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Sunday 31 August 1997
Greenwich Village in August has an almost seaside flavour with balloon and old-fashioned ice-cream sellers in evidence. If coming from Central London you might arrive under the water through the foot-tunnel from Island Gardens, or over the water by boat from Westminster, Charing Cross or Tower Bridge.
From behind the Cutty Sark, take up the riverside walk heading east, marked as the Thames Pathway. Note that the first five minutes will take you through more history than the whole of the rest of the walk put together. In addition to the old tea clipper the Cutty Sark moored up in dry dock at the pier itself, you'll immediately find yourself walking between the river and the monumental Royal Naval College, originally built as a palace for Charles II. After a couple of minutes you'll come to the landing place from where you can look up the hill, through the college, to glimpse Inigo Jones' National Maritime Museum and Sir Christopher Wren's Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich Park (if you want to visit either of these you'll have to fit that in before your walk).
Immediately after the Royal Naval College you'll come to the Trafalgar Tavern where you can follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens and William Thackeray by ordering a pint. From here continue along Crane Street, which runs just behind the Trafalgar. Another famous old riverside pub up here is the Yacht, where you can enjoy a lunch of "traditional" fish and chips while admiring the boats on the river.
Following the signs beyond the Yacht, you'll shortly find yourself back on the riverfront again, walking past the historic and tiny Trinity Hospital, an oddly Lego-style construction dating back nearly 400 years. You are coming to the end of the historically interesting part of the walk, and entering the decayed industrial section.
The first sign of this is the chimneys of Greenwich Power Station; as you walk past this point you are passing from the western hemisphere into the eastern. The Greenwich Meridian passes through here. Walking under overhead conveyors and past scrapyards, you'll come to the Cutty Sark pub located on a delightful old cobbled street of Georgian houses known as Ballast Quay. If you stop for a drink here you can enjoy the views of cranes and piled- up sand and gravel which will soon make up the Millennium Experience.
The way now begins to head north up into the Greenwich Peninsular. Where Ballast Quay Road angles to the right, you should follow the path to the left, back on to the riverfront. From here you'll find yourself increasingly alone, as the path follows the sites of abandoned landing platforms and rusting old boats. After ten minutes or so you'll be walking between willow trees on the bank and towering cement silos. On the opposite side of the river, the yuppy flats on the Isle of Dogs suddenly give way to the crumminess of Millwall Wharf.
Some distance before you reach the site of the Millennium Experience, the path is forced to cut inland, across from the west to the east side of the peninsular. Halfway over you'll have to take the footbridge across the southern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel but the route is clearly signposted. Don't expect beautiful scenery around here - if anything this must a candidate for one of the ugliest areas of London, with the stinking gasworks on one side of the motorway and a Berlin Wall-style no-man's- land on the other. After some minutes of smelly nothingness, walking east along River Way, it comes as a surprise eventually to reach a row of little brick houses, including the melancholy Pilot Pub.
Hitting the riverfront again, turn right (south) along Mudlarks Way. The first thing you'll see here is the Greenwich Yacht Club, though don't get your hopes up too much - it isn't exactly Cannes. From here on, follow the path straight for a couple of miles all the way to the Thames Flood Barrier which is clearly visible, resembling a line of sailing ships at the start of a race.
On the final stretch, you'll pass shingle beaches and ships unloading gravel on giant conveyor belts. Shortly before the Flood Barrier you pass the Hope and Anchor which, to judge by the accents, can be described as an authentic Eastenders' pub. Have a BBQ'd burger here, or failing that, wait until you reach the Flood Barrier itself which has a restaurant and a visitors' centre. This little marvel of British engineering is worth a visit in itself and not just when the river is in full spate. From here you can walk inland along the marked path to Woolwich Rd where frequent buses run back into Greenwich.
Contacts: Greenwich Tourist Office: 46, Greenwich Church Road; tel: 0181 858 6376. Open: 10.15am until 4.45pm.
Old Royal Observatory and Royal Maritime Museum; tel: 0181 858 4422.
The Thames Barrier: 0181 854 1373.
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