Docklands – old and new

Wander around Docklands’ oldest building and keep a look out for a giant newcomer

A visit to the Museum of Docklands at West India Quay DLR is highly recommended.  It’s located in the historic dock buildings which have been imaginatively restored and will appeal to both young and old.  There’s much to enjoy and perhaps too much to take on board for a single visit – but don’t be put off, we have found that the family so enjoy some of the more bloodthirsty exhibits, but the atmospheric displays appeal to their imaginations – an ideal venue for the long holiday and for your guests too!

Moored alongside the quay, various historic vessels reflect a real contrast to the high rise Canary Wharf office buildings.  The new Crossrail station, just beyond the footbridge, built into the dock itself is taking shape and will provide an even, speedier link in the City and the West End as well as extensions to the East and the very welcome fast track towards Heathrow and beyond to the Thames side town of Maidenhead.

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Meanwhile, immediately next door to the Museum, on the site of a Barclays Bank on West India Quay, London’s highest residential block is planned – even higher than Canary Wharf No.1 Canada Square – spanning the western end of the listed Dock (built by John Rennie in 1819). On an almost perfect square site, the proposed 74-storey luxury tower will, of course provide spectacular views similar in scale to the Shard and give its residents an amazing range of luxury eating and shopping in Canary Wharf’s ever expanding retail malls.  By chance I can remember looking down at West India Quay from the top of No.1 Canada Square when the Docklands Museum was officially opened, thinking to myself how remote the Quay looked in those days.  Residents might well share my reaction too – we both had a taste of luxury sleeping when we celebrated a wedding anniversary from the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel close by, closeted by a luxurious ambience =- a little different from down town East Greenwich!! (as noted by a member of Docklands Business Club who happened to have witnessed our checking in!).

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Reflecting water transport of yesteryear, one must welcome the arrival to Gillingham of a newly built ‘Medway Queen’, the replica of the famed paddle steamer which rescued thousands from the Dunkirk beaches.  She will be welcomed back to her home waters in the summer, when we can enjoy again the delights of historic paddle steamers.  The famed Clyde ship ‘Waverley’ visits both the Thames and Medway each year from her home port of Glasgow.  Balmoral, her sister ship, winters in Bristol’s Floating Dock close to the berth place of the ‘Medway Queen’ and the home and berth place of Brunel’s ‘Great Britain’ – perhaps the most travelled paddle steamer ever.  Let’s hope the ‘Medway Queen’ will have some of the amazing Victorian atmosphere of her sister ships.

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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