. 

St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens
St George's Garrison Church Memorial Gardens.

I soon joined her, before we started talking with a volunteer who explained what and how the Trust worked and their plans for the future. There is a lot going on with this historic ruin, that will preserve it for future generations, and I cannot wait to go back and see how it all turns out.

St George's Garrison Church Mosaics
St George's Garrison Church Altar and Mosaics.

On leaving the ruin we continued towards Woolwich High Street, where we bought lunch and rested, as the sun had now burnt through the clouds, raising the temperature, allowing us to remove our jackets.

After purchasing some more snacks and drinks we made our way towards the third place on out list for the day... the Woolwich Free Ferry.

Woolwich Free Ferry
'Dame Vera Lynn'.

The last time that Keilyn and I visited Woolwich was when we walked from the Greenwich Peninsula to Woolwich, back in 2022. The ferry wasn't running, that day, so we had to take the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. Today, both ferries, 'Ben Woollacott' and 'Dame Vera Lynn' were operating, with the former being our ferry for the afternoon.

Keilyn in the passenger refuge area
Keilyn onboard the Woolwich Free Ferry.

We waited patiently for the passengers to disembark before we boarded the ferry and took up a position on the deck, grabbing some great views along the River Thames. Within minutes the ferry began to move sideways into the river, before turning, in unison with its northern counterpart, and approached the north terminal. The journey took about 8 minutes. As the tide was out we watched as the road lowered to meet us, before the barriers rose and we headed up on the approach road.

Crane on Rails
Keilyn on the Crane on Rails.

Just off Pier Road we noticed an old anchor and next to that a Crane on Rails, that Keilyn immediately climbed, pulling on the few levers that hadn't rusted in place. Then she clambered on a small anchor, before standing atop an old propeller. We then headed along Albert Road, passing by the Tate & Lyle factory and stopping at Londis to get an ice cream, before continuing on to Connaught Bridge, where we stood at the end of the runway and watched as the aeroplanes flew over our heads.

From here we headed along Victoria Dock Road, before crossing the DLR bridge that would take us to the IFS Cloud Cable Car. 

City Hall
City Hall.

A water refill station allowed us to replenish our bottles before we headed to the cable car which would take us back to North Greenwich.

View From the IFS Cloud
Looking towards where we had walked earlier in the day.

When we disembarked from our Cable Car we popped into the IFS Cable Car Experience, where Keilyn used the interactive displays before we went to the café and had a sit down and bought a cold drink. Keilyn perused the shop deciding on, surprise surprise, a notebook and pencil.

Damien Hirst's 'Demon with Bowl'.
Keilyn with Damien Hirst's 'Demon with Bowl'.

Once she had used the facilities we headed outside to take a look at Damien Hirst's 'Demon with Bowl', which is a towering sculpture on Edmund Halley Way.

From here it was a short walk to North Greenwich station, where we caught a train to Baker Street and, from there, a train for home.

A thoroughly enjoyable day seeing some remarkable places and finding interesting things, all while simply walking and keeping our eyes open.

Distance travelled:

  • Bus - 3.6 miles
  • Cable Car - 0.68 miles
  • Car - 0.0 miles
  • DLR - 0.0 miles
  • Ferry - 0.4 miles
  • Overground - 0.0 miles
  • River Boat - 0.0 miles
  • Taxi - 1.6 miles
  • Train - 0.0 miles
  • Underground - 50 miles
  • Walking - 7.7 miles

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