Walk 18: Greenwich: From the London Eye on a Fast Boat

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: It’s hard to put a time on this as the walk’s really done as part of a full day out in Greenwich, with lots of buildings, markets & history to see

Difficulty: All on hard paths. There’s only one steep bit which is the ‘not to be missed’ climb to the General Wolfe Statue for what is regarded as one of the best views across London

Parking: It’s possible to park on the street, but, in our opinion, there’s only one way to approach Greenwich which is the way it was intended…from the river. We therefore caught the excellent Clipper service from the London Eye & have built the journey into this walk

Public toilets: Lots in the various buildings & numerous pubs, cafes etc in Greenwich itself

Map of the route: 

The above map’s only there to show an indication of the area covered as it’s really a ‘wander about’ walk

This walk’s got a lot of history associated with it. Greenwich is home to a World Heritage Site, Europe’s most successful entertainment arena, Britain’s first urban cable car, London’s oldest Royal Park & the place where hemispheres meet – not bad for starters!

Internationally recognised as the home of time, Greenwich is also where to find the Prime Meridian of the World. Every place on Earth is measured from here

The town became the site of a royal palace, the Palace of Placentia from the 15th century, & was the birthplace of many in the House of Tudor, including Henry VIII & Elizabeth I

We’ll touch on much of the history as we go along, but before we start our walk we’ve got to get there so…

Let’s Walk!

1. Greenwich was built to be arrived at by the River Thames &, if you do so, you’ll see why. We decided to start our journey from Westminster Bridge & catch the Thames Clipper river taxi from beside the London Eye

Westminster Bridge lies on the Thames between the Houses of Parliament & County Hall. The view is exceptional in every direction, taking in Parliament, Whitehall, the Strand, South Bank & beyond that the City & the London Eye. William Wordsworth wrote these lines about the bridge in 1802: “Earth has not anything to show more fair: Dull would he be of soul who could pass by a sight so touching in its majesty”

2. The Clipper stop is just past the London Eye. It’s a spectacular sight close up & we felt in a Black & White mood…

 

There’s no need to book for the Thames Clipper as you can just turn up & buy a ticket. The fares are really reasonable. The route runs from Putney to Royal Arsenal Woolwich…

Departures are every 20 minutes from the major piers & it certainly gives you a really different view of London. So tickets booked we head down to the pier to await our boat!

3. Inside the Clipper’s really spacious, with great views through the large windows. The seats are comfy &, until you pass Tower Bridge, they’re happy for you to move round to take photos etc

Everything looks different from the river. We haven’t put all the sights on here, but the first building of note we pass is Charing Cross Station

Followed by Shell Mex House

Shell Mex House was built on the site of the Cecil Hotel in 1886 & was Europe’s largest with over 600 rooms. It was purchased by Shell in 1930 who had the structure stripped to the bone & then remodeled with art deco stylings

Many people think that The Houses of Parliament (Big Ben) has the largest clock face in London, but this belongs to Shell Mex House which is 7.62 metres in diameter. The clock tower element is crucial for the building height which allowed it to circumvent the height limits of the time that existed for fire safety reasons by defining it as an uninhabited part of the building

4. The sights are coming thick & fast now as we approach Blackfriars Bridge with St Pauls Cathedral also coming into view…

Blackfriars Bridge is the busiest of the four bridges in the City carrying over 50,000 vehicles a day

The current bridge was designed by Joseph Cubitt & opened by Queen Victoria in 1869. It has five wrought iron arches & a total length of 281m. There is no weight limit on the bridge

St Paul’s Cathedral sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present church, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed within Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme which took place in the city after the Great Fire of London

The cathedral is one of the most famous & most recognisable sights of London, with its dome, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, dominating the skyline for 300 years At 365 feet (111 m) high, it was the tallest building in London from 1710 to 1962, & its dome is also among the highest in the world. In terms of area, St Paul’s is the second largest church building in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral occupies a significant place in the national identity of the English population. It’s the central subject of much promotional material, as well as postcard images of the dome standing tall, surrounded by the smoke & fire of the Blitz

Important services held at St Paul’s have included the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill & Margaret Thatcher; Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First & Second World Wars; the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, & Lady Diana Spencer, the launch of the Festival of Britain & the thanksgiving services for the Golden Jubilee, the 80th Birthday & the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II

5. The next bridge we pass under is much younger…The Millennium Bridge…

Londoners nicknamed the bridge the “Wobbly Bridge” after participants in a charity walk on behalf of Save the Children to open the bridge felt an unexpected &, for some, uncomfortable swaying motion on the first two days after the bridge opened. The bridge was closed later that day &, after two days of limited access, the bridge was closed for almost two years while modifications were made to eliminate the wobble entirely. It reopened in 2002

On the opposite side to St Paul’s is the imposing Tate Modern & The Globe theatre

6. Having now passed under London Bridge, which stands at the western end of the ‘Pool of London’, we’re coming into the more modern area of the city, the skyline of which is becoming more & more impressive…

Just next to ‘The Gherkin’ you can just make out The Monument. Designed by Wren and completed in 1677, to commemorate the Great Fire of London of 1666. The column stands 202ft (62m) high, the same distance as from the starting point of the fire in Pudding Lane. It’s also the tallest free-standing stone column in the world & at £4 per adult provides a fantastic view, or combine it with a ticket to Tower Bridge for an amazing £10!!

7. Tower Bridge is now starting to loom before us, but before that on the right lies HMS Belfast & views of The Shard

8. Before we pass under Tower Bridge, on the left’s another major tourist attraction…The Tower of London

This is one of the best views from the river & you also get to see ‘Traitors Gate’

The Tower currently (September 2014) has an exhibition of 800,000 ceramic poppies commemorating the start of World War 1

…& now it’s time for Tower Bridge itself…

Tower Bridge is often mistaken for London Bridge, the next bridge upstream. A popular urban legend is that in 1968, Robert McCulloch, the purchaser of the old London Bridge that was later shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, believed that he was in fact buying Tower Bridge. This was denied by McCulloch himself & has been debunked by Ivan Luckin, the vendor of the bridge

9. After Tower Bridge the speed limits on the river change & we’re told not to move from our seats as the Clipper quickly accelerates – this is good!!

On the left now is the redeveloped St Katharine Docks & various other Quays in the East End. There’s also some great waterside pubs along this stretch with tons of history attached, such as The Angel where Captain Cook prepared for his voyage to Australia

Shortly we get our first glance of Canary Wharf…

Canary Wharf, located in the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs in the Borough of Tower Hamlets was once one of the busiest ports in the world

Now a major business district it’s one of London’s two main financial centres – along with the traditional City of London & contains many of the UK’s tallest buildings, including the second-tallest after The Shard, One Canada Square

Canary Wharf contains around 14,000,000 square feet of office & retail space where around 105,000 people work. It ‘s home to the World or European headquarters of numerous major banks, professional services firms & media organisations including Barclays, Citigroup, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, Infosys, Fitch Ratings, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, MetLife, Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, RBC, Skadden, State Street and Thomson Reuters

10. It’s full steam ahead now to our destination Greenwich. The pier the Clipper lands at is just before the main landing area so we don’t get the classic view below…

11. Our first stop is probably the most visited site here…The Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark is a British Clipper ship. Built on the Clyde in 1869 for the Jock Willis Shipping Line, she was one of the last Tea Clippers to be built & one of the fastest, coming at the end of a long period of design development which halted as sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion

Entrance around the ship isn’t cheap, but you can get a spectacular view from just inside the ticket office…

12. Coming out of The Cutty Sark, we decide to explore the famous Greenwich Market before moving into the grounds themselves. There’s two entrances so it’s not hard to miss…

It’s a fabulous market, but watch your wallet as there was some thieving going on whilst we were there. At weekends it also has a fantastic world street food section…you really can eat your way across the world here

13. Right…bellies full let’s go & explore the Old Royal Naval College so we head back towards the river turning right into the College grounds where we find the information centre which is inside Pepys House

It’s a really informative place which also has some great suggested walks, one of which we’ve based our’s on

Just outside the information centre’s one of London’s ‘Books about Town’ benches which unfortunately are shortly to disappear which is a great shame. The one here is ‘The Railway Children’…

14. Now moving along to walk up between the college buildings…you might recognise this place from the film version of Les Mis

15. The first ‘open’ building we come across is the ‘Painted Chapel’ – Wow!!

The Painted Hall is often described as the ‘finest dining hall in Europe’. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren & Nicholas Hawksmoor, it was originally intended as an eating space for the naval veterans who lived here at the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Its exuberant wall & ceiling decorations are by Sir James Thornhill & pay tribute to British maritime power

16. Straight across is another ‘spectacle’…The Old Chapel

The Chapel, constructed by Thomas Ripley to the designs of Sir Christopher Wren, was the last major part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen to be built. Following a disastrous fire in 1779, it was redecorated by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in the Greek revival style & today is a wonderful example of a complete neoclassical interior

It really is a stunning building

17. Back outside, we’ve heard that the best view across London is from the top of the hill in Greenwich Park. It’s also where the Meridian Line is. So…let’s go have a look!

The view back towards Canary Wharf & it will only get better...

The view back towards Canary Wharf & it will only get better…

Be careful crossing the road & back into the park towards the National Maritime Museum. A word of warning…don’t buy an ice cream here as it’s a rip off & they haven’t got a clue about service!

18. Moving round to the right & heading straight on the next building we come to is The Queen’s House

The Queen’s House is a former royal residence built between 1616–1619 designed by Inigo Jones for Anne of Denmark, the Queen of King James I. It was altered & completed by Jones about 1635 for Henrietta Maria, Queen of King Charles I

It’s one of the most important buildings in British architectural history, being the first consciously classical building to have been constructed in Britain

19. Up the steps & through the pillars then…it’s soon time to climb that hill!

That's where we're heading...

That’s where we’re heading…

20. Around the back of the Queen’s House is a well laid out terrace recently named The Titanic Memorial Garden…

The original garden was opened on 15th April 1995, the 83rd anniversary sinking of the Titanic by Mrs Edith Haisman who survived it aged 15

21. Right…come on, stop putting it off, let’s get up that hill & enjoy one of the best views from The General James Wolfe Statue over London…& boy…what a view he has!!

The O2

The O2

22. We didn’t go into The Royal Observatory, the Prime Meridian Line this time, but managed to grab some shots from the outside…

 

The Meridian Line

The Meridian Line

If you fancy a close up & cheaper view of The Meridian Line then head to Louth in Lincolnshire where it passes through the centre of the town

23. Well that’s our walk done so let’s head back down the hill & into town. We’ve decided to catch the DLR back into town as it weaves its way, with some great views, through Dockland & Limehouse

If you fancy a bit of traditional East End food before you leave though you could do a lot worse than Goddards Pie, Eel & Mash shop back in Greenwich

So that’s the end of our walk around Greenwich & the first time we’ve been there. It’s a truly amazing place & somewhere you need to spend a whole day exploring

It’s great so…

Go Walk!

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