4 September 2015

A Forage on the Foreshore in Rotherhithe then a walk around Surrey Quays along the Thames Path to Greenwich

On Sunday 23rd August I met up with a group of friends for a Forage on The Foreshore. This time we met late morning outside The Angel pub at Rotherhithe with a plan to walk east towards.
The weather forecast had not been favourable and so we were not surprised that soon after we hit the foreshore the clouds broke. We managed to stay beachside for just over an hour before the rain set in and retired to The Mayflower for lunch where we assessed our finds including the usual bits of pottery, clay pipe, glass and metal fragments, plus an old leathermakers awl.
The sky cleared so we continued eastwards along the Thames Path to Greenwich...
Start point outside The Angel / lunch at The MayflowerOld Salt Quay / Malcolm and Graham admiring the view 

A short stop at The Blacksmith's Arms for excellent coffee. It's a lovely old wood-panelled pub with multi-hinged hooks for coats and bags on the walls and under the bar (take note modern pub designers!) and a restaurant at the rear. I enjoyed chatting to Stuart/Stewart, one of the locals, at the bar. I also spotted a great old photograph of how the Surrey Quays area used to look in its docklands heyday – compare that with how it looks today
We then popped in to Surrey Docks Farm; I will post about that separately sometime soon.

Continuing along the Thames Path – there are a few bits of unlabelled metal chain and what look like discarded anchors here and there but nothing to explain them. A prime example is an old crane near Custom Reach House. Note the strange net curtaining in the cabin window! I could see no information about this one piece of preserved history and wonder if people actually know why it is there or what it used to be used for. It's the same on The Isle of Dogs.
Click here for info about the history of London's docks.
A few minutes along the path is Helsinki Gardens with its expensive modern riverside apartments. A pretty friendly cat was keen to enhance William Pye's Curlicue. But we had no idea why it was there or what its relevance was so thanks to Tom for doing the research.
There are many different types of dockers' mistresses along the path and you can clearly see why they are so affectionately called by by looking at some of the ones along this stretch! Others though, like the ones at South Dock Marina, look more like Wellington boots.
This is the only area along the route where signage is used to explain about the historical features left behind as hints of the past; the hydraulic lifting gear, the swing bridge (not shown here), the lock keeper's cottage,etc. I also noticed a couple of lovely old Victorian lamp posts.
Further along the signage stops. A Pair of gateposts just stand there with no explanation, ditto a badly repaired obelisk. These must, I am sure be remnants of long-ago dismantled wharves. And I often wonder if anyone else knows what those freestanding crumbling manmade constructions in the river were used for. Read on...
More unlabelled things as we advanced on Deptford.
A gridded orb sits on one of the stuctures. A wooden board is all that remains to explain it; the plaque that used to be screwed to it having been been removed. I photographed it years ago and can here tell you that it's called Circumsphere by Chris Marshall and Stephen Lewis and was erected in September 1998. The plaque read: "The [red] discs [on its surface] show the route of Sir Francis Drake's circum-navigational voyage around the earth which was completed at this waterfront in 1581." It went on to explain that it is mounted on a 'dolphin' which is the name given to many small mooring structures that sit by the River Thames and provided low tide moorings for ships, barges, tugs and liners. So there you go.
Faded, scratched, unkempt boards show an attempt at generic historical information near the old Royal [Navy] Dockyards buildings (now the Pepys Research Centre) and Convoys Wharf (at the time of writing, a huge empty fenced-off wasteland awaiting redevelopment).
We also spotted a signpost with six pointers on it each none of which have anything written on them. Who knows, perhaps this is also art. It's hard to tell. Ditto the set of raised stairs that Malcolm climbed "just cos they were there". 
And so to Paynes Wharf which in the past five years has been transformed into apartments and exhibition space. All that's been retained of the old wharf buildings are some of the boundary walls including the arched river frontage though I can't understand why 'they' decided to paint white the landward-facing side of the building opposite Twinkle Park (what a lovely name!). The charming cobbled street that leads down to Watergate Steps is still intact.   
These are older pics. The first two pics are mine taken in 2009. The archive pic (sorry, I can't now recall where I got this from) shows how the name along the top is not the same as it appears today.    
Left, the shell of the Princess of Wales pub in a back street.
The Dowell's Coals depot at Deptford Creek is now long along with this sign which used to sit on the gate at the junction of Creek Road and Norway Street. When I was there in 2009 the mouth of the creek was more visible from the Thames and there was a lot of mud and remnants of old piers and landings to be seen. I now wich I had photographed that. Now we've got 'swanky', 'luxury' apartments wrapped around keep fit centres, restaurants and supermarkets.
The last two pics show me on the throne (thanks to Meike). I can't recall who that fella with the small head is but he's holding a clay pipe.
And finally... Greenwich.
What a great day out. Thanks to all who came along!

More Info
Please note that finding specific info on the area for the above has proved difficult and I have as good as given up. Googling the streets and squares tends to results in lists from estate agents. Wikipedia gives a rough outline of the general area here


  1. Hi Jane, The man with the small head is Peter the Great. According to a Russian speaking friend Peter was a peculiar looking figure (over 2 metres high) but with a particularly small head, hands and feet for such a height. Peter visited London in cognito between January and April 1698 - under the name of Peter Mikhailov . The sculpture that we saw at Deptford Creek marks his notorious stay in Deptford when he and his entourage wantonly vandalised the house and garden they were staying in. They were every landlord's nightmare - apparently no part of the house escaped damage and the furniture was broken up to stoke fires!

  2. Ah thanks Rose – I love it when people do the research for me ;-)
    Perhaps these days he'd have a rock band!
    Coincidentally, I went to Kensington Palace yesterday and saw a painting of him there.


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Thanks, Jane