The south bank of the Thames, eastwards towards Kent

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.

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Now just follow the river eastwards for 8 min (0.4 mile),

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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!

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Continue towards Blackfriars Bridge:

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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?).

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Continue under Blackfriars Road Bridge where there are some interesting murals

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carry on following the riverside walk under Blackfriars Railway Bridge eastwards for 3 min (0.1 mile),

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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:

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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!]

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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.

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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:

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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:

 

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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.

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Turn away from the river here to pass Borough Market and Southwark Cathedral:

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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,

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the spire of the thousand year old St Magnus the Martyr,

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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!

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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!

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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!

Funeral Barge

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!

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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.

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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,

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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?

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Walk south-east,

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left onto Mill St, which turns slightly right and becomes Bermondsey Wall W,

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past  St Mary the Virgin Rotherhithe,

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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!

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Before ATMs were invented, the residents of Rotherhithe used to use these to withdraw cash from banks:

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Continue eastwards for 4 min (0.2 mile) past the Brunel Museum,

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then cross the Rotherhithe Street Bascule Bridge:

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As you look back upstream, you would be forgiven for assuming that the regeneration of Deptford has been a success:

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A bit generic, harmoginised, globilised and characterless, but that’s the price we have to pay for regeneration, isn’t it?

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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“A nuclear error, but I have no fear”

The Clash

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.

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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.

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Now walk north-east, towards Crowleys Wharf, passing behind Trinity Hospital – Garden and Riverside Almshouses providing sheltered housing .

 

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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.

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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”!

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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.

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P1110523Do 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:

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the Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park:

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and the Greenwich Yacht Club:

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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.

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Turn right along a footpath heading east towards the flood barrier.

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“Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river”

The Clash

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.

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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.

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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:

P1110549Keep 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!

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Past the remnants of the Woolwich Dockyard Steam Factory with its prominent chimney on Woolwich Church Street:

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and the Clock House (Dockyard offices, 1783-4), the earliest surviving building on the Woolwich Dockyard site:

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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

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Woolwich Foot Tunnel South Side

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Woolwich Arsenal Pier

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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

 

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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.

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The original lizards living in the vivarium, Reggie and Ronnie, have been superseded by Kevin:

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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.

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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

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Sunset over the Mekong River

 

Have you ever considered any real freedoms? Freedoms from the opinion of others… even the opinions of yourself?”

Apocalypse Now

The north bank of the Thames, eastwards towards Essex

From Waterloo Bridge to the Woolwich ferry is a 12 mile walk, which could be completed in 4 hours excluding stops, but we will be stopping!

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Leaving Waterloo Bridge from the northeast side, take the stairs down to the Embankment and turn left, walk east on Victoria Embankment, beyond the silver dragons which mark the boundary of the City of London,

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under the historic 18th-century Blackfriars Bridge with iron arches and stone carvings, where the Vatican banker Roberto Calvi was murdered by the mafia on 18 June 1982 (no photo as hoarded off for construction works 26/11/17). Continue under the Millennium footbridge

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onto Paul’s Walk to our destination:

1.1         The Northbank Bar and Terrace, 1 Paul’s Walk, London EC4V 3QH

A modern wine bar with outdoor terrace and spectacular views of the Thames where you can sample wines, ciders, real ale, cocktails, champagne and Cornish mead.

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OK, so let’s move on, the next one is close but the path is not direct: Walk east on Paul’s Walk; continue onto Broken Wharf which turns slightly right and becomes High Timber St; Turn right onto Stew Ln; and our destination is on the right:

1.2         The Pepys, Stew Lane, London, EC4V 3PT

Pub and contemporary restaurant with exposed bricks, modern art and panoramic river views. Set in a historic warehouse, this is a hidden gem in the heart of the City.

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The next one is really close too, just walk north on Stew Ln; turn right onto High Timber St; turn right onto Queenhithe; then take the pedestrian underpass with interesting murals underneath Southwark Bridge;

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then along Three Cranes Walk, through the waste depot at Walbrook Wharf, our destination is then straight ahead:

1.3         The Banker, Cousin Lane, London EC4R 3TE

A large Fuller’s pub with a high vaulted ceiling and exposed bricks, riverside terrace and pool tables. In the ‘80s it was called “The Bouncing Banker”, do bankers have less bounce these days?

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There are unexpectedly interesting “industrial” views, given the City Of London location:

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OK, off we go again: walk south on Cousin Ln;  turn right onto Allhallows Ln which  becomes Hanseatic Walk; our destination is on the left at the junction with Angel Ln:

1.4         The Oyster Shed, Angel Lane, London EC4R 3AB

Modern riverside bar with stripped floors and giant wrap-around windows which give views of  Southwark Cathedral  as well as letting in streams of light to illuminate  within.

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Come on, drink up, you’re slowing us down: turn left onto Hanseatic Walk; then right onto Water Ln; right onto Lower Thames St; past the iconic Tower of London; and our destination is on the left:

1.5         The Perkin Reveller, Tower of London,  London EC3N 4AB

 There are two bars in the Perkin Reveller; one hand crafted from an antique church pulpit and topped with beautiful zinc,

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the other covered in soft leather with a bar top of rich copper.

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Both serve Fuller’s Frontier draught lager. This is a contemporary, casual brasserie with a fabulous river vista and setting by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, outdoor tables and a menu of British classics.

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Come on, do keep up! As you pass under Tower Bridge, you leave the City of London and enter St Katharine’s & Wapping:

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Because of restricted capacity and the inability to cope with large modern ships, St Katharine Docks were the first to be closed in 1968, and were redeveloped into a marina between 1973 and 1990. It is cited as a model example of successful urban redevelopment and featured in the classic British gangster film The Long Good Friday (1980), starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren.

 

Ignore the lounge bar in the grim Thistle Hotel on your left, but keep an eye open for pop up bars on the riverfront on the right

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and continue north and east through the docks until you  see our next destination, right in front of you:

1.6         The Dickens Inn, 50 St Katharine’s Way,  London E1W 1LA

 The Dickens Inn is a picturesque, restyled 18th-century timber-framed warehouse pub and restaurant with balcony dining and a large garden in the heart of St Katharine’s Docks. The location and views  make it popular with tourists and therefore shunned by locals, but before it became too popular, it was one of my regular haunts.

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Ok, it’s a ten minute and half mile walk to the next one: Turn south then right onto Mews St, left onto St Katharine’s Way, right onto Wapping High St, cross the roundabout and our destination is on the right:

1.7         The Town of Ramsgate, 62 Wapping High St,  London E1W 2PN

The present building dates from 1545, but the first pub on the site originated in the 1460s during the Wars of the Roses and was called The Hostel. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside as he tried to escape on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which overthrew King James II. By 1811 it was known as The Town of Ramsgate.

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Abutting the Town of Ramsgate is Wapping Old Stairs with its weathered stone staircase leading to magnificent views  from the beach of The Shard and Tower Bridge.

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It’s just a three minute walk to our next pub, walk east on Wapping High St and our destination will be on the right:

1.8         The Captain Kidd, 108 Wapping High St, London E1W 2NE

Generally, 1980s theme pubs are best avoided but this one is a good example of the genre and serves excellent Samuel Smiths beer. It is named after the seventeenth century pirate William Kidd, who was executed at the nearby Execution Dock in 1701. A former coffee warehouse, developed with a nautical theme retelling the story of Captain Kidd, the layout of the pub is designed to resemble a ship’s hulk.

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Just 9 minutes until our next drink, walk east on Wapping High St, turn right onto Wapping Wall and our destination will be on the right:

1.9         The Prospect of Whitby, 57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH

The Prospect of Whitby in Wapping is London’s oldest riverside pub dating back to 1520. The original flagstone floor survives and the pub also has a rare pewter-topped bar as well as old barrels and ships masts built into the structure. Most areas of the pub have spectacular views over the River Thames, including the beer garden and first floor balcony and terrace. The pub was originally frequented by those involved in life on the river and sea and was a notorious haunt for smugglers, thieves and pirates. Other notable customers have been Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys, Judge Jeffries and the artists Whistler and Turner. More recently, the Prospect was a favourite during the 1960s with celebrities and royalty. Probably the best of London’s riverside pubs, my only complaint is its popularity – London’s worst kept secret – everyone else knows it’s good too!

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Let’s not hang around because its 14 minutes to the next one: Walk north-east on Wapping Wall cross the famous Shadwell Basin bascule bridge (Bascule is French for seesaw or balance),

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continue onto Glamis Rd, right onto the Thames Path, and continue onto Narrow St, our destination is on the right:

1.10       The Narrow, 44 Narrow St, London E14 8DP

A Gordon Ramsay gastropub in a handsome Grade II-listed building with flagstone floor, conservatory and terrace offering panoramic waterside views matched by a modern British menu and good real ales.

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Then just one minute eastwards along Narrow Street to:

1.11      The Grapes, 76 Narrow St, Poplar, London E14 8BP

Narrow downstairs bar with small Thames-side terrace and upstairs restaurant dating from 1583. In 1820 the young Charles Dickens visited his godfather in Limehouse and knew the district well for forty years. The Grapes appears, scarcely disguised, in the opening chapter of his novel “Our Mutual Friend”:

“A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.”

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Just nine minutes to the next one: Walk east on Narrow St, then slight right. We are now on the Isle of Dogs, originally known as Stepney Marsh, the name change may have been a reference to Edward III’s greyhound kennels, or simply a corruption of Isle of Ducks.

When the Daily Telegraph moved from Fleet St to the Isle of Dogs in the ‘80s, the journalists were so worried about the lack of pubs that they persuaded management to install a floating bar on a boat moored in the dock adjacent to their offices. Private Eye published an hilarious account of a hack becoming tired and emotional on the boat, suffering from turbulence whilst leaving via the gangplank, and dripping dock water and pond weed as he staggered up the road to the railway station.

Westferry Circus is an elevated roundabout serving Canary Wharf from the west. To get down to the bar, just take the stairs or lift down to the river side terrace and the bar is the last unit on the left:

1.12       28West Bar, 28 Westferry Circus, Canary Wharf, London E14 8RR

A modern disco bar under a roundabout, but  with an excellent riverside terrace, and views across the river back towards the city.

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Now we need to cross the Isle of Dogs to the east side, which isn’t as easy as you think, don’t make the mistake of wandering due east onto Canary Wharf, remember that you need to stay south of the South Dock in order to get across. The way to do it is to walk south-east along the Thames Path, turn left onto Cuba St, up the stairs, turn right onto Marsh Wall, at the roundabout take the 1st exit onto Manchester Rd, then right onto Coldharbour, and our destination will be on the right:

1.13       The Gun, 27 Coldharbour, Poplar, London E14 9NS

In the ’80s and ’90s, the Gun used to look so forlorn and neglected that we never went there, but it turned out to be one of the unexpected highlights of this trip! A great Fuller’s pub serving excellent draft beer, with a superb riverside conservatory overlooking the O2.  Steeped in history, the Gun dates back to the early 18th century but took its current name from the cannon which was fired to celebrate the opening of the West India Import Docks in 1802. In the late 18th century, Lord Horatio Nelson acquired a property just up the road (still known as Nelson’s House). He would frequent The Gun and regularly meet Lady Emma Hamilton in an upstairs room (now called The River Room) for secret assignations. The Gun also has a long association with smugglers landing contraband on the site and distributing it via a hidden tunnel. To this day there is still a spy-hole in the secret circular staircase to watch out for “The Revenue Men”.

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Let’s be realistic now, most of you aren’t going to make it any further today, you’ve walked six miles from Waterloo, you’re hungry, the seafood smells divine, there are real log fires burning in the grates and most of you are going to order food, a bottle of Chablis and call it a day.

To the die hard walkers, I salute you! It’s a four mile walk from here to North Woolwich, and there are no more riverside pubs. Downstream from here is what is euphemistically called a “working river”, which means a post-industrial wasteland.

I’m prepared to compromise here, its a half mile walk due north to Blackwall DLR station. From there you can take a train eastbound to Royal Albert DLR station. The track is elevated so you get a better view than walking, you’ll see the pub on the left, then when you leave the station just follow the tracks back for five minutes.

Alternatively,  call up an uber (use ‘em while you can!), keep the meter running whilst you take a selfie at the four must see attractions in North Woolwich, then get on to our last pubs:

Despite lying on the northern side of the Thames, North Woolwich was long administered as part of Kent, an anomaly imposed in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest which was not resolved until 1965 with the creation of the London Borough of Newham!

The Woolwich Ferry – London’s answer to the Mersey Ferry and great to see “integrated transport” in action (NOT!) – this is the link between two of London’s most important roads – the north and south circulars –  the free service opened in 1889, following the abolition of tolls across bridges to the west:

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The Woolwich Foot Tunnel – Designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and opened on  26 October 1912, its creation owed much to the efforts of labour politician Will Crooks. The 504 metre (1,654 ft) long tunnel has been fitted with a “leaky feeder system” to permit operation of mobile phones. If you’re feeling sad and lonely and Tinder or Grinder aren’t your cup of tea, why not join the ‘Friends of Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels’ (FOGWOFT) which was established in September 2013 (See https://fogwoft.com/ ):

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The North Woolwich Pier – Opposite the former North Woolwich Station, the structure is sound but the wooden decking at the north end is in poor condition with timber missing. There is a steel shelter with an asbestos roof; this has an open end onto the pier and locked gates at the other end. Within the shelter these is a small booking office that has suffered fire damage. Externally and internally the building has suffered from vandalism and graffiti.

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The Royal Victoria Gardens – Created In 1850 by the entrepreneur William Holland, who escaped his creditors by leaving the park in a balloon. By 1853 it included an esplanade, bowling green, rose gardens, walks and a maze. By 1859 additional features included a long riverside terrace, a maze, gypsy’s tent, rifle gallery, large ballroom and refreshment room. There was also an Italian garden, a Chinese dancing platform and a stage beyond a lake.

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Having done my bit for the North Woolwich tourist industry, I reckon I deserve a couple of pints! I had some good pubs lined up, just back from the riverfront. In 1984 I was installing an innovative heat pump project for the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) on the site of what is now the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, 2 Festoon Way, London E16 1RH. The dockyards had only recently been closed – the dockers’ calendars were still hanging on the walls of the abandoned buildings where the Excel exhibition centre now stands. The LDDC was not popular and neither were men in suits, it really wasn’t the time or place to be venturing into pubs where you weren’t welcome. On the other hand, the custom and practice of the time was that we needed a site office for lunch time meetings, so I was sent to survey the area, and discovered Churchills, where Connaught Road turns into Albert Rd, newly built on the site of the Kent Arms. The landlord was keen to attract lunchtime business customers, and I got to know him well but one day we found it all burnt out. Years later I met the landlord in the Hoop and Toy at 34 Thurloe Pl, in South Kensington, where he explained that he had got behind with his “window insurance” and the brewery had to relocate him in a hurry! Churchills closed permanently in 1999 and has since been demolished. Our site office moved to The California at 12 Albert Road (the opposite end from Churchills) but this closed in 2007 and has now also been demolished (see photo below):

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There are now just two pubs left in North Woolwich, the Royal Standard Hotel is a strip club and the Henley Arms is a dodgy locals’ local serving the housing estate. So, for our last couple of pints on this leg I’ve chosen:

1.14       The Connaught House Hotel, Lynx Way, Silvertown, London E16 1JR.

This Grade II listed historic inn was designed and built by Victorian architects Vipers and Wagstaff in 1881. The dockside ‘Connaught Tavern’ originally opened to cater for passengers disembarking from ships berthing at the Victoria Docks. However, as passenger numbers reduced the pub found itself catering more for the dock’s labourers and became a daily congregation point for those waiting to be picked for work. Derelict and boarded up for years, it has undergone refurbishment to create a hotel above the bar and since 2003, has been known as The Fox@Connaught. Unfortunately this building is now surrounded by ugly modern hotels, the worst being the Premier Inn. I’ve managed to keep it out of shot, but the effect is similar to having a photo of your grandparents photo bombed by a cartoon character in a purple tutu! Even more unfortunately, all original internal features were lost in the refurbishment.

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It’s a long one and a half miles to our final destination, so I’d recommend the DLR again, unless your Uber is still in the car park outside.  Get off at Gallions Reach DLR Station and four minutes down the road you’ll find the Connaught’s twin at the other end of the Royal Albert Dock, now known as Gallions Point Marina. By the time I reached this point the light was failing, but I managed to catch a spectacular sunset over London, looking westwards back along the Royal Albert Dock:

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1.15       The Reach Bar and Kitchen, Gallions Hotel, Albert Basin Way, London E16 2QS

Gallions Hotel was opened in 1883 for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, to accommodate travellers who were halting overnight. Rudyard Kipling stayed here when he was setting off for India, and he mentions it in his novel, The Light that Failed (1890): “Is it Tilbury and a tender, or Gallions and the docks?” Ringed by a frieze of chesty plaster nymphs by the artist Edwin Roscoe Mullins, it was known as ‘the Captain’s Brothel’, until it closed 1972.  It was derelict until 1994 but this Grade II listed building has now been restored, serving a wide range of beers and ales, as well as traditional ‘pub grub’ dishes and live music on Friday nights. Restoration was too late for the interior. In 1932, when the hotel was being run by Truman’s Brewery, AG Linney wrote: ‘The interior is solid and Victorian – built to defy time almost – and there is much mahogany in its fittings.’ All of this has now been lost! Moreover, it is now surrounded by bland modern apartment blocks and the ground level raised so that the building appears to be disappearing down a sinkhole!

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So, this is the end of the first leg of our journey, eastwards is Essex, the county of white handbags and matching stilettos, of Dagenham Dave and Billericay Dickie. But good things too, there’s Basildon Bond and Jamie Oliver, and if you follow the river far enough you’ll reach Southend Pier, extending 1.34 miles (2.16 km) into the Thames Estuary, it’s the longest pleasure pier in the world and gave us the closing scene to the cult ’80s (29 October 1979 to 10 March 1994) comedy series Minder – starring Dennis Waterman as Terry McCann, and George Cole as Arthur Daley:

After Southend, there is just an immense seascape that circumnavigates the earth, connecting the Thames to both the Congo and Mekong rivers. If you close your eyes and listen carefully you can hear the Congo calling. Can you hear the drums? Can you feel the heat, the humidity, the flies? Can you smell the putrid stench of decomposing hippo?

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Trading steamer, Upper Congo River c.1890

 

“And this also … has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

Heart of Darkness

 

“Never get out of the boat, man….  Never get out of the boat. Absolutely goddamn right! Unless you were goin’ all the way…”

Apocalypse Now

Footnote:

I was accompanied on this leg of our journey by Huw Powell, an old friend that I had not seen for over twenty years . He saw it as a tribute to Simon Pegg, the lead character in  the film “Worlds End” (2013), who drags his reluctant buddies back to their hometown and sets out for a another stab at an epic pub-crawl that he last attempted 20 years earlier.  As they make their way toward their ultimate destination — the fabled World’s End pub — Gary and his friends attempt to reconcile the past and present. However, the real struggle is for the future when their journey turns into a battle for mankind.