Outings: Of stars and sailing ships

Go to Greenwich for a day out and you're almost guaranteed

to lose your sense of time - there's so much to explore,

writes Sarah Jewel.

A day's visit to Greenwich is an intriguing eye-opener on the relationship between time, space and the navigation of the sea. In the 17th century the greatest problem that beset all maritime trading nations was how to travel across the seas to the New World without getting lost. In 1675 Charles II decided that he would appoint an astronomer to draw up a map of the heavens that would be accurate enough for sailors to pinpoint their longitudinal position at sea. It took John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, 40 years, but his meticulous charts of the night sky solved the problem until the invention of the marine chronometer. In 1884 Greenwich was chosen as the site of the prime meridian line of the world (longitudinal position 0) and Greenwich Mean Time began.

Charles II's Royal Observatory, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is perched on the top of Greenwich hill and the magnificent view from the meridian line looks out over the National Maritime Museum, the Queen's House - Inigo Jones's 17th-century royal villa, the Royal Naval College and the 19th-century tea clipper, the Cutty Sark. Beyond the Thames, the yellow construction cranes of the Millennium Dome loom as this century's tribute to the passage of time.

The visitors

Sarah Jewel took Esther Hindley, nine, and Guy Hindley, seven.

Sarah: We took the Docklands Light Railway to Island Gardens and then walked through the leaky foot tunnel under the Thames to Greenwich pier. It was pouring with rain as we came out of the tunnel and we looked up at the glistening symmetry of the rigging and masts of the Cutty Sark outlined against the sky.

Launched in 1869, this delicate little ship was built to sail to China and back in the great tea races of the 1870s. After standing over the polished wooden and brass steering wheel on the main deck and fantasising that we were out on the open seas, with the rain lashing into our faces, we needed warming up.

Greenwich village is full of bars, cafes and exciting shops. We dived into the Pier Fish Restaurant where we each had some tasty cod and chips and a rather watery hot chocolate. Then we made a beeline through the park to the Old Royal Observatory.

For anyone, like myself, with an under-developed sense of spacial awareness this is the place to push the buttons, play with the gadgets and get to grips with measuring the lines of longitude and latitude around the world, working out time changes between the eastern and western hemispheres. Clocks of all description are on display, from "H4" the forerunner of all precision watches, to the Accurist Millennium Countdown clock.

As we left the Old Royal Observatory the sun started to shine, and we walked down the hill across the beautifully kept lawn to the National Maritime Museum. Huge oil paintings of the battleships that fought during the First and Second World Wars line the walls of the exhibition of 20th- century sea power. The bloodied breeches of the greatest captain of the seas, Admiral Lord Nelson, are on display in the exhibition that charts his life and loves.

Esther: I thought the Docklands train was very exciting because there was no driver and it feels as though you are controlling it yourself. I liked sliding about on the decks of the Cutty Sark which were very wet and slippery, and looking below deck at Long John Silver's collection of lady figureheads.

In the Old Royal Observatory we played games and learnt what the time difference is between London and Los Angeles. We saw an enormous telescope that can see through the clouds at night, but I was disappointed that we weren't allowed to look through it. We played with a machine that explained how light rays shine through different-shaped lenses. I think my class should go there, because we are learning about convex and concave lenses at the moment.

At the Maritime Museum there was a really exciting gallery for children with lots of different gadgets and games all about people and the sea. I liked putting my hands in a huge pair of rubber gloves inside a tank and feeling how difficult it is to operate machinery under water. In the Lord Nelson exhibition there was a film about the Battle of Trafalgar that showed how Nelson got shot. In the room about 20th-century ships, the whole exhibition was shaped like a boat, and there was a pretend control room of a frigate where we shot torpedoes at an enemy ship on a computer screen.

Guy: I liked the train because it went slow and fast and it felt like being in one of my racing cars that tip to the side when they go round the corners of my Scalextrix. I thought we had a very good captain of the train - but I wasn't sure how he controlled it.

I thought the Cutty Sark was very interesting, and I liked going below deck where there was a sailor who was tying all different types of sea knots with funny names like Chinese button knot and monkey's fist knot.

The thing I liked best at the Observatory was the old wooden telescope in the Octagon Room, because when I looked into it I didn't see the sky and the rain - instead I saw Pluto, the dog from Disneyland. I would like to go there at night and look through the enormous telescope and see a star being made, like we saw on the video screen. At the Maritime Museum I liked sending a Morse code message across the room to Esther in the children's gallery. I had a very good day out.

The deal

Getting there: the Docklands Light Railway runs from Bank or Tower Hill Tube to Island Gardens. Walk through the foot tunnel to Greenwich. Boat cruises from Westminster, Charing Cross or Tower piers to Greenwich pier.

Prices: The Old Royal Observatory and the National Maritime Museum (0181- 858 4422) open daily 10am-5pm, adults pounds 5.50, concessions pounds 4.50, children pounds 3; combined ticket includes entry to Queen's House.Cutty Sark: open daily 10am-5pm, Sun 12 noon-5pm, adults pounds 3.50, children pounds 2.50, family pounds 8.50.

Other attractions: Royal Naval College, Queen's House, Greenwich Park.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Supply Teachers Needed in Bungay

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

Year 6 Teacher

£111 - £163 per day + £111 - £163 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The posi...

Experienced Creche Assistant - Lambeth - September 2014

£64 - £69 per day + Competitive London rates of pay : Randstad Education Group...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's First World War footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during the war. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end