Old Father Thames

My ramblings find me at Thameside youth hostel which is situated in Rothehithe, the site of the old Surrey Docks. I took the opportunity to walk along the Thames footpath from Rothehithe to Tower Bridge on the south side of the Thames and then along the north through, Wapping, Limehouse and eventually Canary Wharf, before meandering down alongside the Isle of Dogs to the Greenwich foot-tunnel. Once across to the other side it was west again through Deptford, the site of a famous naval yard in Nelson’s time, back to the hostel. A wonderfully enlightening walk that left me with many observations and questions concerning the quality of River life.

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Rambling on the River! Tower Bridge.

London was once the greatest sea port in the world, with ships crowding into the docks from Tilbury in the estuary right down to Tower Bridge and the London Pool. Tragically the arrival of the container trade destroyed most of the old communities around Bermondsey, Rothehithe, Wapping, and Limehouse, leaving it in much the same way as Tyneside and Merseyside in the north… totally redundant, with communities wondering what was next. It wasn’t enough to work hard for year after year, providing for one’s family – for the huge Globalist monster’s appetite will never be satisfied until the last of us are squeezed dry.


The once great pool of London around Tower Bridge now redundant, except for small, rich elitist groups of boat owners, who never leave their moorings.

So ‘times have a changed’, as Bob Dylan thought they would, and I suppose if a clean, non-working river is one’s heart’s desire, then all is fine and dandy. After all, who cares about the odd community hear and there? No more unions means no more protection for the workforce who are now utterly at the mercy of rapacious employers throughout the nation. So all those nasty rabble-rousers campaigning for a decent living wage for a hard day’s work, can jolly well sod orff.

So what now?


A rare glimpse of the ‘soul’ so desperately missing from the River Thames these days.

Well, there’s no doubt that the wealth generated from the dockland redevelopment is huge and that some folk have benefitted massively; however, I couldn’t help feeling that the endless, post modernist, glass buildings and twee, new build apartments lack something. Where were all the people? Having been bought up on the banks of the River Tyne, there were so many folk around. We played by the river, our relatives worked alongside its banks, from Newcastle and Gateshead, right down to South Shields. We were the river, and the river was us.

'Old and New'

‘Old and New’ Evidence of the community that once was in Deptford on the south side of the Thames.

If I’m honest, I’d have to conclude that the nation’s most important river has lost its soul. The ghosts of the sounds of children playing have been replaced by the bleak wind that whistles through the soulless new properties. From time to time the Thames path would enter an area of the old fifties and sixties social housing and it was here that the only community I encountered seemed to be, with the sound of reggae pounding through the apartment blocks. These scary, old developments used to be no-go areas back in the time of the Brixton riots, but now, ironically, I was almost glad to leave all the concrete and glass for something a little more human.


The Greenwich foot tunnel takes the walker under the Thames from Millwall on the Isle of Dogs to the south bank of the river.

The foot tunnel between the Isle of Dogs and Greenwich is truly an amazing feet of engineering and rarely encountered by tourists unless accidentally. It was finished in 1902, enabling dock workers to cross the river from the south bank to their place of work in the many working docks on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet long (371 metres).


The world’s most beautiful sailing ship ever built? The tea-clipper ‘Cutty Sark’ a Greenwich legend, and one of the fastest sailing ships ever built.

On ascending the other side into Greenwich, the appearance of the masts and spars of the ‘Cutty Sark’ is enough to truly raise one’s spirits, and for me cancelled out the sadness of the bleak dockland development.

Isn’t it incredible how mankind is capable of such beauty and horror?

I returned to the hostel with the chilly, easterly wind blowing discarded litter and fast-food cartons alongside me. My reflections after a long walk were a mixed bag. Yes, I know this is a globalised world and ‘progress’ rolls on relentlessly. I also remember personally, the hard and often dangerous conditions of the dock and shipyard workers, but are we losing our souls? Where is the beauty? What is the point of all this money? When was the last time you actually had a conversation with a stranger that had any degree of profundity without a mobile phone distracting you or having yet another task to complete? What actually is the point of living?

I hope we haven’t gone too far down the road to the god of materialism, but I can’t say I’m optimistic. One visit to the London Docklands makes be glad to be living my strange, but genuine little life and I am truly grateful for it. My heart cries inwardly for the children who never played as I did, with my pals by the big river…




About Viking Queen

I am a sailor and I live on my boat 'Free'. I have no home but originate from Tyneside. I have no allegiance, just a desire to do no harm and live with courage and an open heart.
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13 Responses to Old Father Thames

  1. cornishtim says:

    I lived and worked in Greenwich/Woolwich/Charlton for 40 years and the changes have been enormous ’tis true. Safe to say I don’t miss it down here in the quiet of Cornwall. In fact I get quite stressed when I visit South London these days. Soon you will be back to your sea gypsy ways and the space that will offer.

  2. Liz says:

    Captured in one, Poppy
    That’s how we feel being priced out of our mooring along with the other ‘real’ sailors, to make way for luxury houseboats. Hey ho, what comes around, goes around.
    Tony has just finished your fabulous book ‘Tickling the Eagle’ and found it as gripping and page turning as I did. He sends his love and admiration to a talented writer. Good luck with your current oeuvre. All good things, Liz xx

    • Viking Queen says:

      Hi Liz! Now you have me worried… What do you mean priced out? Are they trying to get rid of you? Thanks to Tony for his kind words. Signed copies of the deluxe version will be delivered to you when I’m famous!😉

  3. Roger Lundqvist says:

    Well, what to say you said it all. I can only agree with your thoughts.
    But I think it is important to reflect over where the society heading, it make it easer to appreciate my own life.

    • Viking Queen says:

      True Roger, but in the end we have to view the world through our own eyes and not those of others. That is the only real power we have.

  4. Ours was a good hearty childhood. Children seem to have modern day stressors. More entertainment that leaves them feeling detached from the real worldand lacking in concentration and imagination. I use mobile phones but refuse to let them intrude on my socialising to the point that I might take many hours before I respobd to a text or missed call! I can totally see the soul has been lost from this area. It has happened here too.

  5. Hey Poppy!! Miss you and great to hear that your fine. when you go up to Sweden again?

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