Sunday 18th May 2014
(Many thanks to my partner-in-crime Shelly for the use of her images. Please take time to visit her Flickr page – she’s a great photographer . . . .)
A glorious weekend in London, so we made our way down the Northern line from our regular start-point at Brent Cross to Charing Cross, where we emerged right into the heart of a bustling city at Strand (‘Ave A Banana). I miss alighting at Embankment – walking out of the station to be immediately confronted by the view of the Thames and the London Eye – hopefully the building work will be completed on schedule, and we can be hopping off there again in autumn. Sidestepping tourists all the way down to the Jubilee bridge we made our way across the river to the South Bank and it’s street-food market, where we spent time trying to decide what to eat – everything looked soooo good. Eventually, full of kebabs and Pakora, we made our way to Waterloo and jumped on the Jubilee line heading east. 14 minutes and 6 stations later, after passing beneath the River Thames twice, we walked out of North Greenwich station into a sun-soaked O2 arena complex.
A short walk from the station yielded the first glimpse of the next leg of today’s journey – the Emirates Air Line cablecar, which carries groups of 8 people per car over the river at a height of ever-so slightly under 300 feet – not good if someone (me) in the party is scared of heights….. Anyway, I busied myself with my camcorder as a distraction from looking down, and the ride was soon over. I even enjoyed some of it, and at a mere £3.30 it just has to be done. Granted it was a sunny and cloudless day, but, despite most of the “famous” London City landmarks being out of sight, I reckon the view from the cablecar beats that of the London Eye …… The glass towers of Canary Wharf are stunning from this lofty viewpoint.
The Royal Victoria Docks complex was interesting – especially the old dock cranes that have been retained as a focal point of the development – the large cruise ship moored there today was a nice touch too.
Not so good though was the price of ice cream and snacks at the dockside stalls. There is a much cheaper alternative very close by, more of which later …… The Excel Exhibition Centre looked worthy of exploration, but that’ll be for another day – today we wanted to go see the Thames Barrier.
The suspension footbridge that spans the Victoria dock is quite impressive, even if the lifts at either end that take pedestrians from ground level up to the walkway, 50ft above the water, were both out of order due to vandalism. Apparently the original design for the bridge featured a glass transporter cabin suspended from a rail beneath the deck, but this feature never materialised. Just as well really, as it’d have been something else for the local yobs to break . . . .
The view from the bridge was full of interest, with the O2, Canary Wharf and the city skyline to the west, and the abandoned Millennium Mill and London City Airport to the east.
While we were taking photos we were buzzed by several aircraft on final approach to London City airport – they seemed low enough to touch, and I swear I could see passengers looking down at me . . . . Once over on the southern side of the dock we discovered a good old-fashioned general store / off licence, where a couple of bottles of ice cold lager were purchased at normal prices – much better than being held to ransom by the rip-off merchants on the north side. Something to remember next time we’re in the area.
Once we’d picked our way through the Britannia Village housing development and crossed a busy dual carriageway we arrived at Barrier Park, a pretty little 22 acre park with plenty of play areas for kids and quiet corners ideal for sitting with a beer whilst admiring the Thames Barrier. The Barrier itself is certainly an awesome sight – its easy to see why some call it the “Eighth wonder of the world”. What struck me was how shiny it was – I’d been expecting it to be white and sterile, but the pontoons are clad in polished metal panels which resemble scales, giving the whole structure the appearance of a huge fish basking on the surface of the Thames …..
After a pleasant half hour spent sipping Peroni on the lawn whilst gazing out over the river we ambled over to Pontoon Dock DLR station, just a few hundred metres from the Barrier. The DLR is a great experience. The driverless trains run on an elevated rail, giving passengers incredible views of the Docklands area, with its mix of old buildings & new development. Passengers lucky enough to bag seats at the front of the train get a drivers-eye view of the journey, which must be very enjoyable, as those seats have always been occupied whenever we’ve boarded . . . .