The Deptford Ride

Within days from my move-out date I finally decide to explore South-East London, around where I’ve been living for almost one year, and which I’m about to leave soon. Cycling through Deptford and Greenwich, pushing to the mythological Thames Barriers, the modern day Pillars of Hercules.

Pirates Skull, Deptford, St Andrews Church

 

The Deptford Pirates

The first stop was originally supposed to be also the last. Few minutes cycling and I reached St. Nicholas’ Church in the leafy and aptly named Deptford Green. What’s so special with this church? Its yard is guarded by a gate flanked by tall stone pillars, each mounted by a large skull and crossbones statue. Those evil looking skulls, more suitable at the gates of a comic villain than a church are not just beautiful but are probably the most famous skulls in the world. In fact, as the legend goes, they inspired Captain Henry Morgan for the renowned pirate flag.

But the weather was too good to go back home: days like that are rare currency in London and have to be enjoyed to the very last minute. So I decided to keep pedalling, just aiming to check if there is a way to cross the Deptford Creek. Unsurprisingly I found a bridge, so I kept going, reaching Cutty Sark before I could work out where I exactly was. The idea was to cycle through Greenwich park and eat my bacon sandwiches, but the Village centre looked too busy so I opted to follow the river, intrigued by what there can be once passed Old Royal Naval College.

Thames Barriers, London

Borders of the Known World

The Thames Barriers

It’s an abrupt change: from the regal, touristy and slightly posh Greenwich to one of those working class areas that you would normally see in Guy Ritchie’s movies. It took only 30 minutes of pebbled alley behind a pub. I was about to turn back when I saw a sign saying “Thames Barriers“, how could I possibly miss that?

Woolwich, Thames, LondonThe road is large and busy and, after negotiating two dreadful roundabouts I finally reached them. Gloriously glaring under the bright afternoon sun, the Barriers stood before me, like legendary guardians across the Thames, protecting London. But Martina was not with me this time, and I’m not an engineer so I snapped a couple of overexposed photos and I left. Sure they look better at night, approaching them by boat; but this is another story.

The Thames Path

From there I realised that there’s a path (it also has a website) running along the river banks all the way to Greenwich. For how I remembered the map of London and the distinctive shape drawn by the Thames, I would have just to work my way around the peninsula to get back to where I started.
The path is intermittent, sometimes it’s large and smoothly paved, but it gets rough and gravelly when cutting across building sites. Apparently there’s a lot going on there and I expect lots of people to settle there in the next few years, but now I barely met a soul every five minutes.

Cable Car Emirates

Rich People are Weird

I never liked the Millennium Dome, aka the O2 Arena, I find it horrible and it gets even worse when you go inside. Yet the man in charge managed to make the area even worse adding a cable car line leading into nowhere.
Now, I was expecting it but I have to admit that the tall pillars and the pods hovering in the sky offer quite an impressive view. But… did we really need it? Where is it going to and, mostly, who the hell needs to go there?

Rant aside the whole area is somehow fascinating: maybe because of the quiet times, it looked like an eerie, deserted lunatic park.

Cutty Sark Tavern

No trip can end without a pub

Following the river bend I came into view of maritime Greenwich, and the trip was already over. But there is one thing that never fails you in the UK when you need to cheer up, and this is the pub.
I wasn’t keen on going back home right then, and I was looking for an excuse to stay a bit longer when the Cutty Sark Tavern appeared as I steered around a corner.
In sheer contrast with the buzzing nearby area, this pub was quiet and solely populated by locals chatting and chilling at the tables by the river. I joined them with a summer ale and a glass of cold water, looking at the boats sliding under the towering Docklands

Docklands, London

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After being in Rome a few times without even looking at the Coliseum I realised that there's more to travel than sightseeing: meeting the local culture is what, 10 years later, determined the birth of this blog.

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