Poohsticks cancelled

The annual World Poohsticks Championships at Little Wittenham was cancelled today due to fast running water.

Maybe this should be a summer event. There used to be problems when it was held on the first Sunday in January. In 1997 the fun contest was cancelled due to the river being frozen.

I understand that there were still stalls out today for what is now a big occasion. A new date will be announced for September.

It started in 1984.

See page 154.

Driftwood cross at Southwark Cathedral

Today is the start of Holy Week and this holiday walkers may like to pause at Southwark Cathedral where a cross has been erected in the churchyard on the south side.

It stands where the Christmas Tree is found in December. The cross is large like the original and has a crossbar made from wood found downstream by the Isle of Dogs. The timber is thought to have been part of  a boat.

The cathedral’s Refectory in the courtyard by the Thames Path continues to be a good refreshment stop.

See page 31.

Richmond raft seriously damaged

Many people passing along Petersham Meadows upstream of Richmond look out for Ian Hamilton’s makeshift raft near the left bank.

I hear that his 20 year old home was nearly destroyed by fire a week ago. The local fire service did what it could from the bank whilst the fireboat was on its way from Lambeth.

The remains I understand are still near Glover’s Island and Ian Hamilton is hoping to relaunch the raft after repairs have been made.

See page 59.

Discover Greenwich opens

The Discover Greenwich attraction which has opened in the Old Royal Naval is good news.

Really this is a new tourist information centre with a good cafe and museum attached.

The displays include some good historical information and artifacts excavated on site.

Featured is the Tudor royal palace which preceded the Naval College. We now know that its chapel, where Henry VIII married Katharine of Aragon, stood on the car park just over the fence from the the Trafalgar Tavern.

Best news is that is that entry is free even to this permanent exhibition.

The cafe is in the Old Brewery where under the new Meantime Brewing Company brewing has been resumed. The Old Brewery occupies the site of a friary whose mother house was in Ghent so naturally there is a Belgian style ale along with the traditional London Pale Ale and Hospital Porter. The latter it is claimed would be recognisable to the retired sailors who used to live at the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich.

Master Brewer Alastair Hook looks to the Thames for inspiration and talks of the many breweries which once lined the Thames in London. Some are featured in the timeline on the Old Brewery walls.

Dan Cruickshank, who appears in a film being shown on a loop, has described the Old Naval College as “one of the greatest buildings in the world” and “one of the outstanding compositions” which can be compared with Versailles and St Petersburg.

The historian claims that Queen Mary, joint sovereign with William, improved Wren’s design by insisting on the vista of the Queen’s House in the middle  of the new buildings.

He also describes today’s chapel as “a jewel box of a building”. This too is open free along with the Painted Hall.

The TIC and cafe are open from 10am to 5pm daily. Closing time seems a bit early. Walkers do like to be able to still have  tea at 5pm. But the  bar with local beer is open all day to 11pm.

There is an entrance to the Discover Greenwich complex opposite Greenwich Pier. I think this will become a stopping point for Thames Path walkers. The TIC staff are really local and well-informed.

See page 18.

Brunel’s ‘Great Bore’ open again to walkers

‘The Great Bore’ is open this weekend at Rotherhithe before the Underground service is resumed shortly.

The Guardian has one of the many weekend reports.

Those who choose to walk through will be doing what Brunel expected when he designed the tunnel. Trains were an afterthought. Walkers can have a drink at The Mayflower where the men who dug the crossing drank in 1825-43. It took three reigns to complete the work.

See page 25.

Paul Sandby’s Thames pictures

Watercolour painter Paul Sandby is best known for his pictures of Windsor in George III’s reign.

The exhibition at the Royal Academy marking the 200th anniversary of his death in 1809  brings together his other Thames views.

He certainly knew the river well because his earliest drawing is of the Tower of London and he spent time teaching at Woolwich Arsenal.

In his 1765 The North Terrace, Windsor Castle the winding river can be seen below passing Clewer Church.  In another picture he then shows us the view back from “the Goswells”  on the south bank opposite The Brocas.

But Sandby did go further west upstream. The View of Oxford from Nuneham Courtney – Evening c 1760 shows Lord Harcourt’s ‘improved’ estate. The work was by ‘Capability’ Brown who was known to Sandby. Another is the morning view from the lock cottages showing two boats and the mansion on the hill. Today the lock has gone but university-owned house still makes a fine sight today. Sandby was very familiar with it for he taught drawing to Lady Elizabeth Harcourt.

One picture looks just like the mathematical bridge at Walton-on-Thames as painted by Canaletto but alas it is not. Virginia Water, again at Windsor, had a fine bridge too.

However, the star picture in his own version of Canaletto’s view east from Somerset House. The precise observation allows us to see the south bank as well as the north as it was in Georgian times.

This is an exhibition not to be missed.

Paul Sandby is at the Royal Academy of Arts from Saturday 13 March to Sunday 14 June; admission £9 (conc £8).

See page 90-92 and 164.