From Greenwich Park's Thai Zero Longitude Festival, along the Thames Path to the Thames Barrier and the Woolwich Foot Tunnel
10.08.2008 - 10.08.2008
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I woke up to a sunny day, so decided to head across the river to Greenwich and catch a bit of the Thai @ Zero Longitude Festival. It's called such because it takes place in Greenwich Park, and thus is at 0 degree Longitude.
As these types of events are meant for cultural learnings, here's what I learned (or in some cases, had re-enforced).
Thai food is good food.
Thai women are very pretty...
...even if sometimes you aren't quite sure about their origins.
Thailand makes wine. Monsoon Valley Winery and Vineyards produces three wines from 3 different wine growing regions in Thailand. The wines have won awards at events in London and France. I had a glass of the red and can say it is fruity.
Thai boxing in London seems a very popular pursuit with people who are not native Thai, like the young boy inside the Thai ring today.
Thailand's classical music sounds, to my ears, much like the sound of a harp being fed through a wood chipper.
If it's a sunny day, it's good to just crash out on the grass and relax.
- - -
After a while sitting on the grass, I started to feel a little sluggish. Probably a combination of the food settling in my stomach, the wine going to my head (which was already a little fuzzy from a Saturday night drink-up) and the sun beating down on me, so I figured it was best to move.
I decided to complete a journey that I had contemplated the first time I was in Greenwich, and headed out to see the Thames Barrier. I took a short-cut, skipping over much of the industrial lands I went through last time, and picked up the Thames Path on the other side of the O2 arena.
Less industrial than the Thames Path between central Greenwich and the O2, the Thames Path from the O2 towards the Thames Barrier still has a somewhat rundown feel to it, mostly due to the fact that the tide was low and thus a good portion of the river bottom was exposed, leaving boats stranded in the mud and revealing the garbage of human contact with the river.
There was still some industry along the way, but mostly it was hidden behind large retaining walls. Every once and and while, though, you'd find a place where the industry had leaked out onto the recreational walkway of the Thames Path.
I can only assume this was a beach manufacturing plant, otherwise what would they use that sand for?
- - -
In my last entry, I talked about the Great Fire of London. Keeping up with the theme of disasters befalling London, there has been a number of floods to have damaged the city, mostly storm surges and high tides coming up the River Thames.
On 7 December 1663, Samuel Pepys (who we read some of in my last blog entry) recorded in his diary "There was last night the greatest tide that ever was remembered in England to have been in this river all Whitehall having been drowned". In 1236 the river is reported as overflowing "and in the great Palace of Westminster men did row with wherries in the midst of the hall".
The worst flood is perhaps the 1953 North Sea Flood, which killed over 2,100 people, including 307 in England. So it was that the Thames Barrier in Greenwich was constructed, completed in 1984.
The Thames Barrier is a flood control mechanism downstream of London that is meant to block storm surges and unusually high tides from flooding the city. That's good news for me, leaving as I do on the flood plain / reclaimed marsh of Isle of Dogs.
For something with such an important function, it sure is pretty, with its Art Deco-ish, shiny silver hoods poking up out of concrete pilings.
The barrier works by having a gate lying flat along the river bottom, allowing boats to pass through the barrier. If a surge is predicted, however, the gates swing up from the river bottom and rise up 5 stories in the air to block the oncoming surge. The gates have been raised over 100 times since opening in 1984.
(If you can't quite picture how the thing works, check out this webpage, which has a diagram of the gates and how they work about half way down).
So the 9 pillars and 10 gates of the Thames Barrier stand guard, like sentries, ready to protect their upstream charges, the city of London.
- - -
My walk wasn't quite over, but the portion on the Thames Path was. The Thames Barrier is the terminus of the Thames Path, that runs 108 miles from the start of the Thames in the Cotswolds down into London.
From the Thames Barrier, I headed towards Woolwich, picking up bits along the river when I could, but having to do a good portion of the walk along the side of rather busy roads.
I eventually arrived at the Woolwich Pier, and having walked somewhere around the equivalent of 10 kilometres, I was ready for an easy ride back.
There was a few different options. On the north bank of the River, the Docklands Light Rail runs back to Isle of Dogs, or I could grab a Thames Clipper boat and take a water ride back to my home. I choose the DLR, mostly because I wasn't sure where the pier for the Thames Clipper was.
And so after another kilometre added to my walk for the day, I found a seat on the DLR, leaned against the window and watched the miles of Thames River I'd walked along today rewind. It's good to now that the Thames Barrier is there to ensure that all that water doesn't spill over its banks and wash away my new home.