A sunny spring morning in Deptford
This is a good time to re-explore Thameside wharves and especially South Dock marina where an extraordinary craft was locking out at the top of the tide. A bulbous lifeboat without portholes, just an escape hatch which the skipper steered from. It was explained to me that she was an emergency lifeboat which was usually mounted on the stern of a cargo vessel, on a ramp from which launched the odd craft into the ocean when disaster threatened. Her powerful engine echoed around the lock while the lock keeper bade farewell.
The marina is well worth investigating as its residents live in an amazing cross section of craft from every corner of the world. I chatted happily to a proud owner who was busy on his motor cruiser’s hull, high and dry in a working boat yard. He told me he was going to spend the summer based at Ramsgate where he owned an interesting hotel overlooking the Channel.
Nearby a quartet were being briefed by Brompton Bikes prior to a guided tour by cycle of the Thames path, which included a transfer by cable car from the O2 over to the Royal Docks, then on to Trinity Buoy Wharf and onwards to Canary Wharf and then back by ferry into Rotherhithe – what an excellent wheeze!! Jack Blake is an artist who lives on board a converted tug. She briefed me on even more development proposals for even more waterside flats which are utilising the last of the brown field building sites – guess what, with even more high rise tower blocks.
Close by the historic Royal Victualing Yard with its spectacular classic architecture similar to the glories of Chatham and Portsmouth Dock Yards. Close to the Watergate a thoughtful nearby wall plaque supplied by a Californian History Society explains the exploratory voyages by Sir Francis Drake across the Atlantic and into the Pacific. Queen Elizabeth I welcomed him home and knighted him. His ship the Pelican – renamed The Golden Hind – was conserved for public viewing. Alas, the necessary scaffolding and platform collapsed under public pressure.
Next door the neighbouring Convoys Wharf, once part of the Royal Dockyard – is about to be developed with tower blocks, and all including the Sayes Court Garden area famed for its botanical prowess. John Evelyn, one of Sam Pepys’ ‘gang’, lived in a mansion here which was foolishly rented to Peter the Great. One can still see an ancient mulberry tree and the dockyard border formed by a holly hedge which the Tsar and his mates trashed. Let’s hope the Hong Kong developers pay homage to the river frontage and its bordering architectural gems.
The Times front page of April 18th 2016 highlighted ‘Gloriana’ in cracking form. I still think she could look spectacular at Dowells Wharf, mounted onto a floating dry dock just alongside Deptford Creek Bridge at the gateway to Greenwich town, wintering there for all to see!!
The frontage to New Capital Quay is easily accessed and adjacent to the Thames Path. Talk of alternative historic vessels to moor here would also add to the developing Creekside frontage of the River Ravensbourne. Perhaps even Brewery Wharf could become part of our maritime past with a suitable landmark quayside building too – what say you?