Thursday, 1 January 2015

Walking through history ...

Writers often extol the virtues of walking to get the brain working. I try to get out for an hour or so each day, though the weather at this time of year does not always help. So any clear day must be taken full advantage of.

A few days ago, the sunshine drew me out for a longer than usual walk. In a loop across Blackheath and through Greenwich, I took in hundreds of years of history, from Henry VII's riverside terrace to views of the sky scrapers of Canary Wharf:

Near Elizabeth I's oak in Greenwich Park 
(a royal park since the 15th century).

Looking towards the River Thames through the Old Royal 
Naval College, (built in the early 18th century) 
now part of the University of Greenwich.
(looking away from the river) These buildings were designed by
Christopher Wren and, by 1712, were the Royal Hospital for Seamen
at Greenwich. The Hospital closed in 1869 and the buildings became the
Royal Naval College until 1998. The 'bundle' is explained below.
They've bundled King George II (1727-1760) up for the winter. 
He can usually look across the River Thames to Canary Wharf.
And this is what he usually sees. The gates are 18th century,
with the seal of the Hospital in their centre,
the sky scrapers and the boat 21st century.
The terrace along by the river is all that is left of Henry VII's
 early 16th century Palace of Placentia - 

500 years of history at a glance.

Not 200 metres from those Royal Hospital gates, the Cutty Sark 
floats oddly on her glass skirt beside the Greenwich Foot Tunnel 
south entrance.
You can just see the northern entrance/exit to the Foot Tunnel 
in this shot down-river towards the sea.
There have been settlements at Greenwich since the bronze age.
This terrace of houses was built in the 18th century.

But these houses are older still - perhaps from the late 1600s.

And yet across the railings is a block of flats and the tower of
the local police station built in the mid 20th century.

The Hill is now a restaurant, but there has been a public house on
the corner of Point Hill and Royal Hill for centuries.

Point Hill is a steep climb up to the The Point - a viewpoint 
on the extreme western edge of Blackheath. 

Looking west, from left to right: The Shard (finished in 2014) at 
London Bridge Station, the misty dome of St Paul's (late 1700s), 
the Walkie Talkiethe Cheese Grater, the Gherkin
all in the City and built in the last 20 years.
And looking east, Canary Wharf's windows reflect the sinking sun
in the rejuvenated Docklands (1988 ongoing) 

across the river from Greenwich.

I had walked a little under two miles, but through history I had travelled almost 600 years (even if you don't count the prehistoric barrows in Greenwich Park) from the Palace of Plancentia's river terrace to the towers of Docklands.  

As I stood looking at that vast view, I felt it would be appropriate to  do a posting about this area's long history at the start 2015. By then it was time to go home for tea and Christmas cake. And, of course, to get back to writing. That's what the walks are for, after all, isn't it?


all text and photographs © Julia M Newsome

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