Monday, July 28, 2014

Walking vicariously!

Maps are fascinating things. At least in our household! While we don't have a compete set of OS maps, we have quite a few. When you scan the collection, memories of weeks in the Lakes District and the nearly trip to the Peaks come flooding back. We'd not been married very long when we planned to explore camping in the Peak District, only to be summoned to Nottingham for a family crisis. Looking back perhaps we should have said no and stuck to plans to have a holiday, but we're not wired that way at least we weren't then, and we duly took the train to Nottingham and did what we could.

Wherever we've lived and holidayed since, we've always bought maps. Spread out across the dining table, we have searched out footpaths and measured routes for possible walks. When we've gone out to walk we've often got a little lost or followed paths that aren't paths (my lack of colour sight doesn't help distinguish county boundaries from footpaths occasionally). But you do end up discovering places and scenery you never expected to see. You turn a corner and emerge from a wooded area suddenly to discover an amazing panoramic view falling away from you down some valley, or you find yourself wandering through the industrial docklands along the south bank of a river or canal. All very interesting.

Along with the maps are the many guidebooks we've collected. I suspect we could spend several years, if not decades, completing all the walks in all the books that occupy the maps box in the loft! This is when, if you're not careful, you walk vicariously! After all, reading the book is a lot less effort than actually lacing up your shoes and risking getting lost. We joked about this a little yesterday as set out to walk from Limehouse east towards the Thames Barrier.

Now, it's important to note that on Friday I went out for a walk around the village in a pair of trainers I thought were okay but that in fact were not. I ended up with two rather large and nasty blisters on my heels. Not unusual for me, I have awkward feet. But it did mean that they were still rather sore yesterday, and even with padding they were still a little painful at times. This meant that by the time we reached the O2 my feet had had enough, and although I'd have made it to the Barrier and back, it was better to head for home and leave that bit for another day.

So our walk began from Limehouse station via Canary Wharf. Anne was on call, so we had her laptop with us and we dropped it off at the office just in case she got a call. We figured that our intended route meant that she was always in reach of the office if needed. Having deposited the computer, we went off in search of maps and a drink while we decided the route. Two maps and two books purchased from Waterstones, we settled down on Pret a Manger to prepare ourselves.

The route is not complicated, and you don't really need the maps, but we like maps! We followed the Thames Path as is drifts to and from the river front passing all sorts of interesting little places. For example, there's an interesting little site where a large boat was launched broadside into the river and a little further east we discovered an old wharf, now redeveloped, that had the most stunning building, at least o my eyes. It looked rather mill-like with a chimney on one side, and although somewhat asymmetrical in design, it was just wonderful. Turns out it was a colour making factory.

We followed the path the Island Gardens where the Greenwich foot tunnel emerges on the north bank of the Thames (if I remember correctly this is the left bank by convention). Walking under the Thames is a nice cooling break from the hot sunshine we were enjoying above ground. Two idiots came past riding their bikes where they shouldn't be riding, but there are idiots everywhere and these were fine specimens of the species!

On the south side of the river we set off eastwards towards the O2 past the historic building of the Naval Academy. These opulent buildings eventually gave way to more modest architecture and industrialised areas the further east we went. Redevelopment was rife, with new and newish houses and apartments lining the riverside.

A few more twists and turns and we reached a sign that gave us two options. One offered us a mile long walk to the O2 via the riverside, the other a 3/4 mile walk to the same destination but cutting out the bend in the river. We were gong to go the shorter route, but when I saw the footbridge over the road at the entrance to the Blackwall tunnel, I opted for the the extra yards of the riverside path!

We were now in working wharf country as we passed Morden Wharf. Thames Clippers were powering up and down the river creating quite a wash as they did so, and the drone of large machinery at work among the graded sand piles of the wharf, reminded us that this was a working docklands still, no matter how much it has changed in the last 30 years.

Eventually we arrived at the O2 having walked a good 8 or 9 miles so far. Sitting in the restaurant we'd chosen for lunch, we decided that this was far enough for the day and after a lazy lunch we made it to the pier just in time to catch the clipper back to Canary Wharf to collect Anne's laptop and buy ice-cream. I convinced Anne to go for yoghurt instead and we took it out to Woods Wharf where we discovered a large screen and fan park for the Tour de France.

Suitably refreshed we set off home via the Jubilee Line and the C2C from West Ham, bumping into a couple we knew from Upminster. It's a small world!

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