Friday, 6 March 2009

Thames Barrier

This morning was a beautiful spring day and I decided to take advantage of the weather and go the Thames Barrier. Despite the fact that I've lived in Charlton for nearly nine years I've never seen the barrier up close from the South Bank.

I set off from home and walked down towards the River through Maryon Park. Again, in nine years I've never visited this park either. I was expecting something smaller (like the similarly named Maryon Wilson Park) but as I came down a steep flight of steps it became clear this was an altogether larger park. Famous for location shooting of the 1960s film 'Blow Up' and also Gilbert's Pit. Gilbert's Pit is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) orignally used to quarry sand. I didn't visit there today as it was the other side of the steep hill I walked down, and I really couldn't face walking back up. Another day, perhaps. The park is also home to Cox's Mount - used by the Romans as a fort, and more recently as a semaphore station in the 19th century and to help ships adjust their compasses.

Walking down towards Maryon Park

Maryon Park

Crossing the Woolwich Road (know locally as "The Low Road") brings you to New Charlton. Originally a thriving industrial area it fell virtually derelict during the 1970s and 1980s (as did much of the banks of the Thames in South and East London). It is now coming back to life as a 'light industrial' area full of warehouses and shopping estates. A short walk from the Woolwich Road brings you to the Thames Barrier.

Thames Barrier seen from the top of the steps for the first time

Thames Barrier from the East

Thames Barrier from the West

Whilst you are there the Thames Barrier Visitor Centre is worth a visit. Only £2 for adult entry; and apart from the arrival of a school party as I was leaving I had the place to myself. There are fascinating exhibits all about the Thames, the ecology of the River and the history of flooding and construction of the Barrier (including a short film).

1/12th size scale model of one of the 'gates'

The Thames Path - from source to the Barrier, 180 miles!

I followed the Thames Path back from the Barrier to Woolwich - an endeavour not for the faint hearted, as it leaves the River to follow an 'interim' route; along the Woolwich Road, through light industrial and residential estates, turning back in the direction you came - before finally finding the River again.