Welcome to my blog

This is it! I've given up work -retired from the rat race and am about to start on a 10 year adventure, doing all those things I've been meaning to do but never had the time to do them. I've offloaded my responsibilities and it is now my time. So follow my adventures and see whether I actually manage anything!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Spring in Greenwich Park

 I took these photos just before Easter in Greenwich Park. The Spring flower displays were just coming into their own and I couldn't resist snapping a few displays to share with you.

This week England has started the long road back after lockdown. Non essential shops have reopened including the hairdressers. We are all feeling a lot lighter now that the extra layers of hair have been removed and smartened up a bit. I had my 2nd vaccination this week so feel ready to face the world once again. Precautions are still in place. Only eating and drinking outdoors in groups of 6 or less. Socially distanced rules still apply as does the wearing of masks on transport and in shops etc. Today the sun is shining and suddenly things seem a lot better out there.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Woolwich to Crossness

 I started today's walk a couple of miles downstream from the Thames Barrier. Luckily, I managed to find a place to park close to the river here.

 This is looking back towards Woolwich. It started to rain as soon as I left the car but undeterred I put on the waterproofs and carried on.

I have indicated where I am walking today. As you can see from this map there are a few bends in the river for me to follow.

Had it not been raining this would have been a pleasant stop to watch the river flowing past.
The gates take me on to a gravel rather than a paved pathway.
On the left you could walk through some scrubland down to the water's edge.

On the right hand side were steps leading up to Gallions Reach park created in 2017 from land left vacant by the former Royal Arsenal. 
800 new trees were planted in and around man made mounds. It's still looking a bit sparse but once the trees have matured it will be an attractive green space.

Every now and the then along this stretch I have seen the remains of piers that would have been built to service the Royal Arsenal. In this photo you can see a difference by the river's edge with more vegetation and marshland.

A navigation light at Tripcock Ness. It was established in 1902 and at 30ft high the light can be seen from 8 miles away.  We are eleven miles from London Bridge here and vessels going past this point must contact Thames Barrier control. It is also the site of the greatest loss of life the river has ever known. The Princess Alice was a pleasure cruiser that collided with the Bywell Castle, a bulk cargo ship for carrying coal to warships. It was the 3rd of September 1878 that The Princess Alice was on her way upstream returning day trippers from an outing to Sheerness. They stopped at Gravesend and took on more passengers. It was reported that there were too many people on board and there was no passenger list so the exact numbers will never be known. It is estimated that between 650 and 700 people lost their lives that day.

This is a waymarker for the National Cycle Network. One thousand of them were erected for the Millennium, funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
This is a particularly colourful one.

The path path splits into an upper and lower level here and on the lower path you can see a pill box, one of a number that were constructed during WW2 as part of the defence system.

The octagonal shape of these gave rise to the name pill box.

On the other side of the river is this 60m high tidal flood prevention drop gates for Barking Creek. Once the decision has been made to close the Thames Barrier, then the staff at Barking are alerted as it takes 45 minutes for the gates to fall and reach the river bed.

my side of the river you can see how the river bends.

   Looking inland from one of the viewing points, you can see this clocktower in Thamesmead. This has been moved here from the great storehouse in the Royal Deptford Dockyard (Another of Henry VIII's dockyards. When the storehouse was demolished in 1981 the manager of Convoy's Wharves donated the clock and cupola to Thamesmead.

More evidence of the history of this part of the river. 

On the opposite bank of the river is an oil storage depot.

We are now approaching the Belvedere and Erith marshes. This is an area of grazing marsh by the banks of the river. The bulk of the marshes which once existed between Woolwich and Erith have now been built upon. 

The remaining marshland is owned by Thames Water who manage this as well as a nature reserve close to the river.

There were a number of birds feeding by the river edge particularly shelducks.

Crossness was part of a radical sewerage system for London. It had the beneficial effect of improving the smell. The 'Big Stink' of 1858 brought London to a standstill because of the stench coming from the human excrement in the Thames.

This Victorian building contains the largest rotative beam engines in the world. It was built in 1865 by Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer for the Metropolitan Board of Works, to pump South London's untreated sewage into the Thames. The sewage was brought here in massive brick sewers removing pollution from the river in London. Four giant steam engines, named Albert Edward, Alexandra, Prince Consort and Victoria lifted the sewage for discharge to the Thames. I have yet to see inside the pump house but photographs reveal a very ornate interior with decorative cast iron work. The pump house periodically has open days and once those resume I am going to try and get a ticket. The engines were last used operationally in Feb 1953 to help deal with flooding. 

From 1889 the sludge settling from sewage at Crossness sewage treatment works was taken by special ships to be dispersed far out in the Thames Estuary. Three Thames Water ships were the most regular users of the river, each carrying their load of sludge out to sea twice a day. For over a century they helped keep the capital clean. A new activated sludge process was completed at Crossness in 1964 to give full treatment to the wastewater. Salmon were absent from the river for 150 years but returned in 1974. Now over 100 species of fish thrive in the river and estuary.  1.6 million Londoners send their waste here to Crossness sewage treatment works to be cleaned and recycled to the River Thames. On the other side of the river two miles upstream is the Beckton sewage treatment works - the largest in Europe serving over 3 million Londoners. Today the River Thames is the cleanest metropolitan river in the world.

Treated water returning to the Thames.

The birds loved it.

Here at Crossness the tide drops around 6.4m twice a day exposing the mud which is rich in worms and shellfish, attracting thousands of birds.

The Crossness pathway was opened by Thames Water in 2000. The pathway provides access to this stretch of the river for the first time in 150 years. The 1.2 km pathway has specially built viewpoints with peepholes so the birds are unaware they are being watched. 

The weather was miserable and the rain which hadn't stopped all day was now heavier than ever. Time to return to the car which was parked three miles away!

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Progress in the garden

About 3 or 4 years ago my neighbours erected a 'chalet' at the bottom of their very long garden. I have a very small garden and from my kitchen window, my eye kept focussing on the new addition next door. I had hoped they might plant some greenery to help it blend in but they didn't take too kindly to that suggestion so it was up to me to find a solution.

I planted some fast growing shrubs. I couldn't afford to buy large ones and just hoped they would grow quickly.

I needn't have worried because the bamboo is now about 10ft tall and the others are about 8ft.
I can hardly see the 'chalet' at all now. Happy days.

Good to see so much colour in the garden. I am not a gardener and spend the minimum amount of time trying to keep it under control. This is always the best time of the year when the bulbs bring that much needed colour into our lives once again.

Monday, 22 March 2021

Woolwich Arsenal


My next walk along the Thames Path took me through the town of Woolwich. I haven't covered much distance along the path as I am leaving the path to look for places of interest nearby. As I mentioned in a previous post, Henry VIII had one of his 
 dockyards built in Woolwich, so I am interested to find out more about this historic naval and military town.

This small,  round building is the entrance to the Woolwich foot tunnel. This foot tunnel was opened in 1912, ten years after the Greenwich foot tunnel. It was built to provide easy access to the docks north of the river for the workers who lived south of the river. The digging of the tunnels was achieved by using a tunnelling shield but the excavation was done entirely by hand. The tunnel is 1655 feet long (504m) which is a little longer than the Greenwich foot tunnel. it is 69 feet (21m) deep. There is a lift if you don't fancy climbing up and down the stairs. Although the tunnel was open when I walked past the lift wasn't so I didn't bother going down all those steps just for a photo!

Just before you get to the foot tunnel you pass the ferry terminal. This is a free vehicle and pedestrian ferry across the River Thames connecting North Woolwich and Woolwich. The ferries can carry up to 40 vehicles and 150 passengers. There are two boats which run every 5-10 minutes on weekdays and every 15 minutes at the weekend. Being free it is a well used service but in recent years it has been plagued by delays and cancellations. Since 2020 the service has been taken over by  Transport for London to try and improve its reliability.

There's a lot of new developments alongside the river. 
Just beyond the blocks of flats is the Woolwich Arsenal. It was here in 1695 that the Royal Laboratory was set up. It was decided by the Board of Ordnance to move the manufacture of powder and filling shells from the populated area of Greenwich to the more remote Royal Warren where it was called the Royal Laboratory. During the 1700s it also housed a firework factory.  Building then developed gradually in response to different military campaigns and advances in technology.

 In successive years the first barracks took up residency on site and a theatre was erected. The Royal Artillery Band also established a base at Woolwich (1762-2014) and the Royal Military Academy opened with courses that included dancing and drawing. After a visit by George III in 1805 he changed its name from Royal Laboratory to the  Royal Arsenal.  referred to as the Secret City
From 1806 after the departure of the Royal Military Academy the area concentrated on ammunition manufacturing and packing and became a self-contained factory complex. In 1886 factory workers formed a football team and club known as Dial Square FC. It later relocated north of the river and is known today as Arsenal FC.

During WW1 Woolwich Arsenal was referred to as the Secret City employing an estimated 80,000 people around half of whom were women. The jobs were dangerous and physically demanding. Handling explosive chemicals stained the female munition workers' hair and skin yellow, giving them the nickname 'canary girls'.  The Secret City continued making ammunition throughout WW2 and on until manufacturing ceased in 1967 and the Ministry of Defence left in 1994.

By the early 20th century the site was three miles long and one mile wide and had three separate internal rail systems. Most of the buildings still remain. Some have now been converted for residential use, a gym, a museum and offices.

 The London Borough of Greenwich which now owns the site is converting other buildings into a huge arts centre which will have resident orchestras, theatre groups, restaurants, cafes etc. It was due to open the first phase in 2020 but obviously the pandemic has changed all that and I'm not sure when it will be finished and ready to open.

It is possible to walk around the site so let me show you some more of the buildings. These were the guardrooms, built in 1814/5. The river is on the other side of the wall behind the guardrooms. They are now used as coffee shops.

This is a sculpture called 'Assembly' by Peter Burke which is in front of the guardrooms . It represents a group of men coming together. They are all identical and the individual pieces bolted together, I think it is a representation of the role of the Arsenal as a manufacturing factory. If that is the case then perhaps the sculptures should have been women.

This gun is part of the Royal Artillery's collection. More information below:

Chemical Laboratory built in 1864

Central Offices 1905

Rifle shell factory gateway

The gates were cast for the shell foundry at the Regents Canal Iron Works in 1856. They were erected here in 1991.  

It would be interesting to have a tour of the site but that will have to wait until life returns to something like normality.

This was the grand store.

It is a huge site and I wandered around for well over an hour.  It was time to return to the Thames Path.

Back by the river, you can see how wide it is here. It was almost high tide and I can hear the river lapping against the walls that line the embankment. 

 I noticed this lock and I left the path to have a look.
There was a small nature reserve next to a housing estate.
This seemed a good place to finish today's walk as I had to walk back about 3 miles to the Thames Barrier to collect the car. I took note of the names of the roads here as next time I will park in this area to continue my walk along the Thames Path.

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