Greenwich’s Tudor pier

Low tide at Greenwich is revealing the remains of a Tudor pier in front of the Naval College buildings.

Piles show the outline of a jetty just yards to the west of the Palace of Placentia site.

Henry VIII was born there as were his daughters Mary and Elizabeth. As King, he spent much time there using the Thames as a highway to reach Westminster and Hampton Court.

He might have stood on the pier although the palace had its own watergate.

But Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and Samuel Pepys probably did land at the pier.

The wash over recent years from boats and tides has dramatically exposed the piles as well as the 17th-century revetments along today’s wall which holds the narrow path in front of the college buildings.

Brickwork from the line of the Tudor waterfront can be seen on the beach just in front of the western building.

Some of the exposed timbers, especially by the wall, are likely to be covered by stones shortly.

Greenwich waterfront

Greenwich waterfront

Low tide

Low tide

Tudor jetty

Tudor jetty


17th-century revetments

17th-century revetments


Line of Tudor waterfront

Line of Tudor waterfront

Path closed at Barnes

Closed towpath at Barnes Bridge

Closed towpath at Barnes Bridge

There is a temporary towpath closure for works between Barnes Railway Bridge and The White Hart at the start of Mortlake High Street in London.

Walkers must follow the road as far as the pub.

The path improvement is just one of many planned changes in the area.

There is a scheme to turn the upstream side the railway bridge into a ‘garden bridge’. This has the support of councils on both banks and Network Rail. The local claim is that this will not cost very much unlike the one being resisted by City and Waterloo residents in central London.

Just after The White Hart, the towpath runs below the large windows of The Depot restaurant. Next year this will be a Rick Stein restaurant. He recently opened a branch at Sandbanks on the Bournemouth Coast Path.

A few yards further on the path passes over the Mortlake Brewery drawdock. This is where Watney’s Red Barrel was produced and more recently Budweiser. Brewing began in 1700 and ended last December. The riverside site with Victorian buildings is now due to be redeveloped for housing.

The Ship, almost as old as the brewery and  once the University Boat Race finishing post, survives. It is also now a community toilet point.

St Edmund of Abingdon: Special event

The tomb of St Edmund d’Abingdon is a dominant feature at Pontigny Abbey in Burgundy where he is called St Edme.

As the name suggests, St Edmund of Abingdon was born in Abingdon. This was about 1175 when he was known simply as Edmund Rich and lived with his parents near today’s St Edmund’s Lane off West St Helen Street.

He went to school upstream in Oxford and it in these early days that he is reputed to have had an encounter with an apparition of the Christ Child in water meadows near the River Thames.

As a priest he often stayed at Reading Abbey which may have been an overnight stop when sailing up and down the Thames but it was also a favourite place for retreat or vacation.

In 1233 he became Archbishop of Canterbury. A recent predecessor was the martyr St Thomas Becket.

Edmund is buried in the vast Abbey church in France because he died nearby in 1540 whilst on his way to Rome.

The date of his death is the 16 November which is now his feast day.

Next Sunday 13 November the Roman Catholic Bishop of Portsmouth will be at St Edmund’s Roman Catholic Church in Abingdon at 1.30pm to celebrate a Mass marking the end of the Year of Mercy. He will rededicate the Roman Catholic Portsmouth Diocese to St Edmund.

A relic of St Edmund is being brought for the occasion and at 3pm Abbot Geoffrey Scott will give a talk about Edmund.

On Wednesday  St Edmund Hall at Oxford, named after Edmund of Abingdon, will be keeping St Edmund’s Day with evensong and a feast.

Rotherhithe: Commercial Pier Wharf path plan

A diversion from the river in Rotherhithe might be about to become redundant.

At present upstream walkers, having crossed Greenland Dock, must suddenly turn inland down narrow Randall Rents because, although New Caledonian Wharf ahead has a good path, there is no walkway further on.

At the end of Randall Rents, the diversion continues past the back of The Ship & Whale pub and along Odessa Street to return to the water by way of the far side of Commercial Pier Wharf.

Southwark Council has approved a planning application for flats on the Commercial Pier Wharf. The scheme includes provision for not only a riverside path in front but also a downstream extension path across the narrow Custom House Reach to link with New Caledonian Wharf.

This would provide a continuous route by the river from Greenland Dock to Surry Docks Farm.

However, the Commercial Pier Wharf site is well-known for its red crane which would have to be removed so planning permission will only be granted if Historic England (English Heritage) decide not to list the crane.

There has been a crane on the site for at least a century. However, Southwark planners claim that the present red Scotch Derrick crane is not old at it was installed only in 1965.

Retaining the crane will require a new design for the development and a new planning hearing.

The development’s architect is Simon Hudspith who once promoted a scheme for a Thames riverside path in front of Winchester Wharf and through London Bridge.

Commercial Pier Wharf crane

Commercial Pier Wharf crane

Wittenham Clumps stars at Tate’s Paul Nash show

Wittenham Clumps is a well-known stage on the Thames Path. The tight tree group on top of Round Hill is the great landmark on the approach to Dorchester.

Artist Paul Nash’s images are the most famous and so it is no surprise to find half a dozen in the Paul Nash exhibition at Tate Britain marking the 70th anniversary of his death.

One version is Landscape of the Vernal Equinox 1943, once owned by the Queen Mother who attended the concert held at the Tate Gallery during the Paul Nash memorial exhibition in 1948.

The Tate exhibition is a rare opportunity to see these paintings together.

Nash visited nearby Wallingford when young to stay with his uncle.

Early in the show there is a watercolour from this period called Wittenham Clumps 1912. It is now understood that this is not the Clumps but nearby Britwell Barrow which is also part of the Sinodun Hills. Nash was staying at Sinodun House.

Thirty years later, when not so well, Nash rediscovered Wittenham Clumps when staying at Boars Hill near Oxford.

From there he viewed the Sinodun Hills through field glasses and over several months in 1942-3 produced over twenty-five paintings featuring the Clumps.

The long view from Boars Hill is now blocked by trees.

Also changed is the view up the hill from the Thames Path. The trees do not appear exactly as Nash would have known them from the towpath pre First World War. Thirty-five years ago the beeches trees began to need replacing and since the mid 1980s into the start of this century there has been replanting and additions made.

The countryside is always changing but Wittenham Clumps is an example of managed change working with nature and not marred by any new building. You will still have to walk in to Dorchester to find refreshment.

A good way to prepare for a visit to the exhibition is to look at the excellent Paul Nash and the Wittenham Clumps website.

Paul Nash is at Tate Britain daily until 5 March; admission £15.

The exhibition will travel to Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich (7 April to 20 August) and Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle (9 September to January 2018).

Landscape of the Vernal Equinox has been lent by The Queen

Landscape of the Vernal Equinox has been lent by The Queen


Paul Nash is best known for his First World War paintings which are on show

Paul Nash is best known for his First World War paintings which are on show

New Thames lock-keepers

The Environment Agency has appointed four new resident lock-keepers to serve on the River Thames.

Relief keeper John O’Hara is the new lock-keeper at Radcot in Oxfordshire, Northmoor keeper Mark Winks moves to Osney in Oxford, relief Aiden Mahon to nearby Iffley and Benson keeper Katie Marshall to Romney below Windsor Castle.

“I’m delighted to announce these four appointments,” says Thames waterways manager Barry Russell.

“Along with two other full-time lock and weir-keeper appointments we made in earlier in the year, they underscore our commitment to retain resident lock and weir-keepers at sites where there is an operational need.”

John, Mark, Aiden and Katie will move to their new sites and new homes over the coming weeks.

The Optic Cloak: New Greenwich landmark


The Optic Cloak is a new landmark on the Greenwich Peninsula.

It can be seen from the Thames Path but at present the temporary diversion along Tunnel Avenue allows for a closer view.

The tall artwork, by Conrad Shawcross, is camouflage for the soaring flues of an energy centre providing low-carbon energy to homes on the Peninsula.

Diversion at Oxford’s Osney Bridge

A temporary diversion is in place for a year in Oxford.

This is at the start of Stage 17 north from Osney Bridge.

The towpath beside the channel with a view of allotments on the far side is closed.

The temporary route is right for a very short distance along Botley Road and left into Abbey Road.

On reaching the junction with Cripley Place go left again down a passage between numbers 7 and 9.

The diversion is for demolition of existing buildings by the towpath and the the erection of six houses.

The Times visits The Trout at Tadpole

The Trout at Tadpole in Oxfordshire has been reviewed in The Times.

Tom Chesshyre writes that “The Trout is on a remote section of the Thames”. He is right. I recall dropping in on a hot day in the early 1980s before the Thames Path was invented. It was a simple pub with just a few customers.

It is “now a gastropub” and part of the 19-strong Epicurean collection of inns claiming to ‘celebrate the British countryside’.

The reviewer reports: “The public areas were given a slick makeover with tan leather armchairs, cobalt-blue wood panels, quirky art and unusual, rhino-shaped lamps.”

But he says that it is “particularly popular with Thames Path walkers because there’s plenty of space to dry wet boots”.

This is true because walkers are divided between not just those willing and able to to pay above the average price and those wanting to keep accommodation basic and brief. No time to enjoy luxury say some.

B&B doubles are available from £130. A three course dinner for two is about £55.

The Trout, Tadpole Bridge SN7 8RF (01367 870382)

Greenwich Peninsula official diversion

The official diversion route on the Greenwich Peninsula caused by building work has been made available by Greenwich Council.

But the one below may be better:

The signs, mainly intended for downstream walkers, do not correspond with the council map. Once in Blackwall Lane do you turn down Mauritius Street or Azof Street? But it does not much matter.

From the 02

When walking  south, or upstream, from the 02 (or Dome) continue as usual over Victoria Deep Water Terminal to Bay Wharf. Here the path swings inland to a  T-junction where you now have to go left:

At the main road go right. Soon you are separated from the main road by what appears to be aslip road but is Tunnel Avenue. This passes behind Morden Wharf. At a junction bear right into Blackwall.

At the Meantime Brewery go right into Mauritius Street and at the end left down Christchurch Way.

At the first crossroads it is possible to leave the official diversion by following a temporary waymark pointing right into Banning Street. Then go right at the Pelton Arms into Pelton Street.

But the official route is still ahead over the crossroads to go right at the Royal Standard into Pelton Street.

Pelton Street leads to the Thames. Bear left on to Ballast Quay.

These arrangements are expected to remain in place until at least February 2018.

Pelton Arms

Pelton Arms sign

Pelton Arms sign

The Pelton Arms, SE London CAMRA Pub of the Year 2016, may be away from the normal riverside Thames Path but it is part of the Thames history. It was built in 1844 when coal was brought by sea from the north of England and unloaded here.

The road and pub are named after the Pelton Colliery at Chester-le-Street in County Durham which opened in 1835.

Fish and chips, burgers and Goddards’ Greenwich meat pies are available at lunchtime. A three course Sunday lunch is £12.95.

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