Thames Path – Woolwich Arsenal – Belvedere Walk – 02.10.2011

It was a beautiful afternoon, we decided to enjoy the late “Indian Summer” that we had been blessed with. We felt that we would pick up on one of our routes that we had finished a quite some time back, and see some more of the area we left behind.

Our walk started in Woolwich Arsenal. We started out at the station and made our way to the Royal Artillery, which we had only briefly on our last visit. This time, our walk took us through the buildings, so we were able to explore a lot more of the area.

In my previous research, I discovered that the “Arsenal”, for storing ammunition, had been in existence here since the reign of Henry VIII. Not many people, however, would associate the name “Arsenal” with fighting, but with the football club instead. They would have of course be right to do so. The term “Gunners” for the team is of course directly associated with the team originating from workers in the gun machine factory based here! The team was originally known as the “Dial Square Football Club” and was formed in 1886. It was not until 1913 the team moved to Highbury and was officially known as “Arsenal”.

From 2011 – 02.10.2011 – Woolwich Arsenal – Belvedere Walk

The Royal Artillery now stores most of its guns and even one of its tanks here that it does not use any longer. I must admit that one or two of them did look very formidable to me, particularly the Gibraltar Coastal Gun which was 40 tonnes and 38 feet in length (~11.5m)! I turned away from the gun only to be greeted by some strange Ironwork, or should I say Ironmen? I am not quite sure what kind of Artwork this was as I could not see who this was attributed to but if anyone has any ideas I would like to know!

Leaving the Royal Artillery behind, we had finally reached the Thames Path. It was so nice to see in the glorious sunshine. We decided to walk towards Crossness. It was rather nice to go walk a new route. We took a rather leisurely pace and enjoyed the afternoon sun. It felt more like July or August rather than early October. It was just so pleasant to be out and about so late in the year. The Thames glittering in the sun, and even the urban view of Canary Wharf in the background somewhere did not seem to spoil things.

The path took on a very rough look overhung by trees, with the blue skies over head, it really felt we were out in the wilds and not London. We didn’t exactly hurry along we just took it all in our stride watching the boats go drift along the Thames just as we were. It was so nice to see a Thames Sailing Barge! These flat bottomed boats were adapted for the Rivers Thames for its shallow waters and estuary’s. These barges are no longer used for trade, as the last one sailed for trading purposes as far back as 1970. There were over 2,000 boats at the turn of the 20th Century and this number declined and now they are used for pleasure craft, this is a dramatic change for these barges, this a shame as they are a beautiful boat. A similar tale to the ones I told of the Canal barges on the Llangollen and Grand Union Canals…

From 2011 – 02.10.2011 – Woolwich Arsenal – Belvedere Walk

As we walked on we found out that we were on a route towards Dover which was 106 miles (~170 km) where we had walked quite some time ago. However, I don’t think we would have got that far on this walk! It was just nice to be able to walk along the Thames and enjoy the sights. We were once again treated to another beautiful boat. This time it was a paddle Steamer.

This was the “Waverley” the last sea going paddle steamer. She was built in 1947, to replace the original ship that was sadly lost in 1940 at Dunkirk. Steamers were sailed up and down the Thames from London to visit the seaside at Clacton and Southend – the ships would moor at the piers – Margate and Ramsgate also being a popular destinations too. What a great way to enjoy the Thames!

We carried on only to find someone had decided to make a lovely feature of 4 canons which was rather odd. no information just a nice piece of artwork and place to sit. I am not quite sure of what the people at the Royal Artillery would have thought. I realised we have walked quite a way when we came across a sign for Lesnes Abbey and the Green Chain Walk which we had picked up before! it seems that we had crossed paths once more. I really do find that comforting to know we pick up on old routes that we have done in the past.

From 2011 – 02.10.2011 – Woolwich Arsenal – Belvedere Walk

We had reached “The Crossness Engines”. This inconspicuous building does not look like it would the key to so much engineering and beauty. These buildings house huge steam pumping engines built and designed by Joseph Bazalgette. This pumping station was a result of Parliament issuing action to the Metropolitan Board of Works to take care of what had become known as the “Great Stink” of the River Thames in 1858! So why would I say this pumping station held great beauty? I have now seen the photos of the inside of the building and the wrought ironwork is absolutely amazing from what I have seen everywhere was highly polished, ironwork was painted, even the monogram of the Metropolitan Board of Works incorporated into the ironwork. Any such pumping station today would not have such detail! The engines are open to the public from 2012!

As we felt that the afternoon was slipping away, we felt that it might be time to turn off the lovely Thames Path. We joined the Green Chain Walk across the Crossness Nature Reserve to make our way to Belvedere. The nature reserve was quite refreshing after walking along the river. I must admit I was really surprised to find a wind turbine that are more associated with the farms in the southern states of America! The green reeds that we saw reminded us we were still in a nature reserve in the UK.

The path eventually took us out to the road, and eventually we were lead back out to another field, a very confusing end to our walk I must admit! We had to look for Belevdere station, I would point out there was a severe lack of signs! It was here we finished our Late Indian Summer Walk 🙂

Please feel free to look at all the afternoon photos –

2011 – 02.10.2011 – Woolwich Arsenal – Belvedere Walk

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