Saturday 10th December 2011
10 miles approx, including station links and diversions
Toilets: View Tube cafe; Beckton District Park; cafes in Woolwich.
We decided to do two sections of the Capital Ring in one day: Hackney Wick to Beckton District Park, and then Beckton District Park to Woolwich. I’ve looked at a fair amount of blogs written by people who’ve done the Capital Ring, and the Hackney Wick to Beckton section is the one that’s changed the most over the years. It will no doubt continue to change, and I’d be interested to keep up with some more blogs and photos as time goes on.
The first section started by rejoining the river.
Just after the lock was the first diversion of the day. The first part of the Greenway was closed, so we had to go round a couple of roads. It felt like it took ages and we were wasting lots of time not managing to get very far. We joined the Greenway for a bit, where we got some good views of the Olympic Stadium and could see all the works progressing. A lot of the area still seemed like one huge building site. We could also see this structure, the Orbit Tower, which is apparently a viewing tower and a good way of seeing the area.
A few minutes later we passed a place called View Tube, a community venue built from recycled shipping containers. It looked a bit odd, like it had been plonked into the middle of nowhere. To its credit, it had a wildlife garden, a cafe and toilets.
At the turning for Pudding Mill Lane Station, there was another diversion. It wasn’t until about an hour into the walk that we finally got onto the Greenway properly.
The Greenway runs along the route of the Northern Outfall Sewage Embankment, or NOSE for short. This possibly has something to do with the fact that it absolutely STANK. Yes, the whole thing smelled of sewage. It actually got worse as we went along, because the first part was partly disguised by the general smell of the local building work. We don’t have such technology yet, but maybe one day it’ll be possible to send smell through the internet. All I’d have to do is to put a smell sample on my blog, and you’d instantly know how bad it was.
There were a few things of note, however. First of all, there was this sundial, placed on the line of the Greenwich Meridian:
In case you can’t see it in the photo, there’s a poem around the edge that says “You wake in the morning, the day has begun. Stand now at this month with your back to the sun”. So I stood on the word December and faced away from the sun. This was at 11.30am. At first I felt really bad and wondered whether I should say that it seemed half an hour out, but a quick look around the internet suggests that several other people think it’s a bit inaccurate. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely idea.
Secondly, we passed the old Abbey Mills Pumping Station.
It was a good thing we’d seen some things of interest, because the rest of the Greenway was awful. It was in a long, straight line that seemed to go on forever, and the smell got worse and worse. We tried to speed up, in an attempt to reach the turning off it as soon as possible.
Finally, the moment arrived. We left the Greenway, and our noses felt instantly happier. We took a bridge over a busy main road, went down a couple of small residential roads, and finally found ourselves in Beckton District Park. There was a lake, where we stopped to have lunch. The park was nice enough, but the road nearby was very noisy. There were also toilets in the building opposite, which were open even though the cafe was closed. We then continued through to the southern end of the park near Royal Albert Station, where we had another rest.
We agreed that this was definitely the worst section of the Capital Ring that we’d done so far. Maybe it’ll be different in a few years’ time, but at the moment, a lot of it feels like an endless building site; even without that, the smell of sewage was horrible. Yes, I’ve found plenty to write about this section, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant.
Anyway, we then continued on to the next section, which thankfully was much nicer. Crossing the last part of Beckton District Park, there were lots of trails in the sky. We were very near London City Airport, and in the flight path of several other airports.
The route went through the oddly-named Cyprus, before coming out at the Royal Albert Dock, home to the University of East London’s new Docklands Campus, with its characteristic buildings.
Aeroplane enthusiasts may wish to note that, at weekends, London City Airport doesn’t always have any arrivals or departures after midday, so we didn’t get any close-up photos of aircraft. But when they do land, they land at quite a steep angle.
The route continued through an industrial area, and then around Gallions Reach, past some modern blocks of flats, but also past some strangely empty spaces. Riverside land is usually highly in demand, so it was strange to see the bare patches. There was quite a desolate feel to the place.
Further down, we passed a steam hammer from 1888, rescued from a blacksmith’s shop in the Royal Albert Dock.
Finally on the home stretch, we were approaching the Woolwich Ferry. The Woolwich Foot Tunnel is currently closed for refurbishment, so onto the ferry we went. You can just about see the Thames Barrier in the last photo.
The official end to this section, and in fact the whole of the Capital Ring, is at the other end of the foot tunnel. Here is the current, picturesque view. Lovely, isn’t it?
Luckily, Woolwich itself had a busy high street with plenty of cafes and takeaways. Having walked about ten miles (no idea of the true mileage, due to the diversions), we went to a greasy spoon cafe for an epic feast.
I’m glad the second half of the day was a bit nicer, because the first half of the day was really disappointing. I mean, it was interesting, but it just felt so dismal. It’ll be interesting to see what the area looks like in a few years’ time.