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Published: November 18th 2019
The Mitre where our days begin after the first of 4 nights
22 September 2019, Sunday
Day 21 on Thames Path from Greenwich to the Thames Barrier near Woolwich. 37th day of travel.
6 miles from Greenwich to the Barrier.
Ah, you might have wondered why the blog entries have bogged down timewise? Well, we have had one foot in England while wrapping our brains trying to understand the complexities and perplexities of countries we have since traveled in the Middle East. To see-saw back and forth over such different areas has been mentally taxing. One day , in Morocco, I thought it might help to have my head wrapped up, so it was done in a weaving shop--sadly, it resulted in little insight into our introductions to Jordan, Dubai, Morocco and Israel whilst trying to finish up Merry Old England.
Today we complete the 184 river miles from the Thames source to the Barrier. The extension goes another 8 to 9 miles beyond the barrier towards Southend and the open sea.
After our continental breakfast at the Mitre Inn we walk to the Cutty Sark three masted tall ship which used to carry tea but is now a museum and restaurant. We pick up the Thames Path here. The
History of the Mitre. A registered World Heritage Site.
north shore ends at this point and those walking it now take the tunnel under the river to continue on the south bank.
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is situated beneath the River Thames and connects north and south banks of the river.
The tunnel replaced an unreliable ferry service to enable dock workers, living on the south side of the river to get to and from the thriving docks and shipyards that operated in and around the area where the modern financial centre of Canary Wharf now stands. At their busiest London's docks employed over 100,000 people, landing goods from all over the world.
Tunnel dimensions and design
Over 15 metres below the Thames, the Foot Tunnel is 370 metres long and the wall linings are covered with 200,000 original glazed tiles, which are still in place today. The spiral staircase at the deeper Greenwich end has 100 steps and there are 87 steps at the Island Garden end. Tunnelers dug through the chalk by hand. Started in 1899 it was opened in 1902.
Before the opening of the tunnel, river crossings were made by a ferry service that originally opened to transport horses, sheep,
The Cutty Sark. The fastest tea ship on the seas.
cattle and carriages. It dated back to mediaeval times in one form or another.
However, that ferry service was at the mercy of weather. Today, the foot tunnel is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Over one million journeys are made through the tunnel every year.
Back on the path we go by the lovely Trafalgar Pub and the old Royal Naval College and maritime museum buildings, now an art museum. The girls pause to pose with Admiral Nelson. The river bend can be seen in the Thames Path map photo.
Passing the Greenwich Power Station we come to a story written and illustrated on the wall. An example of a creative outdoor art installation by Amanda Hinge. It is embedded in the wall of the Greenwich Power Station. The following link leads one to "A Thames Tale." It is an interesting story of Stan and his dog.
Across the river the sky scrapers of Canary Wharf change there relative position as we travel around the bends downstream. We soon come to the massive O2 Arena with its toothpick like projections supporting the hugh auditorium and mall.
This poem is a
Old Royal Naval school
fitting tribute to our Thames Path walk.
DOWN A WANDERING PATH
I HAVE TRAVELLED
WHERE THE SETTING SUN
LIES UPON THE GROUND.
THE TRACKS ARE HARD AND DRY
THE WEATHERS WEAR:
MY MIND DID MOVE
WITH THEM THAT HAD
BEFORE ME BEEN
TRODDING DOWN THE GROUND.
LEAVING MARKS FOR OTHERS A SIGN FOR THEM TO FOLLOW
ED PEUGEOT 1999
There is an anchor with the history of ownership of this sector of property. Given by one king to a religious order then taken back by Henry VIII, only to be returned by King Edward II.
We passed many different types of art works on this stretch. Beyond the O2 are new apartment complexes with exclusive shops and displays. We did not spend any time exploring the O2 and area but looked at the art sculptures that were in, along, and near the river.
One such work was the bridge of a river dredge, The "Richard Wilson," entitled, "A Slice of Reality." Another is the panels which describe rejuvenating the river.
We also passed under the Emirates Air cable car that crossed the river here going from the North
Old Royal Naval Maritime school, view from the Thames
Greenwich O2 complex to the Royal
Finally the sails of the Thames Barrier come into view down the river. The history of the Thames includes the present value of 40 billion pounds in jobs and other revenue brought by the river to the city of London annually.
We pass the Anchor and Hope Pub and decide to return for our Sunday dinner.
At last we are at the barrier - our destination for the last 22 days. The river mileposts on the wall give every village, lock, tributary and city as well as the bridges in a lineal display of the tunnel passage.
The barriers have been used 186 times since 1982 to prevent flooding during storms and tidal surges. A note says a demonstration and test will occur the following Sunday.
Here is how it works:
The Thames Barrier spans 520 metres across the River Thames near Woolwich, and it protects 125 square kilometres of central London from flooding caused by tidal surges. It has 10 steel gates that can be raised into position across the River Thames. When raised, the main gates stand as high as a 5-story building and as wide
Gate latch at Royal Maritime Academy
as the opening of Tower Bridge. Each main gate weighs 3,300 tonnes.
The barrier is closed under storm surge conditions to protect London from flooding from the sea. It may also be closed during periods of high flow over Teddington Weir to reduce the risk of river flooding in some areas of west London including Richmond and Twickenham.
The Thames Barrier will then remain closed over high water until the water level downstream of the Thames Barrier has reduced to the same level as upstream. This is a managed process to provide for different circumstances, and takes about 5 hours. The Thames Barrier is then opened, allowing the water upstream to flow out to sea with the outward-bound tide.
You can watch a video that shows how the Thames Barrier works:
What?! Where is our celebratory band??? There is no one to acknowledge our feat? At the end of the Coast to Coast walk we threw a pebble, which we had picked up at the Irish Sea, into our terminus, the North Sea. We then visited the local pub to get our certificate and a "well done" from the locals. At the end of the
Crown at gates to Old Royal Naval Maritime school
two Caminos we were moved by a service in the cathedral and in awe as the censor swung back and forth many feet above our heads. So what do we do to celebrate our Thames Path achievement--we go eat. It is not a pleasant day and rain is threatening so we retreat to the Anchor and Hope for a Sunday Roast! My, the Sunday Roast is quite the tradition in this country. Many pubs and restaurants promote their vituals for this special meal. In fact, for many establishments, this will be the only meal they serve that day. It is hardy fare: roasted meat, roast potato, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, bread and mint sauce, vegetables and gravy.
We are in the midst of our lovely meal when the rain moves in. This is incredible. Twenty one days with a few drops and a few misty mornings. Here we sit in a comfortable old pub and within an hour of finishing the walk we are greeted with a downpour. What can one say but, "Thank you Lord."
We chat with the owner and then call an Uber to take us back to The Mitre. I am
Admiral Horacio Nelson found another girl in this port
now asking the owner about a maritime term I have never heard--a 'lighterman.' He is trying to explain what that is and I am reminded of the old saying, "If you can't explain it satisfactorily, you really don't know about the point in question!" I guess he is feeling the same way as he picks up the phone and calls his Dad, who was a lighterman in ancient times past! The exchange between father and son is so wonderful and full of love that I hate to break the thread but the elderly gentleman does a yeoman's job of trying to educate me over the phone.
After returning to The Mitre we decide to visit St. Alfege, the church we see, close up, from our inn residence. The structure is in the throes of restoration but we find our way, through the scaffolding, to an entry.
There has been a church here for over a thousand years, dedicated to the memory of Alfege, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was martyred on this site in 1012. The church is associated with many key historical figures in Greenwich's royal, maritime and scientific history: Henry Vlll (king) Thomas Tallis (composer) General
And yet another
James Wolfe (victor over French general Montcalm at the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham-Quebec) and John Flamsteed (First Astronomer Royal and founder of Greenwich Observatory.)
It is a beautiful church and the chatty volunteer wants to know if we want to visit the balcony where lives the golden unicorn with a fish tail--who can say no to that offer? There is also a poignant cross, simple in design, made of nails These are medieval nails from the old Coventry Cathedral destroyed by German aircraft in 1940.
And so we end our trek in a historic maritime church--very appropriate since it all revolved around the mighty Thames and we are thankful for good companions, good weather and good memories!
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