Walk 5: Westferry walk to Royal Victoria

Walk 5


2 hours

A light railway was built in the 1980s to link the newly developed Docklands with Stratford and with the City of London. It proved very successful both in terms of traffic and in terms of attracting conversions and developers. As a result, an additional line was opened in 1994 between Westferry and locations further east in order to encourage development in this area. The light railway runs on viaducts across the maze of channels of the Lea River mouth and is a creation ex nihilo. Traffic expectations were moderate and a light railway appeared perfectly sufficient.

Routing note: This walk connects in Westferry with DLR walk 2, in Poplar with DLR walk 4, in Canning Town with DLR walks 7 and 8, and in Royal Victoria with DLR walk 6. It will also connect in Canning Town with Underground Jubilee Line walks 9 and 10.

My time indication does not include a visit of the Museum of Docklands. This may take about 1/2 hour if you visit just out of curiosity. If you are really interested in harbours and in urban planning, you may need up to 2 hours.



Westferry DLR station

The station opened in 1987. The name comes from Westferry Road, a road running west of the docks to the ferry for Greenwich.

The station is a plain glass awning with a covered staircase up to the platforms. The lift shaft has a decorative panel but it is not really an artistic achievement.

Follow the cycle route marked in blue on the ground (CS3). The cycle path leads along the DLR viaduct on the south side. When the cycle path finally crosses under the viaduct, you need to leave it.

Follow now the sign for pedestrians towards Dockmasters House


Dockmasters House in Westferry

The house is a very elegant neo-classical villa from 1807 built by the dock company but it was not originally the residence of the master of the docks as you might think. It was a tax office and later a harbour office before being converted around 2008 to an elegant restaurant. The roof balustrade, the entrance portico and the Palladian first floor windows are typical for the time of construction. The ground floor windows are unusually high and might have been changed later.


Typical converted warehouse in Hertsmere Road

After the house L Hertsmere Road. The road gives you a good feeling of dock warehouses and is used more for deliveries. Feel free to walk along the warehouses on the basin side as this is only a very minor detour.

If you can ignore the many overpriced eateries catering to Canary Wharf clerks, you could have a look at the Museum of Docklands, well advertised locally. It is an annex of the Museum of London and deals logically with the harbour and with urban planning for Canary Wharf. My pictures do not show the museum itself, but a similar atmosphere in the neighbouring small shopping mall. The low ceilings and very sturdy wood pillars remind you that it was essential to maximise the use of the space without risking a collapse of the floors.


Shopping mall in a converted warehouse

You do not need much time if you only visit the more fun section of the museum with a reconstructed shopping street (including somewhat unpleasant smells !) and entrance is free, so do not hesitate. If you are really interested in learning more, there are not many objects (mainly a few ship models and copies of old photographs) but there are many excellent information panels that took me two hours to read. The museum says very honestly that the conversion of the Isle of Dogs cost taxpayers two billion £ and did not bring back jobs for plain harbour workers, but it did bring in 100,000 high-level jobs with good tax income for the government. One of the main mistakes done when planning the conversion was underestimating the demand for public means of transportation, which forced several DLR capacity extension programs later on at much increased cost.

At the end ahead along the motorway following a detour sign for pedestrians towards Poplar station

Take the footbridge for



Poplar DLR station

The station opened in 1987 together with the DLR line from Stratford to Canary Wharf. It was a normal, small station, except for having a junction to the DLR depot. The station was rebuilt in 1994 when the DLR opened the new line between Westferry and Canning Town in order to provide a proper junction. It is one of the very few stations on the network with four platforms.



Poplar DLR station access


The junction concourse is a jumble of shapes that do not seem to obey an overall concept. You have bright red columns with weird oblique tops, typical for 1994 line extension, a half-dome with aggressively pointy endings, a rather elegant, bright white staircase access tower and a relaxing, round footbridge. The view from the footbridge towards the snaking tracks on a variety of viaducts is interesting.


Station footbridge


The footbridge is meant as a landmark and is suspended by cables to a single central pillar, which is technically something quite common nowadays but which can seldom be examined as easily as here. Note that the cables are exactly symmetrical on all sides of the pillar; some architects try to impress customers by proposing asymmetrical cables, which is more complicated to calculate but was already done on a German motorway in the 1960s without computers or calculators !


Platforms at Poplar station

The platform awnings are unusual for the DLR. The canopies are attached to thin pillars of unnecessary height, but the idea is that the awning pillars are the same type as the lighting pillars who need to be high enough. The awning shape reminds somewhat of a bird in flight when seen from the footbridge, which is neat. You do not realise this from the platform itself.

Exit the station through the north staircase

Ahead along the footpath away from the DLR station

R Poplar High Street


College in Poplar

One of the first buildings you pass is the majestic façade of a college, now part of a very large organisation. It was originally in 1906 the London School for Marine Engineering and Navigation. The overall style of the building is rather heavy and a little forbidding, which was often the case for Edwardian utilitarian buildings. The door on my picture points to the original use of the building with putti riding dolphins and symbols of England and Scotland.


Poplar Recreation Ground

Opposite the college, you can detour into Poplar Recreation Ground, landscaped on an interesting site. This was originally the location chosen by the East India Company in 1628 to house seamen disabled through accidents on its ships. When the company was forcefully nationalised in 1858 for mismanagement of its empire in India, Parliament had no use for publicly-owned almshouses and had them demolished in 1866.

The borough opened a park with all the appropriate 19th century amenities such as formal flower beds, fountains, seats and elaborate railings. A bowling green was added in 1910. Over time, cost issues forced the borough to convert the park to a normal plain green space with a small playground. But the old plane trees from the 1860s are still standing and have become rather impressive. There is also a nice circular flower bed with formal planting.


St Mathias Poplar

From the recreation ground, you can enter the churchyard and have a look at St Mathias church before going back to High Street. From the outside, its only remarkable feature is the strange tower reminiscent of a Norwegian or Carpathian wooden church (wood preventing the steeper towers usual in Victorian England). The church was originally built in 1654 by officers of the East India Company for their staff living in the area; it was turned into a parish church in Victorian times.

It was deconsecrated in 1977 and converted into a community centre but is very seldom open. This is a pity as pictures show an interesting 17th century structure on an unusual square plan (unusual but not unique, there are similar churches in the City). The really special point of St Mathias is that it is the only church in London built under Cromwell’s Protectorate during the Civil War.


Former Poplar town hall

The conspicuous building at the corner of High Street with Woodstock Terrace was indeed supposed to be noticed at it was the main office for Poplar Town Hall from 1870 until 1936. The choice of the architect was heavily criticised at the time because all three final candidates happened to have suspicious personal links with the jury members. In addition, experts found the winning project outstandingly ugly, as were apparently all other projects as this was a low-profile commission in a poor suburb.

Problems with the contractors and legal claims caused costs to be three times the estimate given by the architect. When finally opened, the building proved badly planned with inefficient heating, terrible acoustics in the board room and an unheated laboratory. The architecture is mainly neo-gothic, in line with popular taste at the time, but the tower is more Carolingian in shape. Very eclectic overall.

High Street crosses a DLR line. It then turns R at the end and leads directly to



Blackwall DLR station

The station uses more or less the site of an old train station (between 1840 and 1926) but there is nothing left of the original, elegant train terminal. The DLR station opened together with the light railway line in 1994.

As usual on the DLR, there is no actual station building, just a modest prefabricated awning and a long staircase up to the viaduct.



Environment of Blackwall station

Go back to the nearest crossroads with High Street

R on the marked cycle route towards Royal Docks

Take the staircase on the left side to walk on top of the wall rather than along the street at the bottom


Town Hall for Tower Hamlets

The modern glass building on your left is the large complex of the Tower Hamlets Town Hall. When you reach the end of the building, you see the next DLR station in front of you on the other side of the motorway and the footbridge leading to it. Before you go this way, you could walk the few steps L until you can see the basin in front of the town hall with a fountain. 


Town hall courtyard



The town hall is not ugly but it is a very boring building. It could be any office building in the Canary Wharf area and is very 1990s with dull colours and ground level arcades. Too bad the good use of water features was not combined with a more imaginative architecture. The borough seems to be aware of the issue because it has decided to transfer the more official offices to a historical building that is to be converted for the purpose.


Statue in front of town hall

At the core of the complex, between the more natural basin and the formal town hall courtyard, I noticed a modern statue by Maurice Blick. I forgot to check what the actual title is but is does look like a nudist guy on a windy beach trying to catch his towel before it flies away. East London is not renowned for its nudist beaches normally.

Cross now the footbridge over the motorway



Overview of East India DLR station

The station opened together with the new DLR line in 1994. There were discussions about naming it Brunswick Wharf in case East India could be confused with West India Quay but the present name appeared easier to spell.

As usual on the DLR, there is no station building. Because of the motorway, the network of footbridges is a little bit more complex than usual, but the awnings and staircases are the usual prefabricated version.


Station on a winter night


Station in daylight

Cross under the DLR viaduct

Ahead Newport Avenue past the small supermarket

Ahead on the footpath towards the riverside, called Prime Meridian Walk

The name is obviously linked to the fact that the Greenwich Meridian, marking the international reference time GMT, runs from the Greenwich Observatory nearly exactly along the line of this path. Foreign countries accepted in 1884 to use the Greenwich time as basis for their own legal definition. Although the sun sets in Paris and Madrid close to the London time, Spain and France decided to go for GMT-1 because this made a unified time in most of Europe easier.

L on the Thames Path along the river


Thames Path in East India area

This is the last section of the nearly continuous Thames Path on the left bank of the river because of numerous industrial premises further downstream. There are some interruptions upstream, particularly in Wapping and Fulham, but the path runs otherwise all the way to Chiswick. In many sections, though, it runs along a busy road. The Thames Path here gives a good feeling of how you are at the very edge of the developed Canary Wharf sector.


UFO in North Greenwich seen from the left bank



The UFO you see on the other side of the river is the notorious O2 dome that you certainly have read about. If you are lucky, you can take interesting pictures of the building floating on the river and really appearing like a UFO.


Monument to the Jamestown settlement



A small monument on the riverside reminds you of the Jamestown settlement because the leader of the 1606 colonisation attempt boarded the transatlantic ship in Blackwall. A second ship brought 16 additional settlers in 1608, of which 8 were Germans. As most settlers died of famine in 1609 because they hesitated in cultivating unknown American crops, all the Germans defected to the local Indian tribe. In addition, the settlers could not get supplies from the Indians because one of their first actions had been to exterminate the local tribe. I find it interesting that the Germans were so enterprising and culturally open-minded compared to the Englishmen. The settlement was abandoned in 1610 for a few months until the settlers had recovered from the famine and came back. The monument shows a navigation instrument, of which you can see many examples in the Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

Cross the East India Dock Basin lock and walk around the basin towards an iron gate on the eastern side


East India Dock

The East India Dock opened in 1803 when Parliament was impressed by the success of the West India Dock that had just been opened. The dock was smaller because trade with Asia was considered secondary compared to the extremely profitable plantation trade with the Caribbean. As a result, the dock was too small by the end of the 19th century. It was used later as the quay for a power station. The dock is now a nature reserve with a reed bed and there are a number of panels explaining the features.


Tidal bank in East India Dock


Reed bed in East India Dock

Detour R along the narrow road to the lighthouse (there are signs for “Trinity Buoy Wharf”)


Leamouth seen from North Greenwich

This is a very isolated area at the end of a long, narrow road. It stands at the mouth of the river Lea into the Thames on the old border of Middlesex. Because of this location, it was long the downstream limit for London docks and this justified building a lighthouse, an unusual amenity so far inland. The main use of the lighthouse was to train technicians and to trial new technology. The present version is a rather modest structure from 1862.



Leamouth lighthouse

There is an impressively red lightship moored along the quay. Lightvessels were never as popular as normal buildings, but they are useful when the position is to be temporary.


Lightship in Leamouth


Studios for artists in Leamouth

Since 1998, the area is used as an arts centre. Some of the studios are in the old buildings, but the most popular ones are in brightly painted, converted sea containers. As many artists are desperately looking for cheap studio space, using otherwise abandoned locations and smaller structures makes much sense. On the atlantic coast of France, artists use converted oyster sheds. In line with the atmosphere of innovation and inventiveness in such locations, one of the building houses an experimental primary school.



Sculpture in Trinity Buoy Wharf

Exit the small industrial area following Orchard Place as this is the only road out

Cross under the motorway


Lower River Lea

The road in front of you crosses a new development built after the 2008 financial crisis. In order to be less dependant on the uncertain future of the luxury flat market for Canary Wharf bankers, the speculators got permission to built much denser housing. The area is less isolated since the developers built a footbridge giving direct access to Canning Town station. My route goes on a detour in order to see more of the tidal reach of the river Lea.



Vegetation wall in Orchard Place

My picture is historical as it shows an empty building in 2009. The façade incorporated a wall garden, something still unusual in Britain because it is considered an unnecessary expense by developers. It is becoming popular in some European cities because it can have significant impact on pollution caused locally by traffic. I am not sure whether the wall garden will survive the full development as the other buildings are plain steel and glass cubes.



Lea River with DLR viaduct and O2

L Motorway ramp, soon leads along and above a riverside walkway

Routing note: Due to construction works, you have to walk a few hundred yards along the motorway ramp at present. Once the development will be finished, you will be able to join the riverside path more conveniently

Switch to the riverside path as soon as it is practicable and follow the river as it turns north


Lea River with nature reserve

The river Lea is tidal in this area. As it is a very convenient river for barges delivering grain from Essex, it was converted to a canal very early, but the tidal reach was obviously very inconvenient and barges were rerouted in the 18th century through a shortcut canal to Limehouse. Locks were added in order to keep the water level stable above the locks and the tidal reach became wilder. Because it is enclosed in walls against flooding, it is not a natural area of much interest.

The footpath comes near the motorway and crosses the river on a footbridge (“The Blue Bridge”)


Gates for Bow Creek Ecology Park

After this bridge, you can detour R into Bow Creek Ecology Park. You need to be aware that the other exit of the park is often closed and that you may well have to come back to the same location. If open, just follow the riverside path.

The ecology park is not spectacular. There were derelict industrial premises on the peninsula until the DLR viaduct was built. After the demolition, the contaminated soil and inconvenient access made it sensible to leave the area to return to wilderness. After 20 years, it has become reasonably natural and is of particular interest to school classes, ornithologists and insect specialists. I went a few times to the park around 2010, but I did not like it because the isolated location made it attractive for illegal nightly activities. I hear police has cracked down on antisocial behaviour here.

If you do not take the risk with the park, cross the DLR tracks on the footbridge and continue along the river

Near a bright red footbridge L for



Canning Town station

The station was originally a normal train station called Barking Road and was renamed Canning Town in 1873. It opened in 1847 on a railway linking Stratford with the Woolwich ferry. The railway closed at the end of 2006 and was partly converted to a DLR line that opened in 2011 (my DLR walks 7 and 8).

In 1999, London Underground opened services on the Jubilee line through Canning Town. Finally, the DLR line to Royal Victoria and Beckton opened in 1995 and an additional DLR line between Canning Town and London City Airport opened in 2005.


Structure of Canning Town DLR station

These many lines imply a complex set of platforms. The lower level includes the former train platforms, now used by the DLR line from Stratford, and the Jubilee Line platforms. They need to be kept strictly apart due to the different power systems. An upper level was built in 1995 for the DLR line from Poplar.

There is no real station building but there is a half subterranean concourse for the Underground platforms. The unusual layout of one platform above an other one, but both being open-air, was solved by the architect with rather elegant, unobtrusive shapes. The roof above the upper platform reminds of an airplane wing. Unfortunately, it was fashionable in the 1990s to use undecorated concrete and this material turns grey and dirty over time.

Walk to the traffic lights at the end of the bus station

Cross Silvertown Way at the lights

Walk around the large parking lot using Wouldham Road


Pink and green combination

I suppose the parking lot will disappear in due course. It gave me an opportunity for a decorative picture as the colours of the vegetation in the foreground fit with the bright colours of the container structure in the background. This is not the case now that a big development has replaced the containers.

at the end R Rathbone Street

L Ruscoe Road

R Rogers Road

L Radland Road


Keir Hardie Park

The road runs along Keir Hardie Park, named after a Labour MP elected in 1892 at a time when this party was considered dangerously revolutionary by the affluent classes. The area was marshland and then tenements for harbour workers, but widespread destruction by bombs in 1940 enabled the council to plan a rather successful garden city in the 1950s. This gives me an opportunity to point out that this particular walk is particularly interesting in contrasting urban planning from the 18th century (Poplar), from the garden city movement, from the late 20th century (around East India station) and from the 2010s (Leamouth).

Keir Hardie Park is a bit bare and has no spectacular amenities. This is due to the fact that the area threatened to become very poor following the closure of many industries in the 1970s, so that it was uncertain whether the population might fall. In the end, the really poor population concentrated in cheaper Victorian terraces rather than in modest garden suburb houses, encouraging the borough to do some improvement work.

R Munday Road



Royal Victoria DLR station

The station opened together with the new DLR line in 1994.

As usual on the DLR, there is no station building and there are not even awnings. The staircases are standard prefabricated versions and the red footbridge pillars with the broken tops are standard for this DLR line.

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Walk 4: Stratford walk to West India Quay

Walk 4


2 3/4 hours

The DLR light railway was originally built in the late 1980s in order to link the redeveloped area of the Docklands with the City and it was built as a lightweight, automatic system in order to save infrastructure and staff costs. The line from Stratford to the Docklands was part of the initial concept in 1987.

The tracks use two different, unconnected train lines. They follow the main line from Stratford into Liverpool Street at the start and this remained a single track section for a long time, limiting capacity. Between Bow and Poplar, the tracks use the cutting of a former train line that connected the docks with the northern suburbs via Hackney between 1850 and 1944, stopping at stations called Bow, South Bromley and Poplar. As the two lines were not connected, a junction was built for the DLR via a steep, awkward bend.

Routing note: This walk connects in Stratford with DLR walk 7 and with Liverpool Street network walks 9, 13 and 14. It will also connect in Stratford with Underground Central Line walk 8 and with Jubilee Line walk 10. The route then connects in Poplar with DLR walk 5 and in West India Quay with DLR walk 2.

I am aware that engineering works have been going on for years in the Stratford area and that part of my route may be temporarily inaccessible. Potential detours are mentioned in the text and usually signposted locally. Also, developments mushroom very quickly in Poplar and I do not comment on all housing blocks, but it might worth your while to take your time and look at the present trends in the luxury flat market.



Stratford interchange station

This very important interchange is one of the oldest train stations in London as it was opened as early as 1839. The first line to pass through the station ran from London Devonshire Street (a temporary terminal in Mile End) to Romford. The station has a very complex layout on two levels. The low level includes the terminal of London Underground Jubilee line and two platforms used by the DLR line from Canning Town to Stratford International.


Inside Stratford station


The high level includes the terminal of the DLR line to Canary Wharf, two platforms used by the London Underground Central line, two platforms used by London Overground trains towards Richmond and four platforms used by trains from London Liverpool Street towards East Anglia. There is an isolated platform at the rear of the station used as the terminal for train services towards Tottenham Hale. Interestingly, there are even two platforms that are unused as plans to run trains from London Fenchurch Street to Barking via Stratford in the 1940s were abandoned despite finishing construction.


Sculpture in front of Stratford station

The station was rebuilt several times due to the considerable extension of interchange possibilities. The current building is an imposing contemporary construction meant as a gateway for the 2012 Olympics visitors. There is a nice clock sculpture on the station forecourt. It is a twisted steel column that was installed for the 2012 Olympic Games. I know some steel sculptures set up for the occasion were organised by Arcelor Mittal as a corporate branding exercise, but I don’t know if this applies also to the sculpture.

Cross the station forecourt and enter the shopping mall called Stratford Centre.

Walk across the mall to the exit on Broadway

The shopping mall is an oddity as it is open day and night although most shops are closed at night. This is because it is a public right of way. The mall was built in 1974 and had to go downmarket because of the competition of the new giant mall on the other side of the train tracks. The owner would like to built a 26-level tower above the mall in order to take advantage of the convenient location, but this might be a little more than the permitted height in this part of London.


Former Stratford town hall

The name Stratford is obviously linked to a ford on a “street” (this word was used for roads in old English and the Roman road to Colchester crossed the Lea River here). You can see the magnificent old town hall for Stratford at the corner opposite the mall exit. It was built in 1869 and is now a conference centre. It is a listed building because of the excellent proportions. The rustico ground level and the first floor loggia are inspired by Italian renaissance while the roof landscape reminds more of French châteaux. I feel reminded of a theatre rather than of a town hall because of the loggia.

R Broadway


Railway tree sculpture in Stratford

The town centre of Stratford is a mix of modern buildings, some in a neo-something style, some decidedly modern. Some of them are nice individually, but the result lacks unity. The borough paid more attention to alignment and height, which is a good thing, but the architects should try to integrate their creations better in the overall landscape. There is a large traffic island at the end of Broadway with a few thin palm trees and a very large abstract steel sculpture. The work by Malcolm Robertson is called “Railway tree” and refers to the 19th century growth of Stratford fueled by its location as an important railway junction.

Ahead High Street crossing a train line

L Cam Road

When the road turns R, continue ahead into the strip of greenery on Channelsea Path


Channelsea Path

The path has its name from Channelsea River, but the section of path you walk along does not show any river because it was put into a culvert. The river exists in the lower reach but you do not walk this far on my route. It was one of several tidal channels that drained the lower Lea marshes and was probably “channeled” in the early Middle Ages to improve the difficult ford on the main road to Barking Abbey. Because you walk above a river, the area is unsuitable for development and is actually a small nature reserve.


Channelsea Nature Reserve

Just after crossing a road, the path climbs an embankment

Routing note: There have been long-standing engineering works here. If the path is blocked beyond the road, you need to turn R into Abbey Lane and then L (this is also Abbey Lane while the main road changes names) until you can climb on the embankment.

R on the embankment (called The Greenway)


Old Abbey Road pumping station

From the embankment, you get a very good view of a spectacular 19th century building combining Victorian colour patterns with roofs in the French late 17th century style and a somewhat neo-gothic domed tower. This structure is actually an industrial building housing pumps that raised the effluent from smaller sewers into the main sewer. The work is now done by modern pumps in a less impressive annex. The old building is not normally open to the public but is used occasionally to film scenes in a Victorian industrial setting. There is an other spectacular Victorian pumping station in London, located in Streatham.


New Abbey Road pumping station

The paved path and cycle route uses the embankment created by a major 19th century engineering feat, the Northern Outfall Sewer. This is still the main effluent for the northern inner suburbs and there are a few locations along the Greenway with suspicious smells in hot weather. The sewer was built in the 1860s after scientists realised that the cholera epidemics of 1853 might have been worsened by contamination of the drinking water wells. Parliament was moved to act when the hot summer of 1858 caused such unpleasant smells that the Chambers had to ajourn away from Westminster. The sewer runs in a straight line for several miles from a Lea river bridge to Beckton and is an important link in the Capital Ring long-distance footpath around London.

The Greenway crosses a major road, a tidal creek and finally a small river

Just before the train tracks L along the tracks

Routing note: There have been long-standing engineering works here as well. At times, the Greenway itself was blocked beyond the main highway. If this is the case, just follow the clear detour signs for the DLR station.



Pudding Mill Lane DLR station

The station was planned from the onset in 1987 but was not built in order to save funds as the area was mostly derelict industrial land at the time. It was finally opened in 1996 and rebuilt in 2014.

My picture shows the original station, a very simple prefabricated steel awning. There is no station building as usual on the DLR. The 2014 station is more substantial, with the awnings being linked by steel bars over the tracks, possibly because of stability issues with wind on the top of the embankment.

Go back to the road passing under the train line, not taking the subway

R Marshgate Road (away from the train line)

Just after the bridge over the river L on the riverside walkway

The river is one of a number of tidal channels draining the former Stratford marshes. This one is called St Thomas’ Creek. When the many developments along the main highway will be finished, there will be longer sections of path along the rivers providing opportunities for residents to walk their dogs.

At the end R to the main highway

L using the bridge of the main highway over a river, cross the highway at the next traffic lights and come back to the bridge, you are now on the south side of the highway

L (South)  on the riverside walkway, called Three Mills Wall River Path


Three Mills Wall River

Three Mills Wall River is one of the larger tidal channels. They are actually not tidal any more because of locks, the idea being that barges should be able to reach the many smaller factories located in the area. I expect most of the area will switch to housing over time, but the priority has been along the main highway as it is better connected and there is some uncertainty about the strength of the housing market for such a huge area, particularly as most developers are only interested in luxury flats for Canary Wharf bankers.


Development on Three Mills Wall River


Three Mills Island Open Space

Cross a river to enter Three Mills Island (there is a clear sign), the path is now called Shortwall

The open space is actually an island between the natural tidal channel and a shortcut feeding a mill, one of many in this area in the pre-industrial area. Three Mills Green is now a park with a large playground called ambitiously the “Wild Kingdom”. There are neither lions nor zebras there but children can “go wild” on rides, swings and ropes.

On reaching the former mill R across the mill courtyard and over the river Lea


House Mill on a tidal creek

Despite the name “Three Mills”, there were actually up to 9 mills on the tidal channels at a time and there are references to mills as early as the 13th century. The long building with many windows is the House Mill, used primarily to grind grain (originally for bakery, later for breweries). It is a listed building from 1802, actually a copy of the 1776 original destroyed by a fire. It worked until 1940 and may be the largest tidal mill in existence. It can be visited occasionally on summer Sundays.


House Mill at low tide



Clock Mill

The delightful Clock Mill with the two conical towers was used for the same purposes from 1817 until 1952. It has been converted into offices and is therefore only interesting from outside. The towers remind me of hop kilns and there was indeed alcohol production on the premises in the 19th century.

At the back of the mill courtyard, there is an access to film studios. These are modern, private premises. They were used for many television productions, i.a. for a Big Brother series back in 2001.


Georgian offices in Three Mills complex

R on the riverside walkway along the river Lea


River Lea near Three Mills

The river looks rather modest if you consider that it is supposed to drain a large part of Essex and was considered a major obstacle for travelers from Barking. It is actually only the channeled part of the river, used for barges, while a large part of the water flow goes through Three Mills River in order to operate the mills. The environment is still in part derelict industrial, partly because the location between a motorway and the canal is not too attractive for luxury flats.

The walkway ends near a major motorway interchange. Cross the A12 at the traffic lights

The busy crossroads lies underneath the so-called Bow Flyover, built in the 1960s in order to give easier access into London from the eastern suburbs. The road crosses here an urban motorway linking Canary Wharf with the Cambridge motorway and this causes complex traffic patterns. You need to be careful when crossing the roads as two cyclists were killed by a motorist here in 2011.

L along the A12, then next R on Bromley High Street

R again on High Street (the main road turns L and is called St Leonard’s Street)

High Street turns later R


Churchyard of St Mary’s Bow

At the end of the street, you see to your right the greenery of the parish churchyard for Bow. It is a very pleasant shady patch after walking for a long time along rivers with no trees. The church itself was rebuilt in the 1950s after bomb damage but there are some nice monuments both inside and in the churchyard if you wish to take the time.

At the end L Bow Road

There is an imposing office building at 159 Bow Road on the corner with Fairfield Road. It is interesting for being a typical Art Déco structure. The horizontal lines are stressed through unbroken concrete bands running below unbroken rows of windows, something very innovative at a time when offices seldom enabled a view outside out of fear that this might distract the clerks. The horizontal lines are counterbalanced by one vertical feature, here a brick block on the corner.


Former Poplar town hall

The building was actually built as the town hall for Poplar, explaining the size and also the sculptures at the corner. They show among others an architect and a mason. I am bit surprised at the posturing of the workers, as if they were squeezed into a space too small for them. The mason to the right looks downright effeminate. This is a little unusual for London Art Déco, where sculptures of people normally show very upright, austere figures.


Bromley Public Hall

Nearly opposite the former Poplar town hall, you see the more modest structure of Bromley Public Hall, built in 1880 as a parish office.It is an essence a neo-classical pavilion as you would expect in the annex of an 18th century palace. Typical for the style is the very strict symmetry. The building is now used by the borough as a registry office.



Bow Church DLR station

The station opened together with the DLR line in 1987.

The platforms are standard DLR issue with the rounded awning version but the entrance portico on Bow Road is more imposing. Using extremely thin columns was fashionable in the 1980s and enabled higher, airier construction for nearly the same cost.

L Campbell Road passing under a train line

The road passes Rounton Park


Rounton Park

The small neighbourhood park is called officially Rounton Road Open Space. It is quite pleasant in terms of trees, shade and banks, but it has no exciting amenities. There is a long bed with interesting grasses along the road if you are interested. There is also a handsome library building at the corner of the park with a sign saying it was built in 1930 and a coat of arms.


Rounton Park library

At the end of the road L on Devons Road



Devons Road DLR station

The station opened together with the DLR line in 1987.

The platforms are standard DLR issue with the rounded awning version. There is no entrance portico or any attractive feature at road level.

Turn around on Devons Road, going now southwest away from the DLR line and without having crossed it

L Brock Place

Ahead across the gardens. Keep along the edge of the gardens to the exit ahead in Glaucus Street


Brock Place Gardens

This is an interesting landscaped courtyard with a choice of trees and grasses that differs from the typical neighbourhood park. Pines in particular are very unusual. As it is also the case in Paris and Brussels, I imagine they might be prone to diseases or easily weakened by traffic pollution, so that they would only make sense in sheltered locations.


Brock Place Gardens

At the end L Yeo Street

R Violet Road crossing a canal

Go down the stairs to the canalside walkway and walk towards the bright blue DLR bridge


Limehouse Cut

The canal is Limehouse Cut, built in 1772 in order to offer barges from Essex a direct access to the Thames in central London without having to navigate the unreliable tidal Lea river mouth and without the long detour via Greenwich. The canal was very successful, carrying in particular grain. It also attracted industry but this is derelict by now and is being converted quickly to luxury flats.


DLR bridge over Limehouse Cut

Shortly after the DLR bridge R up stairs

R Uamvar Street (walking away from the canal)

Ahead St Leonard’s Road

R across Langdon Park aiming for the DLR station


Langdon Park

The park is a larger open space primarily used for informal sports. It has no amenities but is important because it is the only sizeable green space in vicinity of the DLR line and of the mushrooming developments attracted by the good connections.



Langdon Park DLR station




The station opened in 2007 on the existing DLR line. There had been plans for a station here in the 1980s (to be called Carmen Street) but it was considered too expensive. In the end, the distance between the neighbouring stations was sufficient to warrant a new station.


Langdon Park footbridge



The platforms are standard DLR issue (the flat awning version). But the footbridge is an impressive architectural statement, one of the most beautiful footbridges over train stations in London. The swinging shape reminds a little of a skateboard from the side, which is fitting as the station has its name from a nearby school. The lift shafts are very plain in technical terms but the vertical shapes interplay well with the elongated roof of the footbridge. The architects were Consarc, by now a major firm.

Cross the DLR line using the station footbridge

L Crisp Street


Chrisp Street Market

The street leads past a covered plaza with a street market called Chrisp Street Market (no idea why there is an H in the name). It does not look remarkable but it is a conservation area because it was the first pedestrianised street market in Britain back in 1951. By now, street markets have changed a lot and you are more likely to find vegan sushi and second-hand branded handbags than turnips and farm butter. When I could find a farmers’ market in London, which is not in many places, I was actually surprised that prices were nearly always lower and products better than in supermarkets. In most of Europe, it is a rather a matter of finding different or local products supermarkets are not interested in, but prices are often higher.



All Saints DLR station

The station opened in 1987 together with the DLR line on the location of the old Poplar train station. Announcements in the trains say “All Saints for Chrisp Street Market”, but this is not the official name.

The platform awnings are the standard DLR issue, but there is an entrance portico like in Bow Church. The construction principle is the same but it appears to be lower.

The parish church for Poplar, All Saints, is located just beyond the station. The tower is from the 1823 church but the nave had to be rebuilt in the 1950s after bomb damages. I did not bother with the building but the tower spire is unusual for late Georgian architecture, reminding more of early 18th century churches in the late baroque style. At the time, Poplar was an affluent suburb attracting ship owners, this changing in the 1860s with the increasing dock activity.

R East India Dock Road (without having crossed the DLR line)


Former Poplar public baths

The road passes a recreation centre and a swimming pool converted from the borough public baths. The building is an austere Art Déco structure from 1933 reminiscent of a fortress. The style was fashionable until it became the style of choice for dictators. The conversion was paid for by allowing the developer to built 100 luxury flats in the back of the building. My picture shows the building in 2010 while the conversion plants were still being discussed; it looks better now.


Former college in Poplar

The very conspicuous building at 155 East India Dock Road is a former college and has been converted into offices. It is a striking mix. The red-and-white colour scheme is Edwardian, as is the oriel window above the central door. But the ground floor arches are neo-gothic and the clock tower with buttresses and a flat roof is good quality Art Déco.

L across Poplar Recreation Ground aiming for the bowling green


Poplar Recreation Ground

The recreation ground was landscaped on an interesting site. This was originally the location chosen by the East India Company in 1628 to house seamen disabled through accidents on its ships. When the company was forcefully nationalised in 1858 for mismanagement of its empire in India, Parliament had no use for publicly-owned almshouses and had them demolished in 1866.

The borough opened a park with all the appropriate 19th century amenities such as formal flower beds, fountains, seats and elaborate railings. A bowling green was added in 1910. Over time, cost issues forced the borough to convert the park to a normal plain green space with a small playground. But the old plane trees from the 1860s are still standing and have become rather impressive. There is also a nice circular flower bed with formal planting.


Flower bed in Poplar Recreation Ground

R Poplar High Street

L DLR station access, nearly opposite Hale Street



Poplar DLR station

The station opened in 1987 together with the DLR line from Stratford to Canary Wharf. It was a normal, small station, except for having a junction to the DLR depot. The station was rebuilt in 1994 when the DLR opened a new line between Poplar and Canning Town in order to provide a proper junction. It is one of the very few stations on the network with four platforms.



Poplar DLR station access


The junction concourse is a jumble of shapes that do not seem to obey an overall concept. You have bright red columns with weird oblique tops, a half-dome with aggressively pointy endings, a rather elegant, bright white staircase access tower and a relaxing, round footbridge. The view from the footbridge towards the snaking tracks on a variety of viaducts is interesting.


Poplar station seen from a train


DLR tracks just west of Poplar

Cross the tracks and the motorway using the station footbridge

R along the motorway, there are now signs for the DLR station

Next L under the DLR tracks


Walking under the DLR viaduct



West India Quay DLR station


The station opened in 1987 as the junction between the two DLR lines from Tower Gateway and from Stratford but is now often bypassed by the trains from Westferry. It had to be rebuilt in 2009 because the designers had not accounted for the strong wind funnel effects caused by the tall towers in Canary Wharf. The station is located at the top of a steel viaduct cantilevered above an ornamental basin.

The awnings and staircase are the standardised DLR design.

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Walk 3: Island Gardens walk to Lewisham

Walk 3


1 1/4 hour

The DLR light railway was originally built in the late 1980s in order to link the redeveloped area of the Docklands with the City and it was built as a lightweight, automatic system in order to save infrastructure and staff costs. The borough of Lewisham was worried that potential jobs in the new office centre would be difficult to reach for commuters from the other bank of the Thames, a problem that had already been important in the 19th century and that had led to the construction of a foot tunnel under the Thames to make commuters less dependant on unreliable and expensive ferries.


Typical DLR platfoms


The light railway was extended as required by the borough in 1999. It was expensive to build with a tunnel under the river and a long concrete viaduct over the course of the river Ravensbourne as there was no other route available in this densely populated suburb. The borough proved right in predicting strong commuting traffic and the line is very profitable. The borough was also very thoughtful in convincing the TfL zoning experts that all stations on the line within Lewisham and Greenwich be both in zones 2 and 3, saving costs for local commuters. Dual-zone stations are nothing unusual, but it is unusual for a whole line to be considered dual-zone.

The whole DLR system was operated by a private company for 25 years and is now operated by a 70% subsidiary of the French government-owned railway SNCF.

You need to be aware that Oyster pay-as-you-go cards are accepted as if you were on a bus but that they malfunction frequently depending on where you change to the DLR. You might be charged unexpected amounts.

Routing note: This route connects in Island Gardens with DLR walk 2. It does not connect officially with Underground Jubilee line walks 7 and 8, but both routes also use the Greenwich tunnel and are therefore easy to combine with the present walk. The route does connect in Greenwich with London Bridge network walk 5. Finally, it connects in Lewisham with London Bridge networks walks 6, 15 and 24A as well as with Victoria train networks walk 3.

The route is kept short because it passes close to many attractions in Greenwich. I suggest you choose the one or other and combine it with the walk. Particular convenient visits would be the craft market, the Maritime Museum or the Hospital. I commented on some of those in my London Bridge network walk 5 and will comment on others in my Jubilee line walk 8.



Island Gardens DLR station


The station was originally a simple platform for the DLR terminal on an old train viaduct when it opened in 1987. This changed to an underground station when the tunnel under the Thames was built for the DLR extension towards Greenwich in 1999. Original plans called for a simple platform in a cutting but local residents managed to get a proper station built. I actually often used this station as an introduction when bringing foreign visitors to Greenwich so that the residents were right in pointing to the special location justifying an effort.


Elegant shapes of Island Gardens station


The new station has an interesting design as there was room to make an architectural statement. Seen from the park, it has a double set of rounded roofs on steel pillars, the interesting point being that the two sets are inverted in opposing directions. It is just a geometrical game but quite harmonious. Seen from the road, the entrance is an airy hall between strange towers with rounded ends, those being the aeration shafts for the tunnel under the Thames.

Exit the station and cross the street into a passage along a green space and sports ground. This leads quickly to Island Gardens park


Pavilion in Island Gardens


The first mention of the location is a remark by the architect of Greenwich Hospital in 1680 about the nice view but the land remained idle until the first terraces were built in Millwall in the 1860s. The borough was aware of the location and started negociations in 1849 although the purchase only went through in 1894. Flower beds and a small bandstand were provided. This has changed only modestly to flower beds and a café with an unusually elaborate brick pattern.


Island Gardens Park




Historical Greenwich seen from Island Gardens


Obviously, what has not changed is the magnificent view towards the main Greenwich monuments. Panels give you many explanations. My picture documents primarily the remarkable alignment of the observatory obelisk with the royal pavilion, the two wings of the Royal Hospital building perfectly symmetrical counterpoints as an excellent example of baroque landscaping. The fact that the view is strictly framed and controlled, showing nothing outside of the planned landscape, is typically European (and very alien to Japanese garden architects for example).

Cross the Thames using the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, the access is inside the small park



North entrance of Greenwich Tunnel


I comment on the tunnel more in detail in my Jubilee line walk 7. The tunnel was opened in 1902 and the lift cabins are copies of the original ones, explaining the luxurious wood paneling. Actually, the tunnel was mostly meant for the dock workers. It is customary for dock staff to be taken “off the street” in the early morning for the day and labourers from Greenwich often came too late to get a job if fog or traffic delayed the ferry.


The Thames in Greenwich

The tunnel was a remarkable technical achievement and was extremely expensive, also because the borough had to buy the ferry business first in order to compensate the owners. The tunnel is quite long for a pedestrian and cyclists are often tempted to ride through it although it is strictly forbidden. What cyclists like even less is that the lifts are quite regularly out of order for maintenance or staff shortage reasons. You might want to count the steps on the Greenwich staircase, the result is interesting.

Cross the open space past the ship replica towards the corner pubs


Original Cutty Sark in 2007


The ship is a copy of the “Cutty Sark”, a cargo ship from 1869 built to carry tea from China. After the opening of the Suez Canal, it was rerouted and carried wool from Australia. It was later a training ship for the Royal Navy and is now a museum. A significant part of the original ship burnt down by accident in 2007 and what you visit is therefore a reconstruction.




Cutty Sark figurehead


The hull of the ship is enclosed in a glass bubble in order to provide sufficient room for hospitality and shopping, which has been criticised as giving the attraction a very artificial look. I have never visited the ship due to the extortionate entry fee of 13.50 £ (2017). The name “Cutty Sark” refers to a fairytale and the figurehead depicts the corresponding lass.

On reaching the main road, you can detour R to the next station into a pedestrianised passage, initially under a building. There is a large sign overhead with the station name in DLR blue.

CUTTY SARK for Maritime Greenwich


Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich DLR station


The station opened in 1999 together with the DLR extension. As opposed to most DLR stations, it was not rebuilt in the 2000s and some train doors do not open because it was impossible to lengthen the platforms without rebuilding the Thames tunnel.

The subterranean platforms are of no particular interest. The front to the street is modest and squeezed in the middle of a shopping street. This makes no sense in terms of accommodating the heavy passenger traffic on weekends but enabled juicy profits by developing the shopping street. The winding staircase to the platforms is unique for the DLR and gives the station a special atmosphere.

Turn around to exit the passage at the place you entered. Coming from the riverside, you now turn L into College Approach

R King William Walk (you do not enter the enclosed grounds)


Devonport House


At the corner with Nelson Road, there is a small green space in front of a large Georgian brick building that contrasts strikingly with the baroque premises of Greenwich Hospital. The building was originally an annex of the Hospital and was built in 1784 as a school for boys. It was converted later into a nurses’ home and in 1993 into a luxury hotel. The architecture is restrained as it was primarily a utilitarian building, with typically Georgian symmetry based on the central neo-classical portico. In my opinion, the actual entrance under the portico is badly proportioned, looking like the entrance to a cellar.


Greenwich Hospital Mausoleum


The green space in front of the building is actually the former cemetery for Greenwich Hospital. Some of the monuments are listed and you can have a look around, the most conspicuous memorial being the neo-classical Mausoleum for hospital officers. It is a listed early Georgian structure from 1714 built by major architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and had open arches until grave robbers defiled the site in 1806. They were probably looking for swords to resell.

R Nelson Road

Ahead past the church into St. Alfege Churchyard. Where the churchyard turns into a public park, turn L into St Alfege Passage to exit the park


St. Alfege Churchyard


For St Alfege church itself, please refer to my Jubilee line walk 8. Both green spaces were a single large churchyard in the 19th century but had reached capacity and were given to the borough in 1899. The section directly around the church had the more interesting monuments and still has the atmosphere of a churchyard while the more recent section was converted into a public park with a few flower beds and a choice of interestingly varied trees.



St. Alfege Park

Ahead Roan Street

L Churchfields (a street)

Ahead Straightsmouth (a street)

Ahead along the tracks to the station subway, cross under the tracks



Greenwich DLR station


The Greenwich train station is one of the most venerable and most beautiful stations in London, dating back to 1840, but this applies only to the train station. When the DLR extension opened in 1999, a new platform was built parallel to the existing train platforms. It can be considered a completely separate station.


As such, it has only the standard DLR steel canopy and no ticket office.


Greenwich DLR platform

Continue along the tracks, now on the south side, and cross the river

Routing note: due to construction works in this area, the exact route has been moved occasionally to the one or other side of the tracks between the station and the river footbridge. If in doubt, follow the marked cycle route for Deptford


DLR viaduct over Deptford Creek


From the footbridge over Deptford Creek, you get a good view of the DLR concrete viaduct. It appears surprisingly thin, which is made possible by the fact that DLR carriages are lightweight and run on tram-like tracks, not on a heavy gravel bed like trains. Deptford Creek is the tidal mouth of Ravensbourne River, a small but important water course because the valley was very useful for train lines and now for a cycle route towards the Channel coast. The creek became a major industrial site in the 17th century after the Tudor kings had opened a Navy yard in Deptford, attracting many subcontractors.


Old Deptford lifting bridge


The train line crosses Deptford Creek on an imposing, historical bridge. The original drawbridge caused a number of mechanical problems and was replaced in 1963 by the present lifting bridge. For about 15 years, a section of track could be lifted vertically in order to let vessels with masts go through to the warehouses upstream. This has become redundant in the 1970s and the bridge has been welded shut. There are discussions about listing the structure as vertical lifting bridges are extremely rare nowadays.

L after the bridge over the river into Creekside (a road)


Gate of Creekside nature centre


The first building you pass is set back in a large gravel space. It is mainly worth noticing for the very nice entrance gate in galvanised steel showing reeds, crabs, fish and water birds. This refers to the purpose of the building as an information centre on the ecology of tidal marshes. I do not know whether it is open to the general public and whether it charges an entry fee.



Creekside gate

The following building is an ugly converted factory but is worth mentioning because it houses a number of art and craft studios. They have an open day twice a year when artists sell their production. I am always a little disappointed at having to pay a small entrance fee to be allowed to buy items, but this is customary in London for such events. If you feel suspicious that the stands on Greenwich or Shoreditch handicraft markets are only resellers, you might indeed want to meet the artists in their studios.

At the end L Deptford Church Street


Lewisham college façade


On the corner, you walk along the tall brick façade of a local college. My picture shows green pillars while more recent pictures show red pillars. I don’t know what prompted the change; the green reminded me a lot of several modern buildings in Peckham and Brent and might have been a fashionable colour in the 2000s.

L on the main road for



Deptford Bridge DLR station


The station opened together with the DLR extension in 1999.

As usual with the DLR, there is no station building and only the standardised platform canopy. Unusually, the station is on top of a viaduct crossing a road and the platforms are therefore supported by a concrete structure.

Take the marked cycle path under the DLR viaduct along the river.


Cycling route marker in Deptford Bridge


You might notice a colourful sign underneath the viaduct. It looks like it might have been a school project to mark the cycle route. There are other similar markers further upstream but they are not as colourful. You will certainly notice that most depicted animals are dead. Either this is meant to remind you of ecological issues or it is the typical fascination of teenagers for death, skeletons, dystopia and Halloween.

The path crosses the river again, leads around a warehouse and crosses the whole length of Ravensbourne / Brookmill Park.



North end of Brookmill Park

The park is part of a long string of green spaces built along the course of the Ravensbourne River. Taken together, they build one of only two good cycling / walking routes for people travelling from central London towards Sussex. The walking route is called the Waterlink Way and you would follow the markings for national cycle route 21.


Brookmill Park rose garden


Brookmill Park was built on former industrial premises together with the Dockland Light Railway and care was taken to make the river flow more natural whenever enough room was available. The northern end of the riverside park has a nice fountain with a circular pergola nearly all around it. The borough invests in nice flower beds and there are lots of seats with unusually shaped, bright red legs and armrests. It is usually a rather quiet and pleasant place. As the park is located between identikit flashy studios for young bankers on the east side and a conservation area on the west side, it does not normally attract the street gangs some people might expect in Deptford.


Renatured section of Brookmill Park


Continuing upstream along the “natural” section of the river valley, you lose the flower beds but you might see a heron or a fox. You will also need to pay attention to cyclists as they tend to go fast despite the lack of visibility on the winding path. At one spot where the cyclists are routed away from the pedestrians, you can have a look at a pond fully covered in green algae. It actually reminds me of frothy green tea as made in Japanese ceremonies but I did not try to drink the water from the pond.


Green tea pond

After the park, the cycle path crosses the river



Elverson Road DLR station


The station opened together with the DLR extension in 1999.

As usual with the DLR, there is no station building and only the standardised platform canopy. The really conspicuous element is the access ramp more than the station furniture.

The path crosses the river again just after the station and continues along the river

Follow the marked route R away from the river shortly before the DLR bridge over the river

The marked route crosses under a train line

L Thurston Road

At the end L Loampit Vale passing under the train line again



Lewisham DLR terminal


The DLR station opened in 1999 as the terminal of the new extension. It is not linked directly to the neighbouring train station and sits in the forecourt of the station between the diverging tracks of two train lines.

The terminal building is sizeable compared to most DLR stations and includes a spacious hall. The architecture is very plain and in line with late 20th century office buildings, all sleek glass and no colours except for branding purposes.


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Walk 2: Limehouse walk to Island Gardens

Walk 2


2 hours

The Docklands Light Railway (DLR) opened in 1987 in order to connect the office and housing developments in the reconverted Docklands with the City. The docks were served originally by a railway running between terminals at Minories and North Greenwich on a viaduct. Passenger services on this railway stopped in 1926 but the DLR uses the 1840 viaduct between Limehouse and Westferry.

There had been plans to build a London Underground extension instead of the DLR, but the government was short of funds in the 1980s and preferred a cheaper solution. Because the old train line ran on a re-usable viaduct, a tram concept (the solution used in Croydon) was considered inappropriate. The original line was a very cheap system: standardised, short platforms, automatic driving with just a service agent to control door closure. The system was operated by a private company for 25 years and is now operated by a 70% subsidiary of the French government-owned railway SNCF.

You need to be aware that Oyster pay-as-you-go cards are accepted as if you were on a bus but that they malfunction frequently depending on where you change to the DLR. You might be charged unexpected amounts.

Routing note:

This route connects in Limehouse with DLR walk 1 and with Fenchurch Street network walk 1. It connects in Westferry with DLR walk 5, in West India Quay with DLR walk 4 and in Island Gardens with DLR walk 3. It will also connect in Canary Wharf with Underground Jubilee line walks 7 and 8.

This route does not visit all of Canary Wharf because I decided to do part of this on the Jubilee line walks.



Limehouse DLR station


The old train station opened in 1840 under the name Stepney and was renamed Stepney East in 1923. It was then replaced by the neighbouring train station located on the Fenchurch Street line in 1926. When the DLR opened in 1987, both the suburban train station and the new DLR stop were renamed Limehouse.

The picture shows the DLR part of the complex with the two lift shafts and the access staircases in drab grey. There is no DLR building or ticket office. There is a station for the suburban trains but it is integrated in the viaduct arch and of no architectural interest.

Exit the station and walk East along the DLR viaduct towards the Basin


DLR viaduct over Regent’s Canal


The viaduct is a particularly old railway viaduct as it was completed in 1840 for the new dock railway to North Greenwich. You can see that railways were still a technological novelty because Parliament chose a specific width for the rails that was not used anywhere else in Britain. The importance of a standard gauge was only understood about 30 years later when competing companies realised that it made sense to offer services combining two networks. An other exotic peculiarity of the dock railway is that it was hauled by a rope, considered as efficient at the time as coupling carriages to a steam engine.


Limehouse Basin


The viaduct arches have a very long radius, but this was not difficult to build as long as you did not need to carry very heavy loads. The arches are lined for safety reasons by iron fencing and this was interestingly an important selling proposition because it made the train ride more confortable than brick wall fencing as it was less prone to causing wind funnelling and reverberating noise.

Walk around Limehouse Basin crossing two canals


Footbridge over Regent’s Canal


Limehouse Basin was a dock used primarily to transfer goods from seagoing vessels to canal barges. One of the canals was Regent’s Canal, opened in 1810 in order to bypass the river Thames and the congested inner London harbour for goods carried from the Midlands to the export docks. The canal is bridged for pedestrians and cyclists by an interesting suspension bridge, one of several in the area. You will note that the shape is not a straight line, possibly for fun and aesthetics, possibly in order to avoid resonance effects.


Limehouse Basin developments


The walkway then passes at the foot of a large development from 2003. This was one of the first luxury flat developments to opt for a shape reminiscent of ships’s prows. This proved to sell well due to the spacious balconies and inspired a series of later developments, for example in Wandsworth. With seven levels, the buildings are a little lower than those built later on in the Canary Wharf area.


Footbridge over Limehouse Cut


The second canal is the Limehouse Cut, first opened in 1770. It was a very useful shortcut for canal barges bringing cargo from East Anglia into London as it made it possible to avoid the winding, tidal lower Lea river and the long detour past Greenwich. The canal carried primarily grain from Essex and Suffolk. Like most infrastructure in the 18th and 19th century, it was a private venture, quite profitable in this case.

After crossing the second canal L along the canal

R into the park, cross the length of the park


Kiosque in Ropemakers’ Fields


The small park is called Ropemakers Fields as this was an open space near the dock where ropes were repaired. There are references to this location both in Samuel Pepys in 1664 and in accounts of a visit by the tsar of Russia in 1871. The park has a small sculpture referring to ropes. It is a nice green space because it is unusually hilly, making good use of ground excavated for the construction of a road tunnel under Limehouse.



Ropemakers Field

Cross Narrow Street and take the path under Duke Shore Wharf towards the Thames (it is marked as the Thames Path).

When you reach the river, you can pause for a view because this is a very good location at the apex of a river bend, offering good views both towards Wapping and towards Deptford.


View upstream towards Wapping


View downstream towards Deptford



Limekiln Dock seen from the footbridge

The path leads to an inlet of the Thames called Limekiln Dock. It was actually the mouth of a small creek and served a number of warehouses now converted to the ubiquitous luxury flats. Because some people own mooring rights in the dock, urban planners had to plan a footbridge that would lift when necessary. I don’t think this happens at all, but tracing and compensating the owners would probably have cost more than the bridge features.


Footbridge over Limekiln Dock


There is an interesting technical comment on this suspension bridge on Internet http://happypontist.blogspot.lu/2011/08/london-bridges-11-limekiln-dock.html. I am less shocked than this gentleman and find the bridge quite convenient and not that ugly.


Limekiln Dock at low tide

If you have the time, you can walk a short distance on the walkway along the inlet to enjoy a different view. I was surprised that you lose very quickly the feeling of wide open spaces you might get along the river. At the back of the dock, you actually feel much more like in a courtyard.

Cross the basin on the footbridge, continue along the Thames around a development


Development in Westferry


The development is one of the most striking designs along the Thames Path. The spindly steel tower set off the building can apparently be used as a set of balconies, but I suppose they are way too windy to be enjoyable most of the time. In addition, the tower has pointy spikes at the top that remind me much of either a crown of thorns or Sauron’s stronghold in the “Lord of the Rings”. I suppose it is not meant as an allegory of the behaviour of rapacious investment bankers, rogue traders and self-serving consultants, but who knows ?


Crown of Thorns development

L into the cycle path merging into Three Colt Street

R Milligan Street

R Limehouse Causeway for



Westferry DLR station

The station opened in 1987. The name comes from Westferry Road, a road running west of the docks to the ferry for Greenwich.

The station is a plain glass awning with a covered staircase up to the platforms. The lift shaft has a decorative panel but it is not really an artistic achievement.

R Westferry Road (the main highway into Canary Wharf)

Shortly before the tunnel portal L into Ontario Way


Luxury hotel on Westferry Road


Just before turning left, you can have a short look at the bulky building opposite. It is actually a large hotel between apartment blocks. The hotel is the most luxurious in the area and has a rather weird roof. The curve may remind you of Egyptian temples and was apparently inspired by celebrity designer Philippe Starck. This kind of reference was popular in Art Déco buildings in the 1930s, usually on a somewhat smaller scale. When it stands at the top of an otherwise boring huge building, it feels a little like an artificial gimmick. The temple effect is more convincing when you see the building from the other bank of the Thames, hence my second picture.



Ahead to the walkway along the basin


Former dock entrance gate


The basin is a small section of the original West India Dock as most of the basins were filled in in order to enable construction of the Canary Wharf towers. The neo-classical gate with a ship at the top, called the Hibbert Gate, was the main entrance to the dock and was built in 1803; what you see is a copy as the original was damaged by bombs and later by vandalism. The ship at the top is an interesting wrought iron decoration and is a typical cross-Atlantic ship from the 1800s, when the London Society of West India Planters and Merchants built the dock for its trade in sugar, tobacco, slaves and spices with the colonies in the Caribbean.


West India ship in the 1800s

L around the basin, soon turning R and passing in front of the former warehouses


Former West India Dock offices


The first building, now a restaurant called The Ledger Building, was not a warehouse as you can guess looking at the neo-classical portico. As the name says, the building from about 1803 was the accounting office of the West India company. Most of the former warehouses have been converted into restaurants as well, a sensible use considering the huge potential of hungry office workers. In Europe, this would be more limited as it would be just lunch trade, but the London cultural incline to go out with your office colleagues after work as well is very helpful for pubs and restaurants in business districts.


Converted warehouses around West India Dock

A few of the warehouses have been converted into a small shopping centre and I took advantage of this opportunity to take pictures of the structure inside with a grid of wooden posts.


Inside a warehouse conversion



North Basin of West India Docks


The docks were allowed by an Act of Parliament in 1799, which was unusual as it was normally cities that planned harbours. This was both an attempt by the West India company to show strength against anti-slavery campaigners and a necessity because Parliament gave the new dock a monopoly for goods from West India over 20 years. The expected profit from this monopoly was necessary to convince investors at a time when wars against France made people wary of investing in maritime trade. The dock was sold to the Port of London Authority in 1909, became unused in the 1960s and derelict by 1980.





West India Quay DLR station


The station opened in 1987 as the junction between the two DLR lines from Tower Gateway and from Stratford but is now often bypassed by the trains from Westferry. It had to be rebuilt in 2009 because the designers had not accounted for the strong wind funnel effects caused by the tall towers in Canary Wharf. The station is located at the top of a steel viaduct cantilevered above an ornamental basin.

The awnings and staircase are the standardised DLR design.

Turn around on the quay along the basin towards the footbridge

L across the footbridge over the basin


Footbridge across the North Basin


The footbridge is not really necessary as the detour around the basin would not be considerable, but it shortens the way between offices and pubs. The bridge is 94 meters long and can be opened in the middle. It looks like a floating bridge because the original planning was to tow it away in case of developments in the area, but it is now fixed to the ground. I find that the shape and colour do not fit well with the warehouses although other people like it. For a very good technical discussion of the bridge, see http://happypontist.blogspot.lu/2010/12/london-bridges-6-west-india-quay.html.


Footbridge for office workers


L Fisherman’s Walk (the walkway along the waterside)

R underneath the DLR viaduct


Station and shopping centre entrance


The entrance to the shopping centre in which the DLR station is integrated is somewhat strange. On the one hand, the low ceiling caused by the DLR tracks gives you the feeling of an undignified entrance into a subterranean parking lot. On the other hand, the flight of stairs and the symmetrical aluminium lift shafts point to an important activity inside, a convention centre possibly.



Canary Wharf DLR station


The station opened in 1991 and has an interesting design as trains stop between two platforms, enabling you to alight on either side, and do open doors on both sides. I know very few places where this is the case, probably because it makes checking on the doors before departure more complex. The station is often used as a terminal.

The station is squeezed between two office buildings and is accessed through a shopping centre but it has a striking elliptical canopy. It is best seen from a train, standing at the front. This is usually possible as most trains don’t have drivers.


Canary Wharf station canopy

Continue underneath the DLR tracks to the waterside

L on the walkway along the Basin, continue along the water turning R twice


Canary Wharf station seen from the Middle Basin


From the other side of the basin, you see the station a little better. This basin was the middle dock (originally the Export Dock) and is much smaller than its original size. It is little more than a water-filled courtyard for the tall towers around it. My picture shows the stock exchange ticker on one of the façades. I am not sure why you would wish to do that as a decoration. It is not exactly relaxing.

L underneath the DLR tracks



Heron Quays DLR station


The station opened in 1987 but was relocated in 2002 in order to fit below an office building. It is extremely close to the neighbouring stations, showing the concept of a light railway. Were it not for the viaducts and basins, it would actually work equally well as a tram line.

The station is distinctive, the tracks being embedded into a large cylindrical tube. The tube does not stand on normal pillars, it is suspended from oblique steel pylons. I have no idea why this was deemed necessary or appropriate.


DLR tracks suspended on oblique pylons

Continue underneath the DLR tracks to the next basin

L on the walkway along the basin to the footbridge



South Basin of West India Docks


The South Dock was built much later than the two other ones, namely in 1860. It is wider and longer in order to accommodate the larger ships that had become usual. For this reason, it is also the only dock that is still connected with the Thames and it is used very occasionally by visiting ships, in particular for official visits by foreign navies, the dock being wide enough to enable turning.

R across the footbridge over the basin


Footbridge over South Basin


The South Quay footbridge is very useful considering the size of the basin. It is again a suspension bridge, held by an oblique steel pillar. This is considered more elegant and original than plain vertical pillars but I was not too impressed. You may wonder why one end of the bridge is unnecessarily higher than the other one, making inconvenient stairs necessary. This is because the bridge was longer and symmetrical until part of the basin was filled in to provide more room for office towers and shopping centres. Again, here is a link to a technical discussion of the bridge: http://happypontist.blogspot.lu/2010/11/london-bridges-5-south-quay-footbridge.html.


Detail of the footbridge


L South Quay Walk (the walkway along the basin), turns R and ends at the DLR station

While walking here, I noticed unusual walkway lighting. The elaborate light metal shining silvery reminds of Art Déco and the shape is somehow reminiscent of a lighthouse. I wonder who managed to convince the local developer to pay for such lamps and why lighting at other Canary Wharf location is so different.


South Basin walkway lighting



At the back of office buildings




The view from the walkway towards the towers is not uninteresting. It is so to speak the back side of the business district, where tower owners did not need to invest in any decoration or beautification of their massive, utilitarian, profit-maximising schemes. The view north contrasts with the view east towards the Thames. In this direction, open spaces and the large water expanse give a very different feeling.



South Quay DLR station


The original station opened in 1987 between sharp curves and had to be relocated in 2009 because platforms could not be lengthened at the original location.

The new station is a glass rectangle enclosing the line where it crosses a basin. This led engineers to cantilever the access staircases over the side of the basin and is an elegant, one-off solution.

Cross under the DLR tracks to the following basin

R on the walkway along the water, soon turning L towards the South


Fountain near South Quay station


In the corner of the basin, I found an enjoyable fountain, one of several water features in the Canary Wharf area. This is striking as water features are not much in favour with boroughs normally, being more expensive to maintain and to keep clean. What strikes me clearly is how popular this fountain would be in a suburban park and how forlorn and ignored it is in a business district.


Plantation architecture on Millwall Inner Dock


The area behind the fountain on the west side of the basin is being developed and will include two smaller urban parks, but you will have to explore on your own once this is all finished. Following the basin walkway, you will be more attracted currently to the view over the water. The low building along the water is a set of restaurants but it does not try to imitate warehouse architecture. The many balconies look more like shopping centres in tropical countries and the central pavilion might remind you of plantation houses. I don’t know if the planners tried to think of West India.


Sleek and blocky office building in Millwall


There is a huge block of offices in the background. The façades are fully covered in reflective glass, which has been trendy in the 2000s. You can compare with the towers from the 1990s you passed before, where steel girding was more conspicuous. Also, the block does not have a single tenant, so that it is not branded and remains a huge mineral element. Not ugly, just a little cold and foreign. Looking at the picture, I am reminded a little of a power station. The power of money and greed ?


Many windows on Millwall Inner Dock


The next building along the yonder side of the basin is a strong contrast to the previous one. It might be an interesting idea on paper to have all these white window surroundings poking through the brick background, but it is tiresome on such a scale and the upper level looks like a cheap factory hall, not like a posh penthouse. In addition, the slick blue front of the previous building does not harmonise at all with the overloaded window game.


Pepper Street drawbridge and fortress


Further along, when you approach the drawbridge that you will be using, you cannot help but notice the playful architecture halfway between a warehouse and a medieval castle. Very artificial but fun to look at. The path across the small development is a bit sad, I think it would have been nicer to spread more neighbourhood shops at ground level rather than to concentrate them into a small shopping centre at one end.

L Pepper Street, a pedestrianised road crossing the basin


Pepper Street


The road crosses the basin on a drawbridge called Glengall Bridge. It is inspired by Dutch drawbridges and might remind you of a well-known painting by Van Gogh of a similar bridge located in the Provence. Some opening bridge was necessary because there is a marina in one corner of the basin that can be accessed from the Thames only through this opening. The design is as artificially playful as the rest of the development.


Data centre overlooking Millwall Dock


The view south from the drawbridge shows much lower buildings except for one. The large glass building with a somewhat strange triangular feature facing the water is not a hotel or an office building. The modern shapes hide the largest data centre serving Canary Wharf. There is a long tradition in London of hiding technical facilities behind reasonably impressive façades and you pass very imposing telephone exchanges from the 1930s in several London suburbs.


Millwall Dock looking towards Canary Wharf

Detour ahead if you want to go to the next station


t33-crossharbour-station_bThe station opened in 1987 and was renamed “Crossharbour & London Arena” in 1994 in order to advertise for a nearby sports and exhibition centre. The centre was a commercial failure and the station name was shortened again in 2006. The station is occasionally used as a terminal, using sidings.

The awnings and staircase are the standardised DLR design.

Go back to the basin and continue walking south as before, but now on the other (eastern) side of the basin

Continue all the way to a small footbridge. Do not cross the footbridge, continue south along a narrow basin called Clippers Quay


Clippers Quay marina


This is officially a marina, but I saw no boats moored and pictures taken more recently don’t show boats either. It might be a private marina linked to the local development, the lack of demand for moorings being then linked to the demography of the residents. On pictures taken in sunny weather, you get a feeling of Auckland or San Francisco Bay, but pictures taken in the usual cloudy weather help understand why the sailing lifestyle does not catch in Canary Wharf.

At the end of the basin L on Spindrift Avenue

Soon L on a footpath for



Mudchute DLR station


The station opened in 1987 on an old train viaduct and was relocated at the entrance of the tunnel when the DLR was rerouted in 1999 in order to cross the Thames towards Greenwich. The station was to be called Millwall Park after the nearby green space, but there was a notorious Millwall Football Club at the time with serious hooliganism problems so that local residents feared to be associated with the club. The name Mudchute comes from the mud dredged from the basins and deposited on wasteland in this area.

The platforms awnings are standard DLR issue and are not very visible as the station is in a cutting.

Cross the DLR tracks above the tunnel portal

Ahead along Millwall Park on a partly paved path called The Globe Rope Walk


Mudchute Farm


The name of the path comes from a rope factory located here until 1971. Ropes were made by twisting the strands with a machine that was moved along the needed length, so that a long straight path was needed.

The path marks the limit between two parks, Mudchute Park and Millwall Park. Mudchute Park to your left was wasteland where dredging rubbish accumulated for about 150 years.


Mudchute Park


Local authorities were tempted to use the ground for a council estate in the 1970s as this location within the derelict docklands was of no interest to private developers. Local residents feared the disruption and successfully pointed to the lack of public means of transportation. In the end, the open space was converted by a local association into an urban farm. You can walk around for free and girls will like it as there are many horse paddocks. Judicious planting also led to the park becoming a protected natural area, thwarting development.


Millwall Park


Millwall Park to your right was supposed to be used for developments in the 1860s, but the plan fell through due to a financial crisis and the ground became the neighbourhood park, including typical amenities like a bathing pool. The park was damaged by bombs in 1940 and was kept afterwards as the somewhat plain open space it is now. The borough also agreed to the park being used to dump the construction debris from the DLR tunnel as raising the ground made sense in order to help limit flooding risk from the Thames. The result was that the soil is bad quality and cannot be used for much more than informal sports grounds or open air fairs.


Woman and Fish in Millwall Park


You might be surprised to find a sculpture in the park. The “woman and fish” is a recent replica of a vandalised drinking water fountain that was originally in Stepney. The original was by Frank Dobson, one of the leading 20th century British sculptors, and compares easily with works by other artists of that period like Maillol. I thought the present sculpture is marble but it is actually bronze.

At the end of the paved path R in order to keep within the park

You can now see the conspicuous shapes of the DLR station



Island Gardens DLR station


The station was originally a simple platform for the DLR terminal on the old train viaduct when it opened in 1987. This changed to an underground station when the tunnel under the Thames was built for the DLR extension towards Greenwich in 1999. Original plans called for a simple platform in a cutting like in Mudchute, but local residents managed to get a proper station built. I actually often used this station as an introduction when bringing foreign visitors to Greenwich so that the residents were right in pointing to the special location justifying an effort.


Elegant shapes of Island Gardens station


The new station has an interesting design as there was room to make an architectural statement. Seen from the park, it has a double set of rounded roofs on steel pillars, the interesting point being that the two sets are inverted in opposing directions. It is just a geometrical game but quite harmonious. Seen from the road, the entrance is an airy hall between strange towers with rounded ends, those being the aeration shafts for the tunnel under the Thames.

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Walk 1: Bank & Tower Gateway walk to Limehouse

Walk 1


2 1/2 hours

This section of the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is primarily a conversion of an old railway serving the London docks that had been closed in 1966 when the docks in this area were abandoned. This railway opened in 1840 and used the exact alignment of the present DLR but the stations were different: Minories (now Tower Gateway), Leman Street (between 1877 and 1941), Cannon Street Road (between 1842 and 1848, replaced by Leman Street station), Shadwell & St George’s East (between 1840 and 1941, now Shadwell) and Stepney East (between 1840 and 1926, now Limehouse).


DLR train in Tower Gateway terminal


There had been plans to build a London Underground extension instead, but the government was short of funds in the 1980s and preferred a cheaper solution. Because the available train line ran on a viaduct, a tram concept (the solution used in Croydon) was considered inappropriate. The original line between Tower Gateway and Limehouse opened in 1987 and was a very cheap system: standardised platforms, automatic driving with just a service agent to control door closure.

Considerable traffic growth due to many banks relocating staff to the former Docklands combined with bad connections at Tower Gateway led to the construction of a spur to Bank through a very deep tunnel connected with London Underground. To sit at the front of the train when it enters the tunnel is an interesting feeling.

The system was operated by a private company for 25 years and is now operated by a 70% subsidiary of the French government-owned railway SNCF.


DLR tracks near Tower Gateway terminal


The differences between suburban trains and light railways are obvious in terms of optics. The DLR has advantages compared to a train line:

– services can be more frequent due to much shorter braking distances

– the trains can turn at tight corners as they are articulated

– the infrastructure is much cheaper to build as the weight of the carriages is much lower

– operating costs are lower as there are no unionised drivers, just service staff that needs little education and can be paid the minimum wage

There are also disadvantages:

– Capacity per train is lower even though platforms have been extended later, causing potential overcrowding at rush hour

– Services are slow due to the many stops and smaller electrical motors

You need to be aware that Oyster pay-as-you-go cards are accepted as if you were on a bus but that they malfunction frequently depending on where you change to the DLR. You might be charged unexpected amounts.

Routing note: There are frequent large construction sites in the City of London and some of the passages I suggest might be blocked for the duration of the works. It is easy to find parallel passages and you do not really need a map to find them.

This route will connect in Bank with London Underground Central line walk 7, with Northern line walks 10 and 11, and with the Waterloo & City walk. You can connect to London Overground walk 3 in Shadwell but the stations are clearly apart. Finally, this route connects in Limehouse with DLR walk 2 and with Fenchurch Street network walk 1.



Bank station entrance


The DLR platforms at Bank opened in 1991 underneath the existing London Underground stations and the way to the exit appears impressively long and convoluted with a number of stairs and elevators. Surprisingly for a railway connecting the City with an airport, the first step away from the platforms is an uncomfortably long flight of stairs.

A station building had originally been intended in 1900, but this would have forced the demolition of a church and the railway company was only allowed to use the crypt as an entrance. As a result, the station is entirely underground with no building above.

Take the exit towards Bank of England and turn into Prince’s Street (leads North from the crossroads)

This street runs between the Bank of England and the head office of a large commercial bank. The main hall of the commercial bank is a seriously imposing covered courtyard and is worth a look. You may not take pictures for obvious security reasons but you can enter the premises as it is a normal retail branch.


Bank of England (rear view)


The Bank of England building is an entirely different story. The institution itself dates back to 1694 but the present building is from the 1920s. It is by a leading architect of the period who was actually working mostly in the Colonies (South Africa and India), and it is a typical example of imperial bombast with oversized neo-classical elements. The best view is from the corner of Prince’s Street with Lothbury.



Curtain wall of the Bank of England


You do not see much of the building from the streets as it is hidden behind a curtain wall broken only by armoured steel gates. The walls were built after a riot had managed to vandalise offices of the bank in 1780. This is somewhat ironical as the Bank of England prides itself on having a particularly transparent monetary and supervisory policy.



Set of doors of the Bank of England

The head offices of central banks in other large countries are much more representative buildings, be it the Banque de France, the Bundesbank, the European Central Bank, the Banca d’Italia or the Nationale Bank van België. There are no security problems as central banks don’t normally keep valuable reserves in the headquarters – except in London.

Ahead Moorgate


Basildon House on Moorgate


Basildon House at 7 Moorgate is a late 19th century office building. It is a good example of Victorian neo-baroque with Palladian triangles above the windows and a very conspicuous optical grid through a heavy horizontal cornice in the William Kent style and heavy columns to stress the vertical. In the 1930s, architects were to reject this grid appearance in favour of stressing either the horizontal or the vertical but not both.



Medieval style on Moorgate

The building used by the Europe Arab Bank at the next street corner is a striking contrast. It is neo-medieval in a manner seldom seen on so large buildings. It stresses horizontal lines (which is not very gothic) with the only vertical accent being the corner tower. Because decoration is concentrated on the tower and smaller scale, it is much more balanced than Basildon House. It feels solid rather than bombastic.


Lighthouse on Moorgate


The last interesting historical building on Moorgate is a neo-Renaissance palace used now by the Habib Bank. There is a delightful corner sculpture showing a lighthouse. This is linked to the fact that the building was erected in 1914 for the account of a maritime insurance company.

Turn R into a narrow passage at the foot of the lighthouse (Moorgate Place). The passage turns R



Institute of Chartered Accountants


The impressive neo-Renaissance building along the second part of the passage houses the Institute of Chartered Accountants, an association founded in 1870 to improve standards in a profession that was seen at the time as not very competent and prone to manipulations. Accounting fraud is very well alive and extremely dangerous nowadays, but most critics agree that it is seldom due to incompetence of accountants, rather to the criminal intent of top managers.



Neo-baroque façade on Great Swan Alley


The building from 1890 is considered one of the finest late Victorian neo-baroque structures. There is a little too much decoration, but there is a clear division between the levels with the vertical being only stressed at the top level where it counts more. The elaborate frieze is also well integrated. The architect is John Belcher and the statues and friezes are by leading sculptors of the period.

at the end L Great Swan Alley

R Copthall Avenue, turns L


Drapers’ Hall


Looking R to the end of Throgmorton Avenue (actually more a quiet dead end private street controlled with gates), you see the late 19th century brick building of the Drapers’ Guild with a front reminiscent of Jacobean palaces. The livery company is officially called simply “The Master and Wardens and Brethren and Sisters of the Guild or Fraternity of the Blessed Mary the Virgin of the Mystery of Drapers of the City of London”. Drapers were among the most influential traders in medieval England and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a member of the company, as are a number of Royals both British and foreign. Pictures on Internet show the reception rooms as being among the grandest in London, but it is very difficult to visit them.


Drapers’ Garde,


The small garden at the corner of Copthall Avenue with Throgmorton Avenue belongs also to the Drapers’ Guild. Considering land values in the City, the small patch of greenery indeed proves considerable wealth. It was originally the garden of a mansion bought by the guild in 1543 as their new seat. When it is open, it provides pleasant sitting with no noisy traffic in sight. There are several mulberry trees in the garden; this has been a tradition since the drapers followed the lead of the king in encouraging the local silk industry around 1600, mulberry trees being essential for providing the necessary raw material.

L Throgmorton Avenue

Directly R Austin Friars (initially a pedestrian passage)


Dutch Church in Austin Friars


The church in this passage is the Nederlandse Kerk Londen, built for the Dutch calvinists after World War II to replace their old chapel also located here but destroyed by bombs. The present building dates back to 1954 and is a simple combination of concrete blocks as there was not much money available for reconstruction at the time. The church is very important in the Protestant tradition as it the oldest Protestant church in Dutch language, being recognised in 1550 at a time when the Low Countries themselves were still officially Spanish and catholic. The building is not normally open outside of services and is very plain according to pictures, as you can expect from a strictly calvinist Church.


Garden of the Nederlandse Kerk Londen

There is a small garden at the side of the church with a statue of a monk. This refers to the former owner of the area, a convent of Augustinian friars who settled here around 1269. The order put a strong emphasis on a modest way of life and spiritual exercise; it developed a very strong tradition of teaching and scientific work.

(Ahead) Pinner’s Passage (under a building)

R Old Broad Steeet


Typical City labyrinth

You are clearly in the core of the business area of central London with a very intricate maze of passages under and around modern glass buildings of all sizes. This is a specialty of London as most contemporary business areas like Canary Wharf and La Défense tend to have skyscrapers isolated in the middle of wide, bleak, empty spaces. Some of those passages appear unused and don’t lead anywhere useful. This is the case of the network of staircases at the back of tower 42.


Tower 42


Tower 42 was not named after the street number (it is at number 25) but after the number of levels as there is an expensive bar at level 42. It is one of the highest skyscrapers in London (183 m) and was built originally in 1980 for a bank. When the tower was built, there were many discussions about allowing such tall buildings in the City but greed won, also because developers promised in exchange to keep some of the traditional buildings around. The tower is a good example of the rather uninteresting design of office buildings in the 1970s, attention being paid at the time only to the technical challenges of the height and not much to the external appearance.

L Adams Close / Adams Court (a pedestrian passage under a building snaking first L then R passing a courtyard)

I could not take a picture because this is a private property, but this is one of the passages I found particularly enjoyable in the City due to the internal courtyard. There are many somewhat overpriced restaurants for City bankers inside.

L Threadneedle Street

L Bishopsgate

Follow Bishopsgate until you reach St Ethelburga church


St Ethelburga on Bishopsgate


This is one of the few medieval parish churches still standing in the City of London, but only the tower dates back to the 15th century because the rest of the church was destroyed by a terrorist attack in 1993. Interestingly, the terrorists (the IRA) warned the police and detonated the bomb on a quiet Saturday, trying to avoid casualties. This is a striking contrast with terrorism connected to the wars in Irak and Syria.


Intercultural pillar in St Ethelburga


The church was rebuilt as a “Centre for Reconciliation and Peace”, managed by a charity encouraging intercultural and interfaith dialogue. The courtyard garden is definitely worth sitting for a few minutes. It is full of very intricate symbolic details combining in a subtle way European and Islamic motives. The walls of the garden are broken by windows in a gothic shape but with wrought iron designs like in Northern Africa. The mosaics on the ground have centered designs as usual in Europe, but use geometrical patterns like in Morocco. The ornamental pillar combines scrolls reminiscent of Irish crosses with lions from Islamic al-Andalus.



Courtyard of St. Ethelburga’s


Mosaic pavement of St Ethelburga’s

Turn around on Bishopsgate, going back south

L Great St Helen’s, a passage for cars and pedestrians under a building


Great St. Helen’s


The church is one of the largest and most venerable parish churches in the City of London. It was also destroyed in the terrorist attack of 1993 and was rebuilt in a very austere, calvinist style. The street front shows the peculiar structure of the church, made of two parallel, equal naves. This is due to the fact that the church was part of a nunnery and that the nuns used one nave, closed off from the second nave used as the parish Church.


Glimpse of Great St. Helen’s Inside


The church has a lively series of activities but they are meant for specific groups and it is difficult to visit the church itself. This is possibly due to the fact that the church has only weak links with Anglicanism and defines itself as “Conservative Evangelical”. My picture is taken through a window and hints at the large number of burial monuments for which the church is well known.

Cross the square in front of the church and walk along the right side of the church into Undershaft

Detour R along St Mary Axe to St Andrew Undershaft church


St Andrew Undershaft


The church is very interesting because it is one of the very few medieval churches in the City of London that were not rebuilt. It dates back to 1532 and is an authentic example of the perpendicular gothic style, inspiring many Victorian architects. The name of the church comes from a maypole that was traditionally set up every year opposite the church. The tradition stopped in 1547 after a riot cut down the maypole shaft for being a “pagan idol”.


Lloyd’s Building from St Andrew Undershaft


The street corner is useful to get views of several of the surrounding skyscrapers as they are usually difficult to see properly from directly beneath. My pictures show Tower 42, the Lloyds tower, the Willis building and of course the iconic “Gherkin” (officially plain 30 St Mary Axe).


Swiss Re tower with St Andrew Undershaft

otherwise cross St Mary Axe and walk to the right of the round tower (the passage is called Brown’s Buildings)



Gherkin tower

The tower was known originally as the Swiss Re tower after its main tenant (like Tower 42 as NatWest tower). It is 180 meter high and was built in 2003 on a plot that became available after a terrorist attack in 1992 destroyed the previous building.


Curving shapes


Top of Gherkin tower


Speculators tried to get permission for a 386-meter high tower, but this was considered really excessive and also slightly problematic in view of commercial aircraft flying relatively low over London. The tower was designed by a leading architect, Sir Norman Foster, and ushered the era of conspicuous skyscraper designs in London. The design remains iconic as very few towers use rounded shapes for fear of losing valuable space at the upper levels and the tower won the Stirling Prize in 2004. In recent years, specialists have started to criticise the all-glass hull of the building as being out of fashion and more difficult to maintain than a steel-and-glass structure.

(Ahead) Bury Street


Holland House on Bury Street

At the corner of the street, Holland House is an exquisite Art Déco office building designed in 1916 for a Dutch shipping company. It is an extremely rare example of Dutch Art Déco in London, stressing vertical lines and playing with strong colour contrasts. The very tall windows were unusual at the time in Britain for offices as they were difficult to clean from soot caused by coal heating.


Prow of Holland House

The corner of the building is marked by a very appropriate sculpture showing the prow of a ship plowing through the waves. It is the work of a Dutch artist. The building is also listed for its interior decoration, a supposedly magnificent work by leading designer Van de Velde, but the building is strictly private and the owner does not even post pictures of the inside on their website.

R Creechurch Lane


St Katherine Cree


The church at the end of the street is St Katherine Cree, a guild church (rather than a parish church). The tower is a late gothic structure from 1504, the nave is the only Jacobean church in London and was built in 1630. This is reflected in the rectangular shape of the windows, a reference to Renaissance custom. You stand a good chance of finding the church open and it is definitely worth a visit.


Stained glass rose in St Katherine Cree


The first striking element is the magnificent rose over the altar, kept in the Tudor gothic style. The rose is supposedly a smaller scale copy of that of old St Paul’s Cathedral as it was before the 1666 fire. The stained glass is an extremely rare original version from 1630. In line with protestant tradition, the design is mostly geometrical.


Guild coats of arms


The ceiling appears surprisingly flat to our eyes but we are influenced by the many neo-medieval churches from the Victorian era. In medieval times, most churches were covered by flat wooden ceilings and the shape in St Katherine’s is therefore perfectly in line with tradition. It is just unusual for a stone ceiling as it demands a lot of experience from the masons. When the ceiling was renovated in 1962, the coats of arms of the guilds were added and provide colourful designs.


Font in St Katherine Cree


The font is also an original Jacobean work with rather heavy neo-classical shapes. The shaft looks more like a guide to Roman architecture with designs piled according to size. There are a few monuments in the church, in particular the conspicuous memorial to Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, who navigated the very difficult politics between Henry VIII and Elizabeth I brilliantly and had a adventurous career as an Ambassador to France and Scotland, ending up in prison a few times.



Monument to Sir Throgmorton


Hartshorn Alley

L Leadenhall Street

R Hartshorn Alley (a very inconspicuous pedestrian passage through building no. 65)

Cross Fenchurch Street and continue ahead into the next passage


Neo-Renaissance on Fenchurch Street


On Fenchurch Street, my picture shows a late Victorian building that is interesting to compare to two buildings you saw at the start of the walk because all three are neo-baroque. The Fenchurch Street building has a ground floor similar to the Institute of Chartered Accountants, but the first floor is less well designed as the many columns and the Palladian window surroundings overload the design. The top floor is neo-Renaissance with curiously recessed windows and small balconies reminiscent of France.

Ahead Northumberland Alley

R Crutched Friars

soon L Crosswall

R America Square passing underneath train tracks


No.1 America Square


There is a conspicuous building at 1 America Square. It is primarily a conference centre and this justifies an entrance that draws visitors in. The architect clearly intended to refer to US Art Deco and the entrance is duly impressive. Looking from further away to the building, you see better how vertical lines are stressed. The protruding shape is meant to bring associations of speed, of steamships through the ocean or of fast cars, Art Deco being also about being modern and fascinated by the “age of machines”.


Inspired by American Art Deco

L Hammett Street

Cross the road for



Tower Gateway terminal


The station was the original DLR terminal in 1987. It has become a secondary terminal since the more convenient terminal at Bank opened in 1991.

The platform is a lightweight shelter in cheapest steel and glass; the principle was to achieve the lowest construction cost possible back in the 1980s. The access to the station is simple but quite pretty with a rotunda bearing flags – you can notice that the choice of countries is very 1990s, ignoring Asia except for Japan and also ignoring Russia. The curved roof over the elevator is equally pleasant to look at and the overall scale is human-sized, a contrast to the surrounding office towers.

R Minories

(Ahead) Cross the busy main road towards the Tower of London, turn L and go down steps to the pedestrian walkway at the lower level along the moat.


Tower of London seen from Minories


This is an unusual perspective on the Tower as you get the feeling that the buildings inside the compound are not much higher than the wall around them. The outer wall dates back to about 1285, some two centuries after the construction of the original keep. By then, the Tower was seldom used as a royal palace, more as a prison and as a threat to potentially unruly London residents. The use of the moat as a tennis club was very surprising to me as this feels like a slightly undignified use of a national monument.

L Subway under Tower Bridge Approach

Follow the signs for St Katherine Docks, turning R after the subway and very soon L again


St Katherine Docks


St. Katherine’s docks were built in the 1820s on the site of a medieval hospital. The docks were very modern in that warehouses had direct access to the ships, avoiding traffic on a cluttered quayside. But they had little success as they accommodated only rather small ships. Nearly all buildings were demolished around 1970 and replaced by office and luxury residential buildings of limited interest.



Historical ships in S Katherine’s Docks


The most interesting items in the present docks are the flotilla of boats and ships including a few historical coastal navigation ships moored alongside the hotel on the west side of the dock. Unfortunately, you can only see them from far away as the quay along which they are moored is part of the hotel grounds. Apart from the working boats, you will see a huge number of colourful pleasure craft. I think most of them are visiting boats but some appear to moor all year long, which must be a rather expensive option in this marina. The boats are at their best during the annual Thames Festival weekend.


Development in St Katherine Docks


The apartment buildings along the north and east side of the basin were among the first reconversion projects in the London dock areas and they set the guidelines for many later projects in terms of height and sprawl. Whereas it was popular in the 1970s to have separate towers spread over an open space, urban planners advocated in the 1990s a feeling of courtyard and therefore long buildings on three or four sides. The concept proved very popular with affluent bankers worried about their personal safety as this made gated estates easy to organise. The council authorities who reviewed the St Katherine Docks application must be commended for their foresight in the 1990s, imposing rights of way and waterside walkways.

Follow the N edge of the two basins (called first Commodity Quay and later Sun Walk), then R along the eastern edge of the second basin

L away from the basin using the only available passage

R Thomas More Street, the road turns R at a crossroads

At the end L Wapping High Street

Soon L Redmead Lane

immediately L to the edge of the basin


Hermitage Basin


This is Hermitage Basin, the upstream entrance of the Shadwell / Wapping dock complex. There were warehouses along the basin but they accommodated only smaller ships and closed as early as 1909. The end of the basin is marked by a nice sculpture in the shape of a looping rope. Apparently, the artist meant the part inside the loop to be illuminated in a specific way, but I have never seen this as it uses too much electricity.



Rope sculpture in Wapping

Continue into the cycle route and footpath along Hermitage Basin

Follow the cycle route as it crosses the canal and passes under a road

Continue along the canal, turning L with the canal when it branches off


Wapping Ornamental Canal


Wapping Ornamental Canal is not an actual canal from the Docklands era. When the Wapping docks were demolished in the late 1970s, they were completely filled in and built over. As the estates are all gated and as there were no roads across the area due to the past as basins filled with water, the planners found it sensible to plan for a path across the area. This was beautified through the ornamental canal. In order to keep the water not too dirty, the water is aerated by pumps and flows naturally down low steps from east to west.


Side arm of Wapping canal


The canal divides into two arms in the middle of Wapping, the side arm being a dead end. The houses along the side arm have some walls covered in slate, an expensive and unusual covering for London. You would expect this rather in areas heavily exposed to snow and rain driven by high wind, like in Wales and Cornwall. The railings along the canal are quite expensive but necessary because of the size of the canal; similar schemes in Rotherhithe were built later with a much narrower and shallower canal in order to save on railing costs.

The canal turns R again, continue on the cycle route passing under a footbridge and later under a road bridge


Estate facing Tobacco Dock


The canal passes between an estate and a derelict shopping centre called Tobacco Dock. The estate is an interesting example of a modern terrace imitating the alignment and the height of late Victorian terraces but without front gardens. The houses are oversize cottages with steep roofs, which is not done since about 2000 as it is more profitable to plan the top level as a penthouse apartment. The façade is broken by protrusions ornamented with coloured panels in cheap plastic covering, a style that was popular in the 1980s.


Tobacco Dock fancy ship


Tobacco Dock is a failed shopping centre. Planners had hoped for customers from further afield but it attracted only local shoppers because of the suboptimal connection with London Underground. The main structure is a listed warehouse from 1811, one of the oldest in London, and belongs to a Kuwaiti investor. No convincing plans have been brought forward to make sensible use of the premises. The large ship moored in front of the abandoned area, the Three Sisters, is a fancy decoration item where developers had thought of putting a “piracy museum” in order to attract families to the shopping centre. An other, smaller ship folly was planned as a children’s playground. It is a pity that the ships are fake as they would indeed be popular with children if they could be relocated to somewhere more accessible.


Eastern end of Wapping canal

After Tobacco Dock, the ornamental canal soon comes to an end with stepped ponds that enable the oxygenation of the canal water and help prevent algae growth.

At the end of the canal L along the edge of Wapping Woods, continues as a paved access way


Wapping Woods


Wapping Woods is a strange name for an open space with isolated clumps of trees. When the docks were demolished, planners had more trees planted but the ground was rubbish from the docks. It was probably polluted and drained too fast so that only the hardiest trees were able to grow. Lessons were learned from this half-failure when a similar scheme in Rotherhithe led to the much more successful creation of Russia Dock woodland. This being said, the open space is a valuable patch of greenery in an area of London where this is scarce.

Ahead Dellow Street (you might have to detour to traffic lights R or L in order to cross the main highway)

R Cable Street

L Watney Street



Shadwell DLR station


The station opened in 1987 together with the DLR line and did not use the site of the old train station (located a few yards further east). The station is also clearly separated from London Overground Shadwell station, located a few hundred yards away.

As usual on the DLR, there is no station building or ticket office, just a sign under the appropriate arch of the viaduct. The access hall is sheltered by an interesting set of coloured glass panels that makes you feel like fish in an aquarium.



Shadwell station aquarium


Shadwell DLR Platform


The platform is protected by a standard steel-and-glass awning.

Turn around on Watney Street

L Cable Street (following the same direction as before)

R King David Lane

R The Highway, cross the road at the next traffic light and continue in the same direction

L Garnet Street (there is also a pedestrian sign for “Shadwell Basin”)

Very soon L Newlands Quay (the road is unmarked but there is again a pedestrian sign for the basin)

Go to the edge of the basin and continue walking East (away from Garnet Street)


St Paul’s Shadwell


The tall wall to your left is the buttressing wall of the parish churchyard. St Paul’s Shadwell was built in 1821 in order to replace the 17th century church that was too small considering the strong growth in population in the East End. Parliament paid for the construction because it was very worried that residents left without supervision from clergymen could become unruly. The nave is in neo-classical style, the tower refers to the previous church and is baroque. I have not read details about interesting monuments Inside.


Shadwell Basin


Shadwell Basin at the foot of the church is the only part of the old Wapping dock complex that was kept as a basin. It is therefore very useful to sportsmen like rowers for whom the Thames is not always appropriate, but the water is not clean enough to swim in it. The basin was opened in 1832 and the present lock is from 1858. The basin became too small for standard ships by the end of the 19th century although warehouses continued to be used to some extent.


Development on Shadwell Basin


The Shadwell docks were closed in 1969 and houses were built on three sides in 1989. The strong colours were popular at the time, as were the conspicuous arches at the ground level. The houses are not very tall compared to most riverside developments because the architects were asked to respect the scale of the derelict warehouses in order to keep a feeling for the actual size of harbour basins.

Follow the basin walkway turning R then L again to a road

L on the road and directly R on the footpath marked as Thames Path

The footpath leads along King Edward Memorial Park. The core of the park directly along the riverside is an elegant cylindrical structure in typically Edwardian white and red bricks. I noticed very nice cast iron grills. The structure is the ventilation shaft for the road tunnel linking Limehouse and Rotherhithe (not to be confused with the older train tunnel in Wapping).

I crossed it once by car and it is a somewhat frightening experience as the road is very narrow with sharp bends. The pavements on either side are nearly as wide as the road, the reason being that the tunnel was planned primarily for harbour traffic, i.e. horse-drawn carriages on the road and goods carried on wheelbarrows on the pavement. Because of the wide pavement, the tunnel can be used by pedestrians and cyclists, but it is very unpleasant to do so.


King Edward VII Park


King Edward VII Park uses ground where a fish market had been built in the 1880s but had become derelict. Their Majesties opened the park themselves in 1922, which is a testimony to the importance it had in the very poor and very industrial East End. Apart from the obviously very pleasant views over the river, the park offers the usual number of sports grounds but also a particularly well planned green area that reminds more of an orchard than of a football ground.


Flowers in King Edward VII Park


On a terrace overlooking the rest of the park, you can also find a few flower beds. The terrace is an interesting feature at the transition between Edwardian parks (pergolas with square brick columns overlooking formal flower beds) and Art Déco (making use of the natural ground features by underlining them in geometrical shapes such as terraces and round ponds).



Ziggurat development


Continue on the riverside walkway. The first development after the park is a very massive building but has an interesting, unusual pyramidal shape. This is called a ziggurat after the antique pyramids of Iraq and was a popular shape for a short period in the 1960s, the idea being that it enabled a large number of flats to enjoy balconies and sunlight. The development is much newer (I guess 1990s) and this is a rare design nowadays because it is less profitable than a shoebox-style tower where you can pack more luxury flats for Canary Wharf bankers per valuable square foot of ground. The view from the river is particularly interesting as you can see that the riverside walkway stands on the old wharf – wooden, not concrete and steel.


The Listed Building development


The next development along the riverside was built by the same developer at the same time. The scale and style are very different because this was a listed monument, a 19th century warehouse. I think it was not really worth listing considering how much it was changed and how little it reminds of an actual warehouse (as opposed to Shad Thames for example). The development has one of the stupidest names in London as it is called “The Listed Building” and the access road is called “The Highway”.

You are forced temporarily off the riverside into Narrow Street.


Limehouse tunnel portal


Looking into a side street called Spert Street, you can see a towering white and pink structure with four green chimneys and a large sculpture on the side. This is just the portal for a road tunnel that runs for a little more than a mile under Limehouse in order to improve access into Canary Wharf from Central London. The chimneys are the exhaust vents. The sculpture is called “Restless Dream” and is by a celebrated Israeli artist who lives in London, Zadok Ben-David.


Limehouse Lock


Continue following the Thames Path signs as they point to a riverside access a few buildings further

When reaching the lock for Limehouse Basin, turn L along the lock, then L again on the walkway along the basin



Limehouse Basin


Limehouse Basin was opened in 1820 at the place where Regent’s Canal meets the river Thames. This made it extremely busy as seagoing ships would transfer goods here onto canal barges. The main cargo was coal for the North London factories and it declined slowly in due course due to competition from railways. Because it is the entrance to the canal network, it remained open to traffic throughout the 20th century. It is now used primarily as a marina.


Limehouse Basin development


Several towers with luxury flats were built on the north side of the basin around the year 2000. They are supposed to have the shape of ship prows. The style sells well and has been reproduced on a much larger scale in other locations like in Wandsworth.

The walkway leads around the basin until it comes near the train viaduct

L along the viaduct for



Limehouse DLR station


The old train station opened in 1840 under the name Stepney and was renamed Stepney East in 1923. It was then replaced by the neighbouring train station located on the Fenchurch Street line in 1926. When the DLR opened in 1987, both the suburban train station and the new DLR stop were renamed Limehouse.

The picture shows the DLR part of the complex with the two lift shafts and the access staircases in drab grey. There is no DLR building or ticket office while there is a station for the suburban trains, but it is integrated in the viaduct arch and of no architectural interest.


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Walk 19: Gunnersbury walk to Richmond


2 1/2 hours

The train line opened in 1869 as a link between the main line from Southwest England and the main lines from the Midlands via Willesden Junction. It was therefore primarily a freight line. The train company did see some passenger potential and offered connections between Richmond and the Hammersmith area. This was to become later the District Line of London Underground.

Routing note: This route connects in Gunnersbury with Overground walk 18 and will also connect there with London Underground District line walk 3. It connects in Richmond with Waterloo network walks 5 and 6.

The route follows the Thames Path or a comparable riverside walkway over a long distance. Most of the walkway is paved, but sturdy shoes remain advisable.

The time indication does not include a visit of Kew Gardens, partly because this is such a huge area and well-known attraction that you are likely to spend a full day there on an other occasion anyway. I nonetheless included comments on the gardens within this route as it is the most logical walk where to do so.

This route does not visit Richmond itself as I have chosen to do this on Waterloo network walk 6.




Gunnersbury station


The station opened in 1869 on a train line that was built with two spurs, one joining the present District line and one continuing to Acton. A third spur enabled connections towards Brentford via Kew Bridge. The first spur became a branch of the Underground District line in 1877, the second spur is the present Overground line although passenger services did not start before 1905 and the third spur closed in 1932. The station was called “Brentford Road” at the start but the name changed to Gunnersbury already in 1871.

Gunnersbury is one the very few stations in London where suburban trains and Underground carriages use the same platform. This is normally not very sensible because Underground trains have different power and braking requirements; in addition, they run much more frequently and this makes train services difficult to include without causing delays.

The original station building looked much like the one in Acton Central but was demolished in the 1960s in order to build the ugly office building that towers above the gloomy entrance of the present station, a plain block of concrete hidden behind the office building.


BSI Building in Gunnersbury

The letters BSI on a corner of the building remind you that the building houses (together with numerous commercial companies) the British Standard Institution, a public body responsible for establishing national standards in areas like technology and quality management. The institution is now called usually BSI Group because it operates as the profitable monopoly provider of numerous compliance certificates (it is a “distributing non-profit corporation”, in other words a company that has to pay all its profits to the government as its owner).

Exit the station on the E side (marked “Grange Road”)

R on the public footpath along the train line



Cathedral of the Holy Royal Martyrs

At the end of the road, you might see a blue dome with golden stars peeking over the trees. This is the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile for London, built in 1999. It is officially the Cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God and Holy Royal Martyrs, which tells you that this church is catering to Russians exiled at the end of the Tsarist regime in 1917 and that it did not recognise the authority of the Moscow Patriarchate during the communist era.

R across the train line on the road bridge (Wellesley Road)

Directly L on the public footpath along the train line marked “Chiswick Village”

The path crosses under a major highway

At the end L into Chiswick Village, the road turns later R


Estate called Chiswick Village

The “village” is actually a road, which is a strange way of naming things. It passes along a large estate also called Chiswick Village. The estate was a commercial development catering to the middle class, not a council estate, but flats are reasonably affordable due to the traffic noise. The small green in the middle of the estate was planned as a playground for children, but most flats in this part of London are buy-to-let properties and many tenants are young professionals.

L across a train line using a footbridge

Ahead Brooks Lane (a paved lane rather than a real road)

L Thames Road

very soon R Ship Alley (a narrow footpath passing under a house)

R on the riverside walkway called Strand-on-the-Green


Old houses on Stand-on-the-Green

This is a delightful path along the river passing a row of stately 18th century houses (numbers 56 and 70 are listed monuments). They were built by people who wished to be near the royal palace of Kew, such as suppliers to the Court or artists, and the houses are still popular with university professors, journalists and creative professions. The path passes the one or other pub with a terrace overlooking the river, definitely a popular place to go in summer.


Overview of Strand-on-the-Green


Strand on the Green was actually a village with many residents working on the river as fishermen or ferry operators. You still see the one or other boat. As you can see on the picture, the Thames goes out a lot at low tide. You should be aware that it can rise quite high and flood the walkway, in which case there is a parallel road on higher ground behind the riverside houses.



Kew Bridge from Strand-on-the-Green


The riverside walkway ends at Kew Bridge, built in 1903. It is one the busiest bridges in the suburbs because it is part of a Circular Road linking the suburbs. The original bridge was a private bridge charging toll, opened in 1759 to give easier access to the royal palace at Kew. The bridge was first built in wood, which proved cumbersome to maintain, and replaced after 30 years by a stone bridge.



Kew Bridge


The public authorities bought it in 1873 for two reasons: the toll booths made traffic slow and the owners objected understandably to new Thames bridges being built even when this made otherwise perfect sense in terms of town planning. The 1903 reconstruction is considered one of the handsomest road bridges in London and is a listed monument.

Cross the Thames at the next opportunity using Kew Bridge

L Kew Green (the road along the open space)


Kew Green


The green itself is bysected by the main road from the bridge. Both parts have lovely houses of moderate height hidden in greenery and this is correspondingly a very expensive neighbourhood. The pond at the eastern corner of the green was used to water horses.



Kew Green pond

Ahead Wattcombe Cottages (the narrower, left fork at the end of Kew Green road)

At the end L on the footpath to the riverside walkway

R (downstream) along the riverside


Thames reach near Kew Bridge

Just after passing under the train bridge R on the public footpath along the tracks

The footpath runs between the train line and a well protected complex of buildings. When you arrive at the end of the footpath, you can detour left to the flashy, modern entrance of the building. This houses the National Archives, relocated here in 1977. There is a small exhibition gallery in the building and entrance is free but the exhibits will appeal primarily to specialists. The only items I found really interesting were the late 11th century census documents called the Domesday Book.

Otherwise, at the end of the footpath R crossing under the train line on Mortlake Road

L Leyborne Park

L Station Approach



Kew Gardens station

The station opened together with the train line in 1869.

The station building is a listed monument as it is the original Victorian structure. The train company obviously expected heavy traffic from visitors of the Botanical Gardens considering the size of the station in what was a very rural area. As the arches are in the same somewhat drab grey than the walls, the overall effect is not very exciting, particularly compared to contemporary stations like Acton Central. The awnings are quite nice and the platform is very well maintained with planting reminding you of the Gardens.


Only pub located in a London Underground station

The station is one of the very few trains stations in London where London Underground and suburban trains use the same platform. This is cumbersome for engineers due to the different power supply systems and carriage size.

With the station to your back, walk towards the main road following the signs for the Botanical Gardens. You are initially on Station Parade

Ahead Lichfield Road



Kew Gardens and Palace

The road ends opposite the main entrance to the botanical gardens. As mentioned in the routing notes, the gardens are a major attraction worth a full day. Like many London attractions, the entrance fee is very high (15£ for one visit, 72£ for one year), but you could argue that this is reasonable considering the very large number of attractions within the grounds. Look at http://www.kew.org for details. If you include a visit of the gardens in the walk, I suggest you leave the gardens after your tour at the Elizabeth Gate, located at the northern end of the gardens, rather than at the main gate.



Pizza slice flower display

The gardens took over from a pleasure garden and a collection of exotic plants started in the 1770s around the royal palaces of Richmond and Kew. When the royal family moved away from these palaces, the gardens were transformed into a publicly-owned botanical garden. Such gardens are known to have already existed in medieval Italy, usually in connection with university hospitals, but Kew can be considered nowadays to be the most highly regarded institution of its kind in the world. This is due both to the legacy of an Empire spanning the world and to the well-known love of Englishmen for gardening.



Kew Gardens alley with pagoda

Taking advantage of the fact that I have many pictures of the botanical gardens, I am able to show you a selection of the attractions contained within. The virtual tour starts at the main gate and runs more or less clockwise. I am aware that some sections are not covered.

The “Temple of Bellona” is one of a number of park follies built for the royal park around 1760 and relocated later on in convenient spots. Garden follies were very often built in the neo-classical style at the time.


Temple of Bellona in Kew Gardens

The “King William Temple” is another neo-classical garden folly, but it was built much later for Queen Victoria who wanted in 1837 to commemorate King William IV. The planting around the temple includes palm trees and lavender as this is the Mediterranean section.


King William Temple in Kew Gardens with Mediterranean Garden

The Pagoda was built in 1762 when anything Chinese was seen as wonderfully exotic and an absolute must. The King logically had a particularly tall pagoda built. It was so tall that many visitors declined climbing inside, feeling the structure might topple.


Kew Gardens pagoda

The Japanese landscape is made of three gardens inspired by traditional Japanese gardening with some typical elements like a river of pebbles and higher gray stones symbolising the paradise.


Rhododendron in Kew Gardens

The structure in the middle of the garden was salvaged from a world exhibition in 1910 and is a smaller copy of a temple gate in Japan.


Japanese landscape in Kew Gardens

Queen Charlotte’s cottage was originally a pavilion in the Richmond Palace zoo but was later converted to a retreat for the Queen in the 1770s. It was only given to the botanical gardens in 1898. Royals very often wished a quiet cottage to escape on occasion from the constraints of court life and very well-known examples include Marie-Antoinette’s “Hameau de la Reine” in Versailles and Queen Astrid’s atelier on the grounds of Laeken palace in Brussels.


Queen Charlotte’s cottage in Kew Gardens

The woodland around the cottage was to be kept a wilderness according to the wishes of Queen Victoria and the somewhat remote location within the park enables one of the best bluebell shows in London in the appropriate season.


Bluebells in Kew Gardens wilderness

Rhododendrons were a Chinese plant according to popular opinion in the 1770s and were therefore as fashionable as pagodas and tea pavilions. A new craze for rhododendrons started in the 1850s when plant collectors could travel more safely to Nepal, their main motivation being to multiply the collected plants and sell them at a very high price to people who tried to impress their neighbours with novelties. The display at Kew is nice in season but cannot compete with Dulwich Park.


Rhododendron dell in Kew Gardens

Minka House is an authentic Japanese farm house built without nails on stone slabs in order to withstand earthquakes. It was donated by a Japanese heritage association in 2001 and is now used as the centrepiece of a bamboo garden started in 1891. Bamboos are something of a problem in parks because they grow very quickly and crowd out neighbouring plants if not kept in check.


Minka House in Kew Gardens

The Queen’s Garden was developed in the 1960s as a logical backdrop to Kew Palace which is from the 17th century. It shows the kind of garden that was fashionable at the time with wrought iron gazebos and sculptures, both stone and bronze. The planting includes only flowers grown at the time and it is very striking to realise the very limited choice of colours. The first large family of colourful plants to be imported was tulips coming from Turkey, but this did not really start before the 1700s.


Queen’s Garden in the 17th century style


Queen Anne’s Garden

The “secluded garden” was created in 1995 as a sensory garden to show that plants are also interesting to smell, feel and hear. There is a rather funny sculpture in the middle that looks from afar like undone washing-up. It is actually a fountain made of an incredible number of intricately planned slates of different shapes.


Slate fountain in Kew Gardens

The Princess of Wales Conservatory is possibly the attraction in Kew that is most similar to more modest botanical gardens like those in Paris and Frankfurt. It is a set of low glasshouses dedicated each to plants from a specific climate. This is always very interesting to visit as you tend to forget until your next visit how exotic they are.


Princess of Wales Conservatory

The Waterlily House is a small glasshouse built in 1852 in order to recreate the climate of the Amazon rainforest because this was necessary in order to display the giant waterlily that was the pride of the garden at the time. In the end, the glasshouse was used for other plants as the Victoria Amazonica did not thrive as intended.


Waterlily House in Kew Gardens

The Palmhouse is considered the most impressive Victorian glasshouse still standing. Numerous magnificent glasshouses exist in Europe, but they were often built a little later. Don’t miss the very striking perspective from the end of the structure. As the name says, the building shelters palm trees as well as a number of typical food plants like cocoa and coffee. This arrangement is similar in most botanical gardens.


Palm House in Kew Gardens


Side view of Palm House

At the back of the Palmhouse, there is a small lake with a very formal balustrade, clearly a reminder of the royal garden in the 18th century. An elegant statue adorns the lake as was customary at the time. There is a similar arrangement at Hampton Court.


Pond in Kew Gardens

The Georgian house at the other end of the lake is one of several exhibition galleries in the gardens (all included in the overall price, which is better than in Paris). The first idea to include a museum in the grounds dates back to a suggestion by King George IV in 1820. In this particular building, the managers show how plants have been used in other civilisations for music instruments, sculptures and even medical devices.


Original Kew Gardens museum

Now that you have toured the gardens, I give you a few other pictures just for the fun of the nice shapes and colours


Araucaria in Kew Gardens arboretum


Quiet corner of Kew Gardens


Wisteria in Kew Gardens


Cacti in Kew Gardens



Main entrance to Kew Gardens


Assuming you do not visit the gardens, you can still admire the entrance gate. The imposing structure dates back to 1868 and shows that the managers expected a large number of visitors. The gate stood originally elsewhere but had to be relocated when the train company decided unexpectedly to locate the train station at a different place, closer to the existing hamlet of Kew. There are several other gates nowadays, two of which you will pass later.

R Kew Road walking along the Kew Gardens wall


Tea shop on Kew Road


There is a nice building at number 288 in the road. It looks like a traditional pub but is actually a tea and cake shop with the delightful name “The original maids of honour”. I read later that maids of honour are traditional small pastries served with afternoon tea and named after the ladies-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, who supposedly like them (the pastries, not necessarily the ladies).

L Kew Green, the road turns R at the end of the green


St. Anne’s Kew


The church dominating the centre of the green is St Anne’s, built on land donated by Queen Anne in order to cater for the court staff. The original 1714 building was much extended in 1770 and in the late 19th century. The most interesting part from outside is the entrance portico, a late Georgian neo-classical structure from 1822 with the typical columns and balustrade. The nave of the church inside is also neo-classical and is worth a short look if the building is open.



Nave of St. Anne’s church


Duke of Cambridge’s House


Number 37 Kew Green is a substantial house with a neo-classical portico that should remind you of royal porticos such as the one giving access to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. This is not surprising as the house was the residence of the Duke of Cambridge, the seventh son of King George III. He had it rebuilt in 1840 and it is now the art gallery of Kew Gardens. The entrance on Kew Green is used when people hire the building for a grand wedding.


Elizabeth Gate of Kew Gardens


At the back of the green, you find a second set of grand gates for the Botanical Gardens. The pillars are particularly ornate and the somewhat excessive display of scrolls, flowers and faces on the urns points correctly to a neo-baroque structure from 1846. The gate was commissioned when the gardens became a public park in order to offer a more conspicuous entrance as most visitors used boat services and arrived on the river Thames at the time. The name Elizabeth refers to Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee.



Duke of Cumberland’s House on Kew Green


Number 57 Kew Green is a large complex of buildings that I do not find very attractive to look at. The central part was the residence of the Duke of Cumberland, fifth son of King George III and future King of Hanover, for a short period in 1830. It is now used for the offices of the Kew Herbarium, one of the largest collections in the world of plant material used for scientific studies. The word herbarium sounded to me a little like an activity intended for children to do “something sensible” during summer holidays, but the wording “collection of plants” would be confusing in English.

L Ferry Lane, an access road towards the riverside


Kew Herbarium


Ferry Lane passes the back of the Herbarium and the storage facilities towering above the road are quite impressive. The collections are extremely sensitive to humidity and light, so that the climate control facilities are even more exacting than in historic libraries. The north front of the buildings is made of wood, which is an appropriate gesture for a herbarium. It is a material I have not seen used much in London because construction timber is scarce in Britain unless it is imported, a big difference to southern Germany, eastern France or Scandinavia.


Kew Palace


L on the riverside walkway for about 1 3/4 mile until you reach Richmond Lock

At the start of the walkway, you get a good view of the garden front of Kew Palace, also called the Dutch House. It is one of the oldest royal palaces as the building dates back to 1631, but only became a royal property in 1728 when the Prince of Wales, who had been left in Hanover since age 7 and knew his family little, wished an independent residence near enough to Richmond Palace.


Kew Palace seen from Ferry Lane


It remained a subsidiary building of the other palace until the early 19th century and was given to Kew Gardens in 1898, but it is managed independently. This means that you have to pay twice to visit, once to the Botanical Gardens for access and once to the Royal Palace administration for the house itself. There is not much to see inside as the building has been empty for a very long time.



Kew Palace seen from the garden


Costume dancing at Kew Palace


Development in Brentford


Walking on the Thames Path is a very good way of seeing buildings on the other side of the river. The first conspicuous set is a recent development with the kind of glassy penthouse apartments familiar from the Docklands. The river Thames is particularly wide here because it corresponds to the mouth of the Grand Union Canal. It was an extremely busy junction in the early 19th century until Regent’s Canal enabled an easier access to factories in North London and to the Docks.


Syon House


A bit later on, the bank opposite becomes wooded until you see a sizeable palace. Syon House strikes me as being a particularly forbidding mansion. The outer appearance dates back to construction in 1547 and is therefore interesting to compare to Hampton Court palace which is from about the same period. I have never visited the mansion because I did not expect it to be very different from properties I could visit cheaper as a member of the National Trust. The mansion is particularly well known for a number of rooms decorated by leading architect Robert Adam, for whom it was the first major commission.


Kew Gardens seen from Thames Path


On your own bank of the Thames, you can have a look to a section of Kew Gardens not protected by a wall. It is still protected against trespassers by a ditch. The banks on my picture are usually empty because this part of the botanical gardens is far from the main attractions and primarily interesting for the collection of trees.



Thames Path in Kew



The section after the viewpoint is the wildest on this route, partly because it is very far from any access by car. After heavy rains, it is also the main section where you might get mud on your shoes. The path runs for about a mile between the river and a golf course. There is a small risk that the path might be flooded, which happens a few times a year due to spring tides.



Thames Path along the Kew golf course


Park pavilion belonging to Syon House


The elegant neo-classical pavilion you see at one point on the opposite bank of the river marks the limit of Syon Park. I am not sure whether it was a pavilion used for intimate high tea afternoons, but this would be the most logical use. It looks like it was built around 1800.



Isleworth seen from the left bank of the Thames




The neo-classical pavilion gives way to the village of Isleworth, which is included on one of my Waterloo network walks. The church is All Saints Church, a rare riverside church as this implies it was not in the centre of the village. The original church was burnt down by schoolboys in 1943 (who also committed arson in nearby Hounslow and were possibly inspired by reports on big fires in the City of London after bombings). The tower is the original 14th century section while the nave was rebuilt in 1970 in a modern style.


Richmond Lock


You are now reaching the end of the wilder section when you see Richmond Lock. The lock was built in 1894 to ensure sufficient depth in the river Thames above Richmond. Because of the way the embankments were built in central London from the 1830s on, the tide moved much faster and much more forcefully than before, so that the river nearly dried up above Richmond at low tide and flooded at high tide. The residents petitioned for more than 50 years before Parliament decided to build the lock.


Richmond Lock


As it is not a weir with a lock but a set of sluice gates (needed to let water through upstream as well as downstream), it was necessary to built a walkway giving access from above. Parliament sensibly decided to make a full footbridge out of the walkway but you will notice that the design is really unusual in that there are two parallel and independent footbridges. There was a toll for crossing the footbridge as it was seen as a sort of sightseeing excursion.


Entering Old Deer Park



You are entering here Old Deer Park, a large open space kept empty because it is used as a flooding plain in case of particularly high tide. It was a hunting ground close to Richmond Palace from the 1600s onwards. When the court moved away, it was left empty until a large part of it was turned into a golf course. The remaining part was used for funfairs. Because the open space is located between a highway, a golf course and the Thames with only one little car park, it tends to be a quiet area.



Old Deer Park flooded by a spring tide


Obelisks in Old Deer Park


You might notice several obelisks in the park, one nearer to the Thames and two nearer to the highway. They were used by the King’s Observatory, located close nearby in the middle of the present golf course, and enabled precise alignment of instruments when watching planets and stars.

Ahead across Old Deer Park Recreation Ground, the path nears a major highway and leads along it to a footbridge across the road

R on the footbridge

Ahead on the narrow access road, merges into Park Lane

Ahead on a narrow footpath between taller brick buildings

Cross the road for



T1 Richmond station_R

Richmond station


The station opened in 1846 as the terminal for a new train line from Clapham Junction. The line was extended as early as 1848 towards Staines. A junction opened in 1869 offering services towards Gunnersbury.

The Gunnersbury line tracks work normally as a terminal so that the platforms for the 1846 and the 1869 lines are fully separated. Changing trains in Richmond on an Oyster pay-as-you-go card can therefore cause unexpected charges because of the unclear touching instructions and intransparent software.

The station building is sizeable, as befits an important town like Richmond. It was built in 1937 in a moderate Art Deco style. The many large windows meant to give much light into the concourse are typical of the style. You will be a little surprised to note that you go down stairs into the concourse when entering the station from the road. It is usually more convenient to have stairs only for platform access.


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Walk 18: Willesden Junction walk to Gunnersbury


2 3/4 hours

The train line was first built in 1853 from Willesden Junction to South Acton, the aim being to link the different main lines and to bypass central London. This was planned primarily as a freight railway although a number of different passenger services were tried with limited success as the area was very rural. The line was extended in 1869 from South Acton to Gunnersbury and Richmond, providing a link to an additional main line.

Routing note: This route connects in Willesden Junction with Overground walks 7 and 8 as well as with Euston network walk 2. It connects in Gunnersbury with Overground walk 19 and will also connect there with London Underground District line walk 3.




Willesden Junction Overground station




The original Willesden station was built further west in 1841 on the main line from Euston and remained in use until 1962. When the Overground line via West Hampstead opened in 1860, Willesden became a junction. An additional junction was added in 1863 towards Clapham Junction, also using Willesden. It was sensible to join the Hampstead line with the Clapham line, which was done in 1869 and provided a bypass line for freight services around central London. The present Willesden Junction station opened therefore in 1869 on the viaduct of this bypass line and was called for technical purposes “Willesden Junction High Level”.

The station itself was rebuilt in 1956 and shared a common building with the Low Level station from then on. The Low Level station itself was rebuilt later on, so that the former common building can be considered now as the actual High Level station building. It is a functional brick house with a steeped roof and has no pretence to architectural interest, being mainly a functional interchange and much less a destination where a landmark building would make sense.

Exit the station through the access road passing the Underground station building

L Old Oak Lane (going south)

Cross the canal and then go directly L down the stairs to the Canal towpath



Grand Union Canal near Old Oak Lane


The canal is the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, built around 1800 to provide a link between industry in the Midlands and the consumers in London. The original canal joined the Thames where the water flow was uncertain and tidal, so that the Paddington Arm enabled easier transportation to central London. It was used both for goods traffic and for passengers until much faster railways made canal boats only sensible for less urgent bulk goods. The canal remained extremely busy until the 1950s because it connected to a canal bypassing central London on the way to the Docklands. It is now an extremely quiet backwater, even more so than Regent’s Canal or the Lea Navigation.



Paddington Arm through former Old Oak Common


The canal bisects an ancient common, Old Oak Common, and Parliament sacrificed over time other large chunks of it to railway sidings as it was conveniently located near both the Euston and Paddington main lines. Part of the depot is now used for Eurostar trains, but most of the depot is now derelict and surplus to requirement. A slice of land near the canal was left to develop as a small nature reserve with a very nice birch wood.



Old Oak Common nature reserve

Natural birch forests are rare in London because this is a pioneer tree growing on rubble, dry land where it accumulates soil until is it replaced by long-term trees like oak and beech. Birch is not particularly attractive to birds and insects but it is important in the succession of natural landscapes.



Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm


Train companies kept to unused sidings forever because they have been heavily polluted at the time of steam locomotives, so that either the train company as the seller of the land or the developer as the buyer faces unknown and potentially dismal cleaning-up costs. Development of the Old Oak area may become attractive if the Crossrail project goes through with a station in Old Oak as developers could attract affluent City of London buyers to luxury flats on the former rail depot site, the large number and high price of such flats paying probably for the cleaning-up costs.

Follow the canal towards the east (towards the train line bridges) to the next road bridge



Scrubbs Lane moorings


There are only few boats moored along this section of Paddington Arm, primarily because there is no segregated basin and no convenient road access. This is likely to change if the one or other former factory can be converted to luxury flats.

R up the stairs on Scrubbs Lane

R into Wormwood Scrubs Park



Wormwood Scrubs playing fields


This really large area of grass with occasional hedges and few trees has an interesting origin. As the rest of the former Old Oak Common, it was bought by the Government in 1879 in order to have sufficient space close to the central London barracks for military exercises. As the land was not needed constantly, it was kept a common with the special provision that the Army could close it off when needed. Although it is hardly ever closed off for maneuvers nowadays, the Army still owns it and can use it. This explains why there are no amenities that might make it more of a park or nature reserve. There have been many attempts over the year to discuss developments in some areas, but campaigners have been able to defeat nearly all of them.



Wormwood Scrubs looking East


Crossing the open space is a special experience because it is indeed one of the largest unlandscaped open spaces in London along with parts of Epping Forest and areas in Northolt. There are occasionally isolated gentlemen wandering about with no apparent purpose and I have been wondering whether they are plainclothes policemen checking that no one is having inappropriate intentions regarding the inmates of the nearby prison.

Follow more or less the train line until you reach the end of the common

L Old Oak Common Lane

R across the Underground line using the subway

R Long Drive (not Brunel Road !)

L The Bye



The Green in East Acton


The short road ends at a regular open space called imaginatively “The Green”. It was the centrepiece of a suburb developed in the late 19th century, East Acton. The streets surrounding the green are all pleasantly leafy with some open grassy spaces, which makes it a forerunner of the garden city movement. There are no remarkable houses or monuments along these streets, but the going is pleasant and traffic keeps to a few main thoroughfares.


Ahead across the green into St. Andrews Road


Green space in St. Andrews Road

Ahead across the dual carriageway into Glendun Road

Ahead Bromyard Avenue



Perryn House estate


The road runs between allotments and an estate from the 1920s called Perryn House after the manor that stood here in the 19th century. On maps, you can see that the borough kept large chunks of land for sports grounds and allotments when the suburb was developed. This foresight was unusual, particularly compared to developments around Wembley, Leyton or Dagenham. Nonetheless, you don’t really see all the open spaces because there were no public footpaths across them, so that they are enclosed and leased to private operators or included in fenced school premises.



Bromyard House


Bromyard Avenue divides at one point but both arms come together soon afterwards. Afterwards, you cross a section of Acton set aside in the 1920s for official housing. Bromyard House directly along the avenue is a particularly austere example with a mighty entrance porch and no other ornamentation whatsoever; this is understandable as it was built for the staff of the Ministry of Pensions and not for the open market. It was later used as military headquarters and finally sold to a developer. Because of the unassuming outside, flats actually sell for a halfway affordable price.

R Beech Avenue (following the small sign to “The Vale Community Centre” as there is no road sign)

Go at the end to the main road keeping the same direction

R into Acton Park, cross the park diagonally to the North-West corner exit



Acton Park


Acton Park is not very large, but it is one of the most enjoyable smaller borough parks in London. Part of it was originally a common until the borough enclosed it to prevent further digging for brick clay, a very common problem in the mid-19th century. The main part was the garden of a property replaced by almshouses in 1811.



Old trees in Acton Park

The park opened in 1888 keeping the mature trees from the garden, explaining why there are less boring plain grass expanses than in many parks built on farmland. The park had all the usual Victorian attractions such as ponds (filled in for security and maintenance reasons in nearly all parks nowadays), a bandstand, a rhoodendron dell, a bandstand, a bowling ground with a pavilion, an elegant lodge for the warden and of course ornamental flower beds.

The borough has been able to keep or renovate a significant portion of these attractions. When I took the pictures in 2009, the borough had a competition to beautify trees and the results were quite amusing.


Tree for veterans in Acton Park


Tree with marbles in Acton Park


Tree with face in Acton Park

A larger tree sculpture in a corner of the park is a memorial to an old elm tree, the tree having fallen victim to the elm plague.



Re-use of a dead elm tree in Acton Park

The present rhododendron dell is modest, the bushes being too small to be impressive yet.


Rhododendrons in Acton Park


The formal garden is interesting in terms of design, geometrical beds reminding a lot of Art Déco gardening in the 1930s, while the planting is dominated by low-maintenance grasses and evergreens rather than by flowers. This makes me recommend the park in winter, when the park appears pleasantly less bare, rather than in summer, when you miss the colours.



Formal garden in Acton Park

The café is the former bowling pavilion and is a rather nice cottage; it also dates back to the 1930s and was fortunately not replaced by some ugly concrete structure.



Acton Park pavilion


Goldsmiths’ almshouses


On the road along the north side of the park (East Churchfield Road), you can see from the park a long brick building on both sides of an elegant chapel building in the middle with a rounded portico and a royal coat of arms. As a somewhat conspicuous inscription says, this was built by the guild of goldsmiths in 1811, making use of a bequest by Mr Perryn, whose name we saw before with Perryn House. The building was a set of almshouses and part of the present park was its garden. In line with expectations in the early 19th century, the residents were supposed to be ostentatiously religious, going to church twice on Sundays.

Cross the train line for




Acton Central station


The station opened in 1853 together with the train line under the simple line “Acton”. The name was changed to the present version in 1925 because of confusion with other Acton stations (on the Paddington main line and on several Underground lines). The station has a few peculiarities such as having changed fare zones (it is now in zone 3 but was originally in zone 2).

It is also one of very few stations in London where the trains have to switch from overhead power supply to third rail power supply, implying a longer time in the station and occasionally a short power outage in the carriages. The reason for the different power supply is that the line beyond Acton Central was electrified in 1880 using the system of London Underground (at the time just a suburban railway that intended to send trains to Acton Central) while the section north of Acton Central was electrified later with the system used on the main lines in order to enable seamless goods traffic.



Platform in Action Central station


The original station building has been converted into a restaurant, but it is still easy to recognise. It was a substantial Victorian building with neo-medieval arches and a small baroque balustrade at roof level. The style is quite typical for the time if you compare for example to Greenwich train station. The station has also kept its original platform awning with an ornate valance.

Continue on Churchfield Road going West



St Mary’s Acton burial ground


Towards the end of the road, you pass the parish burial ground, now a sort of nice little, quiet park since Parliament forbade burials in churchyards in the 1880s in order to limit what was thought as health risks, in particular groundwater contamination. The parish church itself is a little further on the other side of the market place. It is a standard Victorian building and I did not bother taking a picture or visiting.

At the end of the road L along Market Place/Road before reaching the parish church

Ahead Church Road



Baptist Church on Church Road


The baptist church for Acton located on this road had a lovely white and baby blue front. The clearly neo-classical architecture makes me think it might have been built in the early 19th century, but I found no details on this.

R Avenue Road

L Park Road East entering South Acton estate

L into the parking lot past Ludlow Court and Barwick House, continues as a paved path. The path should merge into Strafford Road



South Acton estate


South Acton estate is a large council estate built in the 1960s in the form of towers and bars. Like many other estates, it declined in the 1980s when industries closed, laying off many workers and giving immigrants from the Empire no jobs. The government started to worry seriously about crime levels, drug gangs and ethnic strife after incidents in the early 2000s and finally gave the boroughs the authority and some funds to redevelop the estates. Wikipedia amusingly mentions that previous antisocial behaviour linked to drug and alcohol abuse has been partly replaced by “illegal sex orgies”. I have not read of this particular problem in other estates.



Open spaces in South Acton estate


Like in many estates planned in the 1960s, the high-rise buildings enabled a large network of interconnected green spaces and playgrounds at ground level. Now that policing of estates improved significantly, walking through estates can therefore be quite pleasant and green compared to boring Victorian terraces. The borough intended to demolish and redevelop most of the estate, this being financed by additional buildings set on car parks and former garages, but progress has been slow.

R Bollo Bridge Road

soon L Palmerston Road crossing the train line




South Acton station


The station opened in 1880 on the train line linking the Acton Central bypass line with the Richmond main line. As the operators clearly intended to keep the bypass line as a pure freight line in order not to lose passengers, South Acton was served by a branch of London Underground District Line. Passenger services to Richmond only started in 1905 and the District line gave up its own services in 1959.

The original station building was the one for the District line and has been demolished. There was no need afterwards for a real station building in this minor station but the nice platform awning and valance in the style of those in Acton Central are still to be seen on the northbound platform.

Very soon after the footbridge over the train line R into Weston Road

R Bollo Lane crossing the first train line

L Stanhope Way, the access road into a private office centre called Chiswick Business Park.


Landscaping in Chiswick Business Park


This particular business park is a flagship development set on the site of a former bus depot. It was designed by a leading urban planning company belonging to the Richard Rodgers group and is indeed more elegant and interesting than most business parks in London. The particular selling point is the landscaping with an extensive water feature in the middle.




Water feature in Chiswick Business Park


The individual buildings are rather low rise and are not the usual boxy glass cubes as they have canopies that can be used to lower the impact of the sun in summer and therefore to use air conditioning less often. All these characteristics come at a price and the business park caters to upmarket tenants in industries like IT and media. The business park can be crossed but it is private and you might be asked by security staff to refrain from taking pictures. I asked permission from the public relations officer. Since 2014, the property is owned by a Chinese investor.



View of Chiswick Business Park

Walk past the ornamental pond to the south exit of the business park

R on the main road and very soon L past the office building for




Gunnersbury station

The station opened in 1869 on a train line that was built with two spurs, one joining the present District line and one continuing to Acton. A third spur enabled connections towards Brentford via Kew Bridge. The first spur became a branch of the Underground District line in 1877, the second spur is the present Overground line although passenger services did not start before 1905 and the third spur closed in 1932. The station was called “Brentford Road” at the start but the name changed to Gunnersbury already in 1871.

Gunnersbury is one the very few stations in London where suburban trains and Underground carriages use the same platform. This is normally not very sensible because Underground trains have different power and braking requirements; in addition, they run much more frequently and this makes train services difficult to include without causing delays.

The original station building looked much like the one in Acton Central but was demolished in the 1960s in order to build the ugly office building that towers above the gloomy entrance of the present station, a plain block of concrete hidden behind the office building.


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