The Thames Path - Walk 3
Chelsea Bridge to River Lea/East India Docks
Picking up the path at Chelsea Bridge, today's walk completed the downstream section of the Thames Path. Officially the National Trail ends at the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, however Tower Hamlets decided to extend the walk to East India Docks (look out for 'barge' markers rather than the 'acorn' along this extension section). This section of the walk is packed full of things to see, and I have listed a few of my favourite here.
The Tate Britain is situated on the site of the former Millbank Prison. Opened in 1897 it was originally named the National Gallery of British Art, but was commonly known as the Tate Gallery after its founder Sir Henry Tate. In 1932 it officially changed its name to the Tate Gallery and in 2000 to the Tate Britain when the Tate Modern opened. The Tate Britain is the national gallery of British art from 1500 to the present day and houses one of the most comprehensive collection of its kind in the world.
The Palace of Westminster is the meeting place for the UK Parliament but it was the site of a royal palace from the 11th century until 1512 when a fire destroyed much of it. After that it became it became home for the English Parliament, which had been meeting there since the 13th century, and the seat for the Royal Courts of Justice. There was another fire in 1834 and only the medieval Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St. Stephen's, the Chapel of St. Mary Undercroft and the Jewel Tower survived. The current building, in the Gothic Revival style, was designed by Charles Barry.
Westminster Abbey, or the Collegiate Church of St. Peter at Westminster is a 'Royal Peculiar'. It was once an abbey church, then a cathedral, but since 1560 it is neither, and is now a church responsible directly to the sovereign. It is the traditional coronation and burial site for English and then British monarchs. Both the Palace and Abbey are Grade I listed and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Somerset House, originally the site of a Tudor palace, was designed by Sir William Chambers in 1776 and further extended with Victorian wings to the east and west. It is now a major arts and cultural centre hosting many contemporary exhibitions and events.
The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, was founded towards the end of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The White Tower was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 as a symbol of the new rule. It has been a Royal palace, an armoury, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. Today it is a popular tourist attraction which is cared for by the Historic Royal Palaces charity and is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Canary Wharf is located on the West India Docks on the Isle of Dogs, from 1802 to 1939 the area was one of the busiest docks in the world, but by the 1960s the port industry began to decline and by 1980 the docks had closed. The Canary Wharf estate occupies the north and south side of the Import Dock (North Dock), both sides of the Export Dock (Middle Dock) and the north side of the South Dock. The name Canary Wharf is from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay (Import Dock) which was used for fruit trade from the Mediterranean and Canary Islands.
The extension section of the path follows the river on the east side of the Isle of Dogs and ends near East India Docks which was opened after the success of the West India Docks but in 1967 it was the first of the London docks to close. Today most of the docks have been filled in, with only the entrance basin remaining. Street names around the former docks reflect some of the goods which would have been traded there: Nutmeg Lane, Coriander Avenue and Oregano Drive to name but a few.
Distance: around 12.5 miles.