Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Urban Wandering: London Docklands

I'm always a bit nervous about writing a blog post that features no pictures to break up my writing. However, the weather during my Urban Wandering today was too grey for taking decent pictures, and far too cold to take my gloves off. I have actually cheated a bit as you'll see as you read down through the article. My wandering today was half-planned, and half-forced upon me but some minor tube closures at Paddington. My original intention was to travel as far as Whitechapel by tube and then walk down to Canary Wharf from there, but I ended up taking a far more circuitous route because of the tube situation. Instead I caught a bus over to Bank, another to Shoreditch High Street, and then the Overground to Shadwell from where I then started my wander down to Canary Wharf.

If I'm honest the walk between Shadwell and Limehouse wasn't particularly inspiring. Maybe this was the route I found myself following, which was along a busy, main road. Fortunately, despite the fog, I could see my destination towering above the low rise flats, so there was no need to get my phone out for navigation purposes. Once I arrived at the westerly end of Narrow Street, the wander became more interesting, passing old pubs and wharves, after which I dropped down on to the Thames path and made my way along to Westferry Circus before heading up to Canary Wharf. I still know relatively little about this whole area, so it's another place to revisit, but when the weather is better! Also, having looked across the Thames quite frequently over the past few weeks, I've become curious about what's on the other side of the Thames and am tempted to take the ferry crossing to visit what I assume is the Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Deptford area.

My journey home was a bit shorter as I had to get home in time for my Shrove Tuesday pancakes, but I did manage to walk from Canary Wharf to Westferry. This short walk took me through parts of the London docklands I'd not visited before, and right past the London Docklands Museum, which is already on my to visit list. Whilst I like to docklands, there doesn't seem to be much of the original docklands left, so I'm hoping that when I do manage to find time to visit the museum then I'll get a better glimpse of what it was like in its hey-day, before becoming run-down, and then recreated as a glass and steel banker's theme park.

As time was running short I caught the DLR at Westferry back to Tower Gateway. For the urban explorer, this is a great route to take, especially on a cold day. The majority of the journey is above ground, and all sorts of glimpses of disused London can be clearly seen from the train. One site that was particularly evocative was a fox on the curve of a disused railway track bed that peeled away to the north west just before the train pulled into Tower Gateway. I had no idea where this track would have led, but a quick check in my 1928 London guide book showed that it led to a goods station just south of Aldgate East.

Map of part of East London and London Docklands from 1928 guide book
Map of part of East London and London Docklands from 1928 guide book

And also a couple of vintage postcards that help give a better impression of what the approach to the docks was once like.

vintage postcard of tower bridge, london

vintage postcard of the pool of london

I've always had a passion for exploring London, but this passion has been renewed over the past few weeks, through two of my recent reads Edgelands and Psychogeography.


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