OK, off we go on our second journey:
Exit Waterloo Bridge from the south east, go down the stairs, turn right and our first pub is on the right just before the end of the National Theatre:
2.1 The Understudy, Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX
Tucked away in a corner of the National Theatre below a brutalist concrete canopy, a casual bar with outdoor riverside seating, for a range of draught beers, wines and cocktails.
Now just follow the river eastwards for 8 min (0.4 mile),
past the OXO Tower. The Tower was originally a power station for the Post Office. In 1928, it was bought by the manufacturers of OXO beef stock cubes, for conversion into a cold store. Much of the original power station was demolished, but the river facade was retained and extended to an art-deco design by the architect Albert Moore. The company wanted to include a tower featuring illuminated signs advertising their product but permission was refused. Instead the tower was built with four sets of three vertically-aligned windows, each of which coincidentally happened to be in the shape of a circle, a cross and a circle, spelling out OXO!
Continue towards Blackfriars Bridge:
and our next destination will be on the right:
2.2 Doggetts Coat & Badge, 1 Blackfriars Bridge, London, SE1 9UD
A 1960s brutalist concrete building, spread over multiple floors with a terrace above the Thames. For almost 300 years, there has been an amateur rowing race on the Thames, from London Bridge to Chelsea. Originally organised by Thomas Doggett, the winner was awarded a coat and badge, hence the historic origin of the pub’s name. Thomas Doggett was an actor who became manager at the Drury Lane Theatre, then the Haymarket Theatre before becoming a politician and wit (not always mutually exclusive, then?).
Continue under Blackfriars Road Bridge where there are some interesting murals
carry on following the riverside walk under Blackfriars Railway Bridge eastwards for 3 min (0.1 mile),
our next destination will be on the right:
2.3 Founders Arms, 52 Hopton St, London SE1 9JH
Modern glass-fronted pub with a large, heated patio overlooking the River Thames and St Paul’s. This is where I used to watch the helicopters land on the Blackfriars Barge Helipad – before we had internet and smartphones to provide entertainment!
By the time we reached here the rain was so intense that I had water on my lens (not a euphemism, I promise!) so the next two photos below are substitutes:
Continue eastwards for 10 min (0.5 mile), passing the Tate Modern in the former Bankside Power Station, the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge and the reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. You might be able to blag a pint in the adjacent Swan Bar & Restaurant, there is a bar on the ground floor, but they only serve 330ml bottles. You could try, “Two bottles and a pint glass, please”, I’ve done it, and got away with it, but they look at you as if you have just escaped from rehab. [ Post Blog note – I came here for lunch on 27/10/19 and I’m pleased to report that they now have a good range of draft beers served in pint glasses, moreover the views of the River and St Paul’s Cathedral are excellent!]
Our next destination will be on the right:
2.4 Anchor Bankside, 34 Park St, London SE1 9EF
Dating from 1615, this was where Samuel Pepys watched London burning in the Great Fire of 1666. Charles Dickens lived locally when his father was locked up in the nearby Marshalsea debtors’ prison in 1824.
It used to be my secret pub, nobody else could find it! I first noticed it in 1983 when I was buying second hand office furniture from a Dickensian warehouse opposite run by a Fagin look alike following the “Only Fools and Horses” business model! It has all changed now, but this is the arch with the door through which Fagin used to run his pre-owned office furniture emporium:
Continue eastwards under Cannon street rail bridge for 3 min (0.1 mile), past Winchester Palace, a 13th-century bishops’ complex with ruins of the great hall, prison and brewhouse:
our next destination will be on the left:
2.5 The Old Thameside Inn, Pickfords Wharf, Clink Street, London, SE1 9DG
Atmospheric riverside pub with exposed brickwork and flagstone floors, plus large terrace with panoramic views, next to the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s galleon the Golden Hinde.
Turn away from the river here to pass Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral:
continue north east to reach the Thames. Turn right alongside the river, on the opposite bank you will see the monument to the great fire,
the spire of the thousand year old St Magnus the Martyr,
and Old Billingsgate, the former Victorian fish market restyled as an elegant hospitality complex for launches and parties. I can remember when it still operated as a fish market, I had an interview in the adjacent Tate and Lyle offices and turned down the opportunity because the place (plaice?) stunk of fish!
our destination will be on the right:
2.6 The Horniman, Hays Galleria, 18-19 Battle Bridge Ln, London SE1 2HD
A lovely pub in a former tea warehouse with interesting friezes, chandeliers, floor tiles and riverside terrace. Hay’s Galleria is also worth exploring, I really love this place, I’ve been often and it never disappoints!
People forget that the south bank between London and Tower Bridges – The Pool of London – was part of London’s Docklands and part of the LDDC regeneration area. This is the stretch of river where the cranes were lowered in tribute to Churchill during his funeral procession up the river. Supposedly a spontaneous act – but it had been choreographed – Churchill’s funeral was on a Saturday and the unionised dockers didn’t work on Saturdays. Most of them hated Churchill but they didn’t hesitate to accept the overtime payment in return for suspending their socialist principals!
As we pass HMS Belfast on our left, keep an eye open for pop up bars on your right which appear in the summer, then past City Hall, the home of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly. It is said to resemble a glass testicle. I can’t verify this as I’ve never seen a glass testicle, but it could well be true because inside they do seem to talk a load of bollocks!
Our next destination will be on the left:
2.7 The Vault, Tower Bridge, Shad Thames, London SE1 2UP
A hidden gem, a small intimate bar with unique views, originally the vault was the coal store for the Tower Bridge engine rooms. The bridge converted from coal and steam to oil and electricity in 1976 and the vault was converted into a Garage for the “Bridge Masters” car, then converted into a gift shop which closed in 2001. In 2003 work began to convert the dingy disused space into the Vault Bar began which opened in 2007.
As we continue eastwards, I suggest that we skip the “All Bar One” and carry on to somewhere less generic, so 14 min (0.7 mile) to the next one, past Shad Thames,
our destination will be on the left:
2.8 The Angel, 101 Bermondsey Wall E, London SE16 4NB
Now in splendid isolation in front of the remains of Edward III’s mansion on the Thames Path at the very end of Bermondsey Wall East, it is grade II listed, and dates from around 1830, incorporating parts of an earlier seventeenth century building. In 1682 The Angel was in a position diagonally opposite its present site, and was referred to by Samuel Pepys as “the famous Angel.” When we arrived it was a cold four degrees centigrade and raining but there was a strange old woman siting outside with a greyhound who said that we weren’t allowed to take photos because it was “a private pub” (as opposed to a public house?). Do they still have witches in Bermondsey?
left onto Mill St, which turns slightly right and becomes Bermondsey Wall W,
past St Mary the Virgin Rotherhithe,
and our destination will be on the left:
2.9 The Mayflower, 117 Rotherhithe St, Rotherhithe, London SE16 4NF
Thames-side pub with small bar, upstairs restaurant and tables on wooden decking overlooking the river. On the 5th August, 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers – men, women, and children – boarded the Mayflower near a pub called The Shippe (now the Mayflower). The Last Will and Testament of the Mayflower crew is displayed in the bar and the passenger list is on show in the restaurant upstairs. The sister ship started taking in water 100 leagues off Land’s End, requiring both ships to turn about and head for Plymouth, now credited as the starting point for the famous journey. I have an off cut from the replica, built in Devon, 1955–1956. This was my favorite pub on this journey!
Before ATMs were invented, the residents of Rotherhithe used to use these to withdraw cash from banks:
Continue eastwards for 4 min (0.2 mile) past the Brunel Museum,
then cross the Rotherhithe Street Bascule Bridge:
our next destination will be on the left:
2.10 Old Salt Quay, 163 Rotherhithe St, London SE16 5QU
A converted warehouse overlooking the Thames with beautiful views upstream towards Tower Bridge and the Shard, which confusingly appears to be on the north bank, due to the meanders in the river!
It’s an arduous 1 h 29 min (4.5 miles) to our next pub, but there are some superb views as our path weaves along the riverside, skirting the old warehouse and rice mill of Globe Wharf. Look for the Thames Path signposts until you reach Deptford Strand and the Old Rum Stores, now converted into housing, once the site of the Tudor docks of Deptford. It was here on the steps that Sir Francis Drake was knighted by Queen Elizabeth 1st after he circumnavigated the world on the Golden Hinde.
Follow the river round to Deptford Creek, where the River Ravensbourne enters the Thames, passing Peter the Great’s statue. He lived near the Royal Dockyard in Deptford, at the home of the writer John Evelyn, for much of his four-month stay in England in 1697-98.
Crossing the Creek by the moveable road bridge, our destination will be on the right:
2.11 The Sail Loft, 11 Victoria Parade, London SE10 9FR
A modern bar on the ground floor of a riverside development in the heart of Deptford’s riverfront – The Sail Loft serves up Fuller’s cask ales, craft beers and bespoke cocktails.
As you look back upstream, you would be forgiven for assuming that the regeneration of Deptford has been a success:
A bit generic, harmoginised, globilised and characterless, but that’s the price we have to pay for regeneration, isn’t it?
But look one block back and you realise that they haven’t regenerated Deptford at all, they have just shoehorned a glass and aluminium facade between the community and its river, this isn’t regeneration, its degeneration. The Thames (formerly the Rose and Crown) was run by an old bloke called Dennis, it used to be part of the local community, regeneration has done nothing for them!
As we walk on past the canon we reach Greenwich:
The next landmark is the Cutty Sark, built in 1869 in Scotland, she was the fastest sailing ship of her day and the world’s last tea-clipper.
Pass Greenwich Pier, then follow the path past the Old Royal Naval College, built between 1696 and 1712 by Christopher Wren, and now part of the University of Greenwich.
It used to house JASON, a nuclear reactor installed by the Ministry of Defence and used by the Royal Navy for experimental and training purposes. It only produced 10-kilowatt of electrical output despite using weapons-grade enriched uranium 30 times more radioactive than that used in commercial reactors! It was operational from 1962 to 1996, and 270 tonnes of radioactive waste (mostly concrete and lead shielding) was removed when it was decommissioned in 1999. It was one of very few reactors operating within a major population centre – and the only one installed in a Grade I-listed 17th-century building. The existence of a nuclear reactor in central London was largely unknown to the public, allowing the left-wing local council, in a classic example of Orwellian double-think, to proclaim itself a nuclear-free zone in 1963! Below is Jason’s control panel. It had a large red ‘Scram’ button in the centre to shut down the reactor in the event of an emergency – this was new technology at the time and prone to going wrong:
“A nuclear error, but I have no fear”
Continue on to:
2.12 Trafalgar Tavern, 27 Park Row, London SE10 9NW
Victorian riverside pub where the Thames laps up at the windows, with cobbled outdoor drinking area and a small statue of Nelson below the steps. One of my old favourites, we used to visit often when the DLR first reached the end of the Isle of Dogs, conveniently close to the Greenwich foot tunnel, giving easy access to the Trafalgar.
Then less than 1 min, just 141 ft eastwards to:
2.13 The Yacht, 5 to 7 Crane Street, Greenwich SE10 9NP
Just next door to the Trafalgar and reached via a narrow passage around the back, this high-roofed and large-windowed pub also overlooks the Thames.
Now walk north-east, towards Crowleys Wharf, passing behind Trinity Hospital – Garden and Riverside Almshouses providing sheltered housing .
Immediately next door, Greenwich Power Station towers above us, built in 1906 to power trams, it is now a back-up for London Underground. We cross the Greenwich Meridian as we walk under its massive jetty.
Our next destination is on the right:
2.14 Cutty Sark, 4-6 Ballast Quay, London SE10 9PD
Light-filled, Georgian riverside pub over 3 floors, with Thames views from the elegant dining room. This is the last “upmarket” pub on this leg of our journey. So if you want gourmet food and upmarket loos this is your last chance, after the Cutty Sark, things get “interesting”!
From here, the waterside presents an intriguing mix of industry and dereliction with factories set amongst marine scrap yards, slipways, warehouses and wharves, and converted flats.
Do stop to admire the Pillars of the Empire, a sculpture on an old pier over the Thames. To see the sculptures it is necessary to walk through the piers when the Thames is at low tide.
Carry on along the river as the O2 Arena (originally known as the Millennium Dome) comes into view. Go right around the Arena, always keeping the Thames on the left. Walk on past the sculpture ‘Quantum Cloud’ by Antony Gormley:
the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park:
and the Greenwich Yacht Club:
Its bar is open on Tuesday evenings from 18:30 and weekend afternoons from 12:00 until 18:00. Interested non-members are welcome to visit. Despite all the chain bars in the O2, this is the only place on the Greenwich Peninsula where you can drink beer and look at the river at the same time!
As we leave the Greenwich Peninsula we enter a sort of “Jurassic Park”, a land that time forgot, we pass through a time warp back into the twentieth centuary. We pass aggregates depots and industrial warehousing until we reach our next destination:
2.15 Anchor & Hope, Riverside, London SE7 7SS
An old fashioned but friendly Thames-side pub in Charlton, with a riverside terrace popular with Charlton Athletic football fans but also welcoming to Thames pathway walkers. On the edge of a huge sprawling industrial estate with panoramic vistas over a “working” section of the Thames.
Turn right along a footpath heading east towards the flood barrier.
“Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river”
Keep to the path beside the river until you come right up to the barrier, turn left down a few steps and then take the subway right under the control building for the barrier.
We emerge in a little park on the other side of the barrier. Note the Tate & Lyle’s refinery (which processes a million tonnes of sugar a year), a post imperial throw back, still importing sugar cane from the far reaches of our former empire.
Next we walk past the Thames Barrier Information Centre telling the story of London’s 520m wide flood defence barrier and surrounding park. It also has a Cafe with an excellent view of the barrier – but no alcohol license!
Here the path briefly leaves the river so turn south along the signed path. Cross the track and keep going on the footpath signed to the south past a car park on the right, the path joins Unity Way which becomes Eastmoor Street, passing the former “Noted Stout House”, which is now the Barrier Animal Care Clinic:
Keep to this street all the way until you meet the A206, the busy main road in the area. Turn left and follow the pavement beside the road, passing the White Horse, rebuilt in 1897 and offering B&B for £35 / night!
Past the remnants of the Woolwich Dockyard Steam Factory with its prominent chimney on Woolwich Church Street:
and the Clock House (Dockyard offices, 1783-4), the earliest surviving building on the Woolwich Dockyard site:
You continue past modern flats to the road leading to the Woolwich Ferry. The attractions of Woolwich South pretty much mirror those on the north side:
The Woolwich Ferry South Terminal
Woolwich Foot Tunnel South Side
Woolwich Arsenal Pier
The Royal Arsenal, Woolwich – Historic armaments factory and explosives research centre for the Ministry of Defence which closed in 1994. It is now a major redevelopment area for residential and commercial buildings, but some original parts have been saved, including the Greenwich Heritage Centre which tells the story of Woolwich, including the Royal Arsenal. It contains a number of bars including:
THE DIAL ARCH, No 1 Street, Woolwich Arsenal, London SE18 6GH
As with the north side, there are no river side pubs but there is a good Italian restaurant:
Con Gusto Restaurant, 54 Number One Street, Woolwich, London SE18 6ST
But we didn’t walk all this way for pasta and chianti, did we? So, walk south towards the town centre to:
2.16 Prince Albert (also known as Rose’s), 47-49 Hare St, Woolwich, SE18 6NE
A very old fashioned traditional boozer, welcoming, friendly to newcomers and a selection of real ales, but the pub dog is no longer in residence.
The original lizards living in the vivarium, Reggie and Ronnie, have been superseded by Kevin:
This is London in the raw, old London, with chirpy cockneys and diamond geezers. If you read Ben Judah’s “This is London” then you would think that places like this nolonger exist but this is the exeption. Full of old boys watching the horse racing on the TV, sipping their beer and waiting for the property developers to come and destroy what is left of their community. Betrayed by the left, right and moderates, I wish I had something better to offer them – anarchy? That died as a serious political movement in the Spanish Civil War (17 Jul 1936 – 1 Apr 1939), even the punks didn’t take anarchy seriously. Maybe nihilism? At least nihilism doesn’t disappoint! Open your eyes and take a good hard stare at the mural of the Woolwich ferry at the back of the pub.
When we were in Newham the call of the Congo was quite faint, but don’t tell me that you can’t hear the mighty Mekong shouting at us now? Why don’t the locals feel the drive and determination that the Viet Cong felt? Why don’t we feel it? The Tet offensive (30 Jan 1968 – 23 Sep 1968) changed the course of the Vietnam War, don’t the locals deserve a metaphorical Tet offensive? Don’t we?
We could walk on down the river into Kent all the way to Gravesend, where Conrad’s narrator told his tale, maybe we would find a pub where the pets are named after real heroes of the people, great Kentish rebels like Watt Tyler (4 Jan 1341 – 15 Jun 1381) and Jack Cade (1420 – 12 Jul 1450), but I feel the darkness closing in, there are shadows forming where shadows shouldn’t be, maybe it’s time to return to Waterloo Bridge? We’re in luck both the river bus and DLR now serve Woolwich!
“ What greatness had not floated on the ebb of that river into the mystery of an unknown earth! . . . The dreams of men, the seed of commonwealths, the germs of empires…”
Heart of Darkness
Sunset over the Mekong River
“ Have you ever considered any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinion of others… even the opinions of yourself?”