May Day and VE Day Celebrations

May Day! May Day! – once the call of distress but this year a weekend of VE Day celebrations and of traditional May Day jollities down at Deptford’s traditional pub, just by the site of the Royal Tudor Dockyard.  The landlord of the ‘Dog and Bell’ welcomed a motley crowd as they celebrated May Day in an ancient fashion, with Jack in Green leading a musical procession around our local boozers.

jack green001

By chance, as we investigated the traditional street market (which is well worth trying out), we spotted a photography mural in Frankham Street – a vast image of Deptford Royal Dockyard of yesteryear (do you remember the vast Caneletto at London Bridge station during the NMM’s most successful Royal River Exhibition in 2012?)

Armed with this image in our mind, we were able to join in this remarkable celebration performed by enthusiasts who had welcomed day break up on Primrose Hill!

the Lennox001

An idea to build a replica of a seventeenth century warship here by Deptford’s Watergate as part of the vast Convoys Wharf development project seems right and proper to celebrate our colourful maritime past;  just like the proposal to set Gloriana, the new royal barge, alongside the Waitrose store in Creek Road!

I also mused on the reason why the largest ship in the Royal Navy arrived here, just in time for the hustings.  VE Day was really significant for blitzed Deptford – the famous photo shot of Heinkels over blazing Docklands.


 HMS Ocean003

The return of HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest ship, to her Olympic guard ship moorings at Greenwich Tier Buoys was indeed a great event.  Four tugs nudged and strained to edge her into the very precise st of moorings, determined by bright yellow mooring buoys.  The necessary presence of a river pilot to oversee this delicate and lengthy procedure was indeed essential as the depth of water at the entrance to Deptford varies according to the tide.

HMS Ocean002

The Navy’s only amphibious assault ship was loaded with helicopters and a selection of landing craft, all well-guarded by armed Royal Marines and sailors at every vantage point.  All ready for the unimaginable over the election period and, of course, for the sober celebrations in Whitehall.  As on her previous stay, a constant trail of smoke arises from her as her sizeable crew have to be fed, watered and kept warm!  And no doubt be at the ready – aye, boys ready!!

massey shaw001

Also spotted in the river after a major refurbishment was the 1940’s fire float ‘Massey Shaw’, as trim as ever and surprisingly speedy too as she passed her old moorings where New Capital Quay now stands.

Look out for Magna Carta celebrations on the upper reaches of historic Thames in mid June.

In complete contrast, the Urban Village Fete at the O2’s public area at North Greenwich was indeed a spectacular occasion.  This vast new domain around the newly-opened park was en fete for the very first time on Sunday May 10th.  Let’s hope it will become an annual event.  Colourful tents and performers attracted a very lively crowd of every age.  Beautifully planned by one and all, and the brilliant sunny day sparkled amidst this adventurous architecture in complete contrast to historic Greenwich.  It feels more like Canary Wharf, its twin city.  The event attracted visitors from across the capital, speeded on their way by the brilliant Jubilee line.

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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