All posts by Leigh Hatts

Blessing the River

Bishops of Fulham and Southwark on the bridge in 2014

Next Sunday 12 January will see the annual blessing of the River Thames on London Bridge.

This is London’s oldest river crossing point and this year has an added resonance since it is where the recent terrorist attack took place.

On Sunday 12 January, Baptism of Christ Sunday, processions will set out from St Magnus the Martyr Church in the City (the old Bridge pavement runs under its tower) and Southwark Cathedral to meet at 12.30pm in front of The Monument at London Bridge’s north end.

Here there will be a ceremony for the Removal of Flowers laid following the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones in the terror attack.

(The floral tributes will be made into compost to be made available to the families of the victims.)

The processions will then merge to proceed to the middle of London Bridge for the River Blessing.

After prayers, for those who work on the river and have died in the water, a wooden cross will be thrown down to the rising water as in the Orthodox tradition.

The bridge once had a chapel on its middle downstream side dedicated to St Thomas Becket whose 850th anniversary is this year.

During 2020 many Becket pilgrims will be setting out from here to Canterbury on foot whilst others will be walking upstream on the Thames Path which passes below the south end.


Thames Estuary

Earlier on Sunday morning a decorated cross will be hurled into the Thames estuary at Margate and retrieved by members of the Kent Greek community in the presence of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop.

The cross floats with the tide in the Pool of London

Mayflower 400

The Captain Christopher Jones statue in St Mary’s churchyard next to Thames Path

This year 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower crossing to America with the Pilgrim Fathers.

The ship sailed down the Thames from Rotherhithe in July 1620 and crossed the Atlantic. The crew sighted Cape Cod on 9 November.,

America’s annual Thanksgiving in November was begun by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621 after the first harvest in their new land.

At noon today, Wednesday 1 January 2020, there will be a Solemn Mass in St Mary’s Church at Rotherhithe inaugurating the 400th anniversary year.

The church has a plaque and sculpture recalling Mayflower captain Christopher Jones who returned in 1621 but died in the following year.

The Pilgrim Fathers were Puritans seeking freedom of worship and Rotherhithe’s rector at the time had Puritan sympathies.

The Mayflower sailed from a mooring next to The Shippe inn which is now called The Mayflower and observes Thanksgiving with a dinner featuring pumpkin soup and turkey.

The actual anniversary of the sailing is in July and several events are taking place during the year.

Christmas at Dog & Bell

The Dog & Bell is ready to welcome walkers at Christmas

The award-winning Dog & Bell pub on the Thames Path at Deptford is looking very welcoming this Christmas.

It’s looking extra special this year due to the pedestrianisation of Prince Street which carries the Thames Path round the back of Convoys Wharf.

So the tree and lovely beer barrels are outside. Sometimes there is even a brazier.

The closure of this part of the road to traffic remains ‘temporary’ but there are high hopes that it will be permanent.

Willows future is uncertain

The approach to Morden Wharf north from Tumbling Bay

The future of much loved weeping willows on the Greenwich Peninsula appears to be uncertain.

The trees, existing and renewed at least since 1970s, are alongside the Thames Path just as it returns to the river after Bay Wharf. The path with trees is on the former Primrose Wharf at the northern end of Morden Wharf.

In recent times terraced beds were created and planted with reeds.

There are more than a dozen weeping willow and crack willow trees on the river bank.

A planning application for the site has been submitted for “Provision of hardstanding and wheel washing facilities, conveyor belts and
associated refurbishment works to jetty, and revised boundary treatment”.

This involves overhead conveyors.

At present the trees do not appear to be safeguarded.

Looking upstream as the path curves inland to Bay Wharf

Willows on Thames Path as north end of Morden Wharf

Greenwich Peninsula & Deptford diversions

Victoria Deep Water Terminal diversion

There is a temporary (and easily missed) diversion on the Greenwich Peninsula.

This is towards the south end of Victoria Deep Water Terminal.

The diversion runs parallel to the path before joining the inland path behind Bay Wharf.

Also at nearby Paynes Wharf in Deptford

Upstream at Deptford Green there is currently no continuous access to the river due to a barrier on Paynes Wharf.

So continue along Borthwick Street to go left into Watergate Street,

But to look at the lovely arches along the front of Paynes Wharf of course go up Wharf Street (right) from Borthwick Street.

Barrier blocking Thames Path on Paynes Wharf

The path runs in front of the 1860s Italianate arches of Paynes Wharf


St Saviour’s Dock bridge closures

St Saviour’s Dock footbridge will be closing on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 December from 9am to 3.30pm.

This is to allow for further restoration work on the crossing.

The alternative route is:

At the west end of Bermondsey Wall West, bear left to follow Mill Street past Vogan’s Mill to the main road.

Holy Trinity Church Dockhead is to the left. Go right past the Co-op to have a good view (right) down St Saviour’s Dock.

Go right again to enter Shad Thames which into the late 20th century was noted for a strong smell of spices. Here are Jamaica Wharf, St Andrew’s Wharf and Java Wharf.

At the far end the road bears round to the left past Tea Trade Wharf (right) and under a bridge (the old Design Museum) to a junction. Turn right up steps for the River Thames and rejoin the main route on Butler’s Wharf.

Go left towards Tower Bridge.

Rotherhithe: Finnish Fair

Fair & cafe in Rotherhithe’s Finnish Church until Sunday

The Finnish Church at Rotherhithe is open this lunchtime with lovely food as part of its Christmas Fair.

The church is in Albion Street -cross the road from the station near the river- where Friday to Sunday there is a Scandinavian Christmas Market with more food.

The Norwegian Church Christmas Fair also runs Friday to Sunday in the same street.

Rotherhithe lamp

The sculpture on Cumberland Wharf with light again

The Pilgrim Fathers sculpture at Rotherhithe has been relit by the restoration of its lamp.

The artwork, placed at the upstream end of Cumberland Wharf, is encountered by walkers as they turn inland to go through Rotherhithe village.

Rotherhithe resident Peter McClean who created the work in 1991 was present on the Thames Path just after dark last Saturday to see the integral lamp turned on.

The work is called The Sunbeam Weekly and the Pilgrim’s Pocket because it depicts an open mouthed ‘back from the dead’ Pilgrim Father looking in astonishment over the shoulder of an early 20th-century boy reading a copy of The Sunbeam Weekly.

The two figures were originally standing under a lamp post.

This light has been replaced with a working replicas now shining ready for next year’s 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers leaving Rotherhithe for America.

The light restoration is the result of pressure by local activist and historian Sheila Taylor and funding from Southwark Council.

The switch-on countdown was led by technology entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Tobin.

The information board alongside has recently been updated following research by Bermondsey historian Debra Gosling.

Peter McClean watching the ceremony from the riverside


Marlow & Budapest linked by bridges

Traffic flows more easily on the wide bridge in Budapest than the original in Marlow. (Photo: James Hatts)

Twenty years ago the Queen and the President of Hungary dined at the Compleat Angler by the Thames.

The hotel terrace is alongside Marlow Bridge which is why the venue was chosen.

William Tierney Clark, who had designed Hammersmith Bridge in the 1820s, was the engineer for Marlow Bridge completed in 1832.

Budapest’s landmark Széchenyi Chain Bridge across the River Danube, linking Buda and Pest, is also the work of Clark. In 1839 he designed a large scale version of his Marlow work for the city. It took ten years to build.

Plaques in Budapest record the link.

The plaque in Budapest mentions William Tierney Clark and Marlow. (Photo: James Hatts)
The plaque installed by the Danube in 1998 and a matching one has been next to Hammersmith Bridge since 2014. (Photo: James Hatts)

Streatley: Best Budget Hotel

The Swan at Streatley is one of The Sunday Times 100 Great British Hotels.

Most are expensive, especially for a walker wanting just a sleep and not a health club, but The Swan is The Best Budget Hotel winner.

“…agreeable nooks, booths with Thames views and a terrace. The menu sounds standard -burgers, pizza, pasta- but is executed with aplomb.”

Doubles at The Swan are from £70.