On a Sunday spin


Today I saw ‘The World’ spin round on her axis just by the prime Meridian at historic Blackwall, where once emigrates joined their vessels for the new world. On searching for the Virginia Settlers’ monument I saw the incoming, vast, white ship pass by and calmly turn about aided by her escorting two tugs, in order to steam up Blackwall Reach to her moorings at Greenwich Tier. An occasion which seems to sum up the state of the nation as, yet again, we seem to be travelling up unknown waters!


Some years ago, I recall seeing the existing monument which once lay unloved hidden from public gaze, now replaced at the head of a newish residential development where once the giant Brunswick power station stood*. At the very moment that the tide was at its peak, a one-man canoe under sail passed by – a complete and bizarre contrast to the massive white cruise ship just beyond. The ship has now been converted to house the rich as they tour the world.

I was there to research the tale of Princess Pocahontas and the 400th anniversary of her journey homewards to her fatherland after a state visit to England. She became very sick and had to be landed at Gravesend where, alas, she died – more of this anon.

My first port of call on this Sunday morning outing was to Trinity Buoy Wharf – a fascinating settlement at the head of Leamouth and now an innovative arts centre and also the base for the Thames Clipper fast ferries, their latest newcomer painted in green and identified as ‘Fan Zone’, which was beyond my ken. Curious Kent was told it all related to the European Footie Championship and the Queen’s recent celebration!


It’s from here one can catch a ferry to the Millennium Pier, which is at the heart of a major development scheme encircling the great dome of the O2 – more anon too!


I then recharged with a bacon sandwich at a brand new wharfside café with a historic light ship (now a recording studio) parked alongside. Having identified my order by my Christian name, I was invited to share a table with a bright Yorkshire mum who was working overtime at a charity based just here. Revived, I sat with my sketch pad at the ready and, by luck, I saw ‘The World’ go by – one never knows what’s around the corner to be recorded!

boat003Just as I was enjoying a sundowner at home, a superb classical ‘steam’ driven yacht slipped past – on her way to the Med? Such elegance – I think she lives upstream near Richmond. The lady in charge was reclining in a fashionable deck chair right at the stern, perhaps with a Pimms ‘á la Henley’ in her hand – what a way to travel ‘tout seul’. I am sorry I didn’t catch her name.


*Close by East India Docks, Brunswick Wharf in Blackwall was once served by a direct rail link to Fenchurch St. Emigrant ships moored here, baggage handling and a hotel too. Later, it became Brunswick Power Station and, later still, a residential complex.

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

One response to “On a Sunday spin”

  1. Susan Miles says :

    Dear Peter – while shopping in the Greenwich Waitrose recently I struck up a casual conversation with a man over the vegetables, He said he hadn’t been in the store before as he lived on board ship, so imagining something similar to the yacht you mention in this post my curiosity prompted me to find out more. It is The World he explained. Gosh – so I asked if he lived there all the time? No, just six months of the year, the rest in California. So then I asked if there were still parts of the world he would like to see as he cruised round the globe, and he told me that as he used to take part in the Iron Man competitions he had seen everywhere he ever wished to see while competing. ‘Not bad for a poor boy from the mid west’ was his rejoinder. One can only try imagine his life’s journey, and how it might continue, and who his half yearly friends and neighbours might be. The mind boggles.

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