Walking London’s Docks, Rivers & Canals
Author Gilly Cameron-Cooper winds her way around London’s docks, incorporating history alongside some smashing views…
Mucking About on the River
The weather gods have finally realised it says ‘summer’ on the calendar, so it’s off to the seaside, yes? No, if you haven’t got time to spend ten hours stuck in the coast-bound traffic. But if you are nevertheless desperate to be in the company of water, there’s always Old Father Thames, a next best thing that is often better than the first.
Whole happy days can be spent in the likes of Greenwich, Richmond or the South Bank but if you really want to immerse yourself in London’s aqua-glory, I would suggest an expedition planned with military precision that takes in some of the best bits of the Thames.
The first tip is to get up early, before the morning hunger pangs set in, and make for St Catherine’s Dock (nearest Tube: Tower Hill) where various quayside café’s serve fresh coffee and croissants. The Tower of London and Tower Bridge are close by for those who fancy some historical input. You could walk the next bit, but I suggest saving your energy and taking the Tube from Tower Hill to Blackfriars.
Over to the southern side of Blackfriars Bridge. A quick diversion eastwards leads to the hugely popular Tate Modern gallery, while to the west, and back on our route, there’s the approach to the South Bank and a cute little gardens/craft shops/ café area known as Gabriel’s Wharf. Take lunch in one of its establishments or, for stunning river views at a price, try the Oxo Tower nearby.
A short walk further west and you meet the main South Bank attractions such as the arts centre itself, the London Eye and London Aquarium. It probably won’t be sunset yet, but Waterloo Bridge is still a beautiful sight, though my advice is not to traverse it, but use instead the pedestrian Hungerford Bridge which takes you to Embankment Tube station. From there it’s a hop and a skip via two tube lines to Pimlico station, which is just around the corner from the Tate Britain gallery.
From Pimlico station, it’s about a 20 minute walk along the north bank, a road called Grosvenor Road, to Chelsea Bridge, which lies at one end of one of London’s best riverside venues, Battersea Park, featuring a boating lake, small zoo and Buddhist pagoda plus acres of prime lying-down space. Close to the south side of the park, after a walk of some ten minutes, you will find Queenstown Road Battersea overground station, from which it is only a few stops to Putney Station.
Your final walk is all down hill, an evening stroll down Putney High Street. Stop off for pre-dinner drinks at any number of pubs and bars if you’ve worked up a thirst. At the bottom of the road, wouldn’t you know it, there’s the river again. Better still, there’s one of London’s best newer restaurants, called simply Putney Bridge, that has lovely, relaxing views over the Thames and lovely, exciting food to boot. As with the Oxo Tower, pre-booking is essential.
Hampton Court Palace
Surrey KT8 9AU
For centuries Hampton Court Palace was home to some of Britain’s most famous kings and queens, many of whom have left their mark on both the stunning exterior and the opulent interior. Set in fairytale grounds running alongside the River Thames, the Palace offers guided tours inside and out. Once visitors have navigated their way through the Royal chambers, the world famous maze lies in wait within the stunning Palace grounds.
The Tower Of London
The Tower of London
Standing guard over the River Thames, its 20 mighty towers and giant stone walls project an image of power that once chilled the hardest of hearts. Once inside you experience nearly a thousand years of history and hear the myths and legends that make it ‘a day out to die for’. Home to the Crown Jewels and the Yeoman Warders (better known as ‘Beefeaters‘), The Tower of London gives a feel for the horrors and history of medieval life.
Thames River Cruise
London WC2N 6NU
The perfect opportunity to relax and indulge. Cruising with Bateaux London not only satisfies these desires, but enables visitors to soak up the buzzing atmosphere of the River Thames.
Tel: 020 8312 6565
The modern National Maritime Museum features exhibits about the future of the sea, exploration, passenger liners and trade. See the Royal Observatory’s Meridian Line, Time Ball and Harrison clocks from this beautiful Wren building that gives fine views over London and Docklands.
Dare you run the ‘Gauntlet of Flames?’ Journey back to 1666 as you relive the ‘Great Fire of London in this heart stopping challenge! The most thrilling visit in London also includes a Torture Chamber, Jack The Ripper Experience, including a 15minute tour through Victorian Whitechapel and Judgement Day…featuring a boat ride to Traitors Gate to face your doom…! But watch out for the Dungeon’s gruesome actors…!
King William Walk
Cutty Sark was built in 1869 to be the fastest tea clipper in the annual race to bring the first of the season’s crop of tea home to Britain. On the Main Deck you can see the crew and officers’ accommodation; the ‘Tween Deck houses displays about her history, trade and life on board and the Lower Hold has a colourful collection of figureheads.
London SE1 2JH
HMS Belfast is a cruiser first launched in March 1938. She served throughout the Second World War before supporting United Nations forces in Korea, and remained in service with the Royal Navy until 1965. A tour round this huge and historic reminder of Britain’s naval heritage will take you from her Quarterdeck up to the top of her Bridge and all the way down through nine decks to her massive Boiler and Engine rooms.
The Tower Bridge Experience
Inside the towers and engine rooms of the bridge, characters from Tower Bridge’s history lead visitors through an animated audio-visual presentation the spans over a hundred years. Let bridge designer Sir Horace Jones and his trusty builder Harry Stoner be your guide as computers, steam engines and working models of the bridge bring the past to life. The views of London from the towers are spectacular.