Greenery Amongst the Building Sites
Have you noticed how Docklands planting is maturing so well? Avenues of trees and parklands are softening the once-sterile scene. On perhaps the hottest day of the year, the Trinity College of Music’s Thursday lunchtime concert at St Alphege’s was as refreshing for the soul, but I sought the solace of shade and a welcome breeze – so off to Island Gardens where the wonderful tall trees attract not only shade but a welcome zephyr.
Perhaps I have been over critical of the massive redevelopment of the south bank of the Thames bordering each side of the Old Royal Naval College – similar to gross bookends. But seen from the riverside benches I wondered if any of the local town planners realised what a compromise the new builds would be to the elegance and proportion of Wren’s masterpiece – a difficult challenge but go and see for yourselves. I extended my DLR venture to view some of the major changes to the new landscape and architecture of Docklands, which we have become used to! Strategic Crossrail construction sites are worth a visit by DLR – the elevated viewpoints.
At West India Dock the enormous Canary Wharf station can be viewed. Yet again we are losing the open waters which are such a feature of London’s docklands – the vessels moored opposite the Museum of London’s showpiece Dockland Museum are entrapped – a tiny canal still remains open for craft to navigate past One Canada Square into the Thames from Poplar Dock which has become a waterland home for residential barges. The main link into the Thames at Blue Bridge still accepts amazingly large ocean-going ships, including visiting naval vessels, as we saw over the Olympics when some of the world’s most ritzy yacht-ships gathered for the great and the good to enjoy last year’s amazing events.
A view from the new Emirates Cable Car is entrancing and deserves several ‘flights’ to take in all that is going on around Canning Town, with Crossrail engineering just below. On your return trip the view of the O2 and its Canary Wharf background will be radically changed when the 18-storey hotel is completed, changing the power and scale of the O2 – just like other high risers have done to the London panorama.
Be sure also to look down Albert Dock towards City Airport where Chinese interest, with the mayor’s backing, is to build yet another financial centre. I await further details!
Crossrail construction can be viewed from Canning Town DLR tracks as the line dives under the Royal Docks and under the Thames to Woolwich Arsenal. A keen eye will be able to follow the route close to City Airport where the new tracks follow the old LMS line especially near the giant Tate & Lyle sugar refinery, still in production but under a different owner! The industrial Purafood plant on the River Lea isthmus has been completely cleared as the tidal stream nears Trinity Buoy Wharf at Leamouth. Further closure downstream includes the vast Ford Motor plant at Dagenham which I was asked to draw for the Port of London Authority’s farewell to a once very active maritime client. By chance I sketched a ‘Cobelfret’ Ro Ro ferry leaving laden for Belgium. The renowned Dagenham Dock was the last working upper river wharf to handle oth imports and exports (do you remember what they were?). Tout lá change… (gear boxes actually!)