Thames Path - Tower Bridge to Thames Barrier


Mum and I walked from Tower Bridge along the north bank to the Greenwich foot tunnel, then to the south bank and on as far as the Thames Barrier.

This was an afternoon walk after a light lunch at a new café that a friend of the family is opening. So we didn't start until well after 2pm.

North bank

Because we were on the Jubilee line, rather than change trains we actually walked from London Bridge tube to Tower Bridge and across to start the walk.

After passing by St Katharine's Dock, the Thames Path then attempts to follow the riverbank, much of which is split into gated sections that are locked at night.

Beside one such path to the river.
1/350 at f8, 10mm, ISO200 51°30′18″N 0°4′12″W

Sometimes there is no riverbank access at all; the route follows Wapping High Street, which is not very much like a high street as there are basically no shops. To be fair, it is in Wapping, so that makes the name 50% accurate.

Row of houses built for port bosses, or something. I just liked the crazy lettering and number 4½.
1/90 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′12″N 0°3′44″W
We ventured a little off the route to look at this ex-school (heavily restored, now housing) next to its associated church. The statues look similar to another school we saw from a distance on the south bank last time.
1/125 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′13″N 0°3′40″W
Bombsite or more recent demolition site. I suspect the latter is more likely...
1/350 at f8, 15mm, ISO200 51°30′13″N 0°3′27″W
There are only faint traces of the lettering on the black, so we have no idea what the building used to be.
1/250 at f8, 16mm, ISO200 51°30′16″N 0°3′21″W
One of the paths back from the riverside passed an old 'stair' down to the river.
1/20 at f8, 10mm, ISO200 51°30′19″N 0°3′14″W
Gateway to a complex that used to be the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station and is now a very large café (complete with some of the original equipment).
1/500 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′26″N 0°3′4″W

After crossing another ex-dock entrance on a large red bridge that matched the one we had seen on the south bank, we walked through a riverside park and past the other airshaft to the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

The riverbank path gave out again after more housing, decanting us into Narrow Street, which isn't especially narrow. It probably also isn't named after narrowboats, even though it does cross the entrance to Limehouse Basin (the link between the Thames and the Regent's Canal).

One small stretch of Narrow Street seemed rather French; this building, another one with a French name, and (Mum spotted) a group of young men playing boules.
1/125 at f8, 15mm, ISO200 51°30′31″N 0°1′59″W
Gate to river.
1/90 at f8, 19mm, ISO200 51°30′31″N 0°1′59″W

Then we were able to access the river again, but not for long; in the first annoying diversion of the day, we had to take a long side-track around a building that was under construction.

This is how far they've got. Not sure how much progress is being made; the image on Google Maps looks pretty much the same, except with more crane.
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′18″N 0°1′37″W

On the plus side, we did get a good view of a sculpture in the middle of a roundabout; somebody's made a tree out of dozens of traffic lights, all of which are continuously changing.

Back to the riverbank; more boring housing, a park, still more boring housing, then onto Westferry Road. Mum stopped to look inside a fancily decorated ex-chapel (now some kind of a theatre). Some distance later, we reached Island Gardens and the riverside park which contains the Thames foot tunnel entrance. Oddly, at this point we heard a bagpiper from the opposite bank, possibly near the Trafalgar pub.

The tunnel entrances are swathed in scaffolding and the steps down are boarded on all sides to make a narrow, claustrophobic spiral; it's being restored, but is still open. At the bottom, the actual tunnel is as dingy as usual. We emerged in Greenwich, which was packed with tourists.

South bank

We had a look at St Alfege's church (it's huge) then set off eastward through the ex-Royal Naval College grounds and back to the river past the Trafalgar (no sign of piper; they do have a Nelson statue, though).

At this point, the guidebook promised much of interest... some of which actually still remained.

Almshouses and Greenwich power station, sympathetically sited to loom over the older building in the most impressive manner possible.
1/350 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′7″N 0°0′9″W

Wikipedia claims the power station is still available as a backup generator for the London Underground, which is hard to believe.

Side view of the big concrete bit (coal store?) at the side of the power station.
1/250 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′8″N 0°0′7″W
Jetty structure once used to bring in coal and take out ash (the station is now oil- and gas-fired).
1/90 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′8″N 0°0′6″W
Gate to a scrapyard.
1/15 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′20″N 0°0′8″E
Old machinery by the Alcatel site, once used to load enormous subsea communication cables onto ships.
1/60 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′25″N 0°0′8″E
One of several disused buildings by the site.
1/125 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′26″N 0°0′9″E

Several other businesses in the area have been flattened recently. The largest, a refinery that milled grain into starch and then produced glucose syrup, appears to have been working a few years back; it was only demolished last year.

Apart from empty, bare ground, the area between here and the Dome is mostly occupied by large yards storing sand and gravel, and associated works.

Tanks at the edge of this area.
1/60 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′41″N 0°0′6″E
Presumably some kind of bollard. Google Maps shows a ship tied to this quay; maybe they really do still transport by river to this site?
1/60 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′43″N 0°0′1″W
Large conveyor; gasholder in background.
1/90 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′44″N 0°0′1″W
1/125 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′46″N 0°0′2″W
1/45 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°29′49″N 0°0′4″W
1/45 at f8, 21mm, ISO200 51°29′59″N 0°0′7″W
Head-on view to Canary Wharf complex.
1/60 at f8, 22mm, ISO200 51°30′7″N 0°0′7″W

The area by the Dome (which is called something else now but whatever) has a couple of interesting sculptures (slice sawn out of a boat, an Anthony Gormley explodey-steel-bars thing). We passed a small crowd who had just arrived by the riverboat service to attend whatever event was happening that evening.

Does the Coke ad count as 'red light'? Two different uses of big screens.
1/20 at f8, 20mm, ISO200 51°30′17″N 0°0′10″E

Our destination was the Thames Barrier (a flood barrier). Finally it came into view for the first time.

Distant view of two barrier piers in evening light. Yes it was really that colour.
1/45 at f6.7, 250mm, ISO400 51°29′45″N 0°0′56″E

Before we actually reached the barrier, more cementworks were in prospect.

Red buckets.
1/30 at f6.7, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′37″N 0°1′20″E
Sunset and conveyors.
1/30 at f8, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′36″N 0°1′25″E
Sunset and single conveyor. (Canary Wharf, Dome visible in background.)
1/90 at f4.5, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′39″N 0°2′0″E

The second annoying detour took us around three sides of a gigantic square, only some of which is so far occupied by huge blocks of flats. Hoardings blocking the normal path said the diversion would be in place only until the preceding day... Anyway, after that we had basically reached the barrier.

Tip of anchor (has plaque commemorating 100th closing of the barrier); environment agency building.
1/10 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′39″N 0°2′14″E
Obligatory picture of whole barrier.
1/6 at f5.6, 22mm, ISO400 51°29′42″N 0°2′21″E

It was getting dark, so a good time to finish the walk, even though the 'Thames Path Extension' continues... maybe another day. We walked back to the main road and Charlton station.

All images © Samuel Marshall. All rights reserved.