Saturday, May 31, 2014

Two sailing boats and one rusting man

Things on the Thames might not be as were in the day of Whistler, with the most famous of the great tea clippers locked ashore and this river man rusting on his plinth...
 But there's at least one sailing boat out there:

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Whistler's Wapping

The picture posted earlier was of the Angel pub, which is where Captain Cook recruited for his voyages around the world and, in particular, Whistler painted the picture above.

Called Wapping (described further here), its amazing to compare what has changed and what remains the same.

The pub and Thames are pretty much as they were in 1860 but the merchant shipping has gone, completely.

It really is remarkable to look back at London's long maritime history, of the docks, shipyards, thousands of boats, so thick and busy that Brunel built his famous Thames Tunnel, hundreds of years of tradition, now almost all gone.

But London and its river remains.

Picture Puzzle

Which American made the view from this pub famous?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Traders at the National Maritime Museum

When I blogged on Trinity House's 500th birthday (and what a cake it would have had to be to get that many candles on it) O'Docker assumed, not unreasonably, that I'd been to the exhibition at the National Maritime Museum on that subject.

I hadn't, but having gone through the Thames Tunnel on the first booking on Sunday morning (really heavy demand for those tickets) there was plenty of time to head downriver to Greenwich to have a look round.

To be honest it was a bit underwhelming, with a couple of videos of old salts heading off for a month on a lighthouse, but there seemed to be some new exhibits so I took the opportunity to look round, in particular the Traders.

This picture caught my eye:
It's the dockyard for the East India Company on the Thames and what a lot of boats they were building, serious ocean going transports.

But then there has never been another company like the "Honourable Company", which is probably just as well, given the colonial occupation of India, the Bengal famine and of course the Opium Wars, when blighty went to war with China because they wouldn't buy our opium (the cheek of it).

A highlight for me of the exhibition was this video:

Very thought provoking, with an interestingly diverse range of views.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Thames Tunnel

The picture posted earlier was from the Thames Tunnel, once described as the 8th wonder of the world.

It was the first tunnel built under a navigable river, constructed way back between 1825 and 1843 by the 20 year old Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his dad, Sir Marc.

It almost killed him. There were several floods and half a dozen workers were downed, and when we went through there was an ominous sound of water trickling from somewhere:
It's rare you have a chance to walk through as its currently used by the London Overground railway and there could be a bit of shock for visitors even if you weren't hit by a thundering train:
It was never used for its intended purposes, which was horses and carts, as they ran out of money before they could build the spiral ramp down. In fact finishing the tunnel itself was a bit touch and go before Brunel had the great idea of holding an investor's dinner actually in the half completed tunnel complete with brass band.

So after it finally got built it was eventually taken over by the world's oldest underground railway, the tube.

It took about fifteen minutes to walk to north London and another fifteen minutes back again, passing this plaque:
It really is remarkable bit of engineering for such a long time ago.

And the reason for all that effort, the piles of money and the death of the workers?

The docks, filled with thousands upon thousands of ships, whose tall masts prevented a bridge being built but drove demand for better transport links between south and north of the river.

Even deep underground you can't escape London's maritime history.

Update 1: there's a BBC video from inside the tunnel here.

Update 2: the ITV news article on the tunnel walk seems to have difficulty with the concept of 18th vs. 19th century.

Picture Puzzle

A couple of questions:

  • The first what?
  • Who?
  • When?
  • Why?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Arthur Beale Chandlery Reborn

On my way back from the Viking Exhibition at the British Museum I made my way down Shaftesbury Avenue, heading towards Seven Dials, where I remembered there was an old ship's chandlery.

Arthur Beale had been a bit tatty when I first moved to London, and that was many years ago now, and so I did wonder if it would still be there or had been blown away by harsh commercial realities.

I was delighted to find out it was still there and then, shortly after, discover it had been taken over by a group including Alasdair of the Sumara of Weymouth blog.

They'd sailed up to Jan Mayen, an island I long to be able to visit, north of where Tristan and I went for our Arctic sail, and the climbed the mighty Beerenberg with Siggi, who I sailed to Greenland with last year.

So after my walk to Greenwich I thought I'd check out what their plans were for this institutions, and it sounded very exciting.

I'd only poked around the book section previously and Alasdair showed me all over, including the basement that had an impressive and authentic looking workshop:
They had discovered all sorts of gems. As well as sailing equipment they'd also sold mountaineering gear such as rope and ice picks, and had memorabilia from Norway (below) and a ripping yarns of a telegram (top):
There was clearly a lot of work to re-organise and re-build the inventory and I'll keep an eye on how the work progresses.

But the idea seemed great: a shop for sailors and explorers run by sailors and explorers, with character and history, right in the heart of the city.

Can't wait to pop in again and discover what new expeditions, big and small, it has helped on their way.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Thames Path: Tower Bridge to Greenwich

After the treasures of Trinity House (back last Saturday) I followed the Thames Path from Tower Bridge to Greenwich.

It was walk organised by Walk4Life entitled Seafaring London and there were of host of maritime points of interest on the way.

We started off by Tower Bridge and plunged straight into the warehouses of Shad Thames, now of course converted into multi-million pound apartments:
 Around here is where Sikes from Dicken's Oliver Twist met his gruesome end:
This pub has a long history of being where Captains would go to recruit crew, including, well you can guess which ship:
We passed Deptford old docks on our right, where Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake sailed, and across the river on our left were the modern docklands:
As we made our way round the final bend of the Thames we could see the Cutty Sark and on the river before it sea cadets out for a row:
This rather nicely got me to the end of the previous walk from Erith to Greenwich.

Then it was time to catch the Clipper, the modern sort, back to central London as I had very exciting maritime shop to visit.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sailors got sent here

Well, naughty ones anyhow.

Picture puzzle: What does the "E" stand for?

Kayakers sent to the Tower

 Where are those kayakers going on this sunny Saturday?

Hmmm.... this doesn't look good:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Treasures of the Trinity House

Trinity House itself was full of goodies, such as this bell, from the Royal Yacht Britannia.

There was also this barometer:
As you can read in the text below, this was taken on the expedition ships used by Scott of the Antarctic:
Other gems included wooden star globes, models of boats including the Cutty Sark (alas all that glass meant they didn't photograph well), a real cannon ball and many paintings of men in wigs.

All in all an interesting place to spend 45 minutes, but then it was time to head off to the next stop on a day exploring London's maritime past...

Monday, May 19, 2014

500 Years of Trinity House

Yesterday's picture was of the coat of arms of Trinity House or more formally:

The Master Wardens and Assistants of the Guild Fraternity or Brotherhood of the most glorious and undivided Trinity and of St. Clement in the Parish of Deptford Strond in the County of Kent

Trinity House is the body responsible in the UK for lighthouses and navigation aids, buoys, channels markers and pilots.

It was formed 500 years ago by Henry VIII and as a celebration of that birthday they held an open day when you could wander around their splendid headquarters in London:
It looks wonderful, the sort of place you could imagine Samuel Pepys (who's many roles included being Master there) striding magisterially but actually its all been reconstructed.

Alas during World War 2 it was gutted after an incendiary bomb fell on the building, but fortunately there had been a comprehensive photo shoot done for Country Life so they were able to do a wonderful restoration job.

Rather less lucky was what happened to the paintings not as big as the ones here. The non-huge paintings were transfered to the Tower of London for safe keeping. However it was found they were suffering from water damage so it was arranged for them to be collected and sent out of London.

Alas the delivery pick up was from Trinity House and in the handful of days they were back in that building it was bombed.

Ah well, it does have a rather spectacular view:
Tomorrow: some of the goodies to be found inside!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gloriana flying many flags for the Tudor Pull 2014

Yesterday was the Tudor Pull and Gloriana came rowing downstream magisterially, with a host of flags waving in a strong breeze and surrounded by other brave rowers.

It was almost a statement of union, a flag for each of the home nations, all literally in the same boat.

Long may that continue!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The British Museum's disappointing Vikings Exhibition

What's the first thing you think about when someone says "Vikings"?

Long ships maybe? Axes or swords? Explorers? Traders? Discovering Vinland? Raiders of everywhere between Britain and Constantinople?

Well according to the British Museum what you should think of is broaches, for there're a lot of them in this extraordinarily boring and disappointing exhibition about Vikings.

Of course there's not just broaches, there are also clothing clasps, bangles, cups, combs and even horse stirrups.

I mean silly me, wanting to see one of those Viking navigation tools, the sunboards they used to cross the North Atlantic Ocean. What really mattered was their broaches.

Yes there is the great long ship (above) but its a metal shell for a few planks. Even the Evening Standard's Brian Sewell - not known as a sailor - had a long, long list of questions that were unanswered:

We cannot tell how it sat on the water, where the oarsmen were — were they aft, their weight keeping the prow high? Nor how many men there were, where they slept, where they kept their stores or stowed their booty. Was it in any way decked? Where could a Byzantine Emperor have dined? Could it be beached, or did it require a harbour? What were it colours? How big was its sail?

That could be why he called the exhibition a disaster. He wasn't alone in being disappointed - The Guardian felt equally let down.

I really can't find a reason to recommend you go apart from the fact that if you get a ticket to one of the late sessions you can wander round the Great Court nearly empty of people:
Even after being open for over a decade it still impresses.

Unlike this exhibition.

Sassi says 2016 is the new 2012!!

Hi Guys,

OMG!! We might be getting to have the best party ever all over again!!

Yup, told JP he was over-doing all that once-in-a-lifetime thing. The Olympics might be coming back to London!!

I must go shopping for a new party outfit, like, right now!! If only JP hadn't been such a tight arse and actually paid for all the work I did in 2012.

I'm going to party like it's 2012!! Again!!

Bring it on!!

Luv ya

Sassi xxx

Friday, May 09, 2014

Buff Staysail reviews the RS Aero

G’day all! Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

It looks like the world has gone RS Aero mad,  but will Buff be joining Tillerman in getting one?

Alas the video of Buff’s test sail was lost when the darn thing capsized and my iPhone 3S got dunked - which should tell you something!

So instead lets look at the Yachting World video with a bit of classic Buff commentary:

0:34 - Matthew fails to point out that the RS Aero has NO cup holders. Jeez, where’s my tinny meant to go?

0:55 - Matthew is clearly getting a wet bum here and it really doesn’t look good to have shorts with wet patches. Also for some reason the waterline was much lower on the one I tested

1:19 - Matthew needs to cleat the mainsheet off but despite a $ 7,000 price tag, RS’s budget didn’t seem to stretch to one

1:45 - How are you meant to sunbath on this thing’s foredeck? Doh!!

2:00 - Do you see how the boom is about to hit Matthew on the head at any moment? The RS Aero clearly has headroom issues

2:18 - See! Matthew is desperate for a cleat!

2:56 - Time to go swimming. Buff’s very familiar with this: typical of unstable dinghies.

3:06 - Eh? What happened? Now we’re ashore. Did he get it righted or not?

Ok, so on to the round-up of this self-declared light-weight.

Buff says: with no cup holders, no mainsheet cleat, no foredeck, lacking in headroom and having stability issues, the RS Aero is a toy for the wet-suit crowd, not something for the gentleman cruiser.

This is Buff Staysail, boat reviewer extraordinaire, over and out!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

The Thames Barrier is 30

One of the high spots of the Erith to Greenwich walk was passing by the Thames Barrier, which is 30 today.

With global warming raising sea levels the barrier has been getting busier and busier - raised 174 times in its lifetime so far to protect the capital plus additionally for testing.

Rather annoyingly the Thames Path is diverted just downstream from the barrier so you have to head inland for half a mile or so before getting up and close to this metallic guardian.

With a shape reminiscent of a row of Sydney Opera Houses and gleaming silver of a Cyberman its fair to say it has become one of the icons of London

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Thames Path from Erith to Greenwich

This weekend I followed the Londonist web site's advice and walked from Erith to Greenwich along the Thames path, and jolly good it was too.

According to Google Earth (above) it's around 13 miles - just over if you count the walk to and from the train stations (plus a bit of pootling about down jetties and diversions for ice creams).

The smelly bit mentioned in the earlier post is only a short distance but boy is it pungent: hold your nose and breath through your mouth for a bit.

Keep a look out for the Grandad sign on one derelict jetty while you go:
Across the river there was what looked like Boris's latest wheeze - a guillotine for when those giants get troublesome again:
I found the half way stopping point for lunch was Woolwich, home of the Arsenal (go the Gunners!) and this sculpture:
Then onwards!

The biggest sights (in every sense) were yet to come....

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Erith Photos

The Thames path at Erith runs between mud and marshes, with the odd example of industrial decay thrown in.

But there are great plans to expand London eastwards, so someday this could all be homes for the estimated 100,000 flocking to the city every year.

Monday, May 05, 2014

London's estuary marshlands

Yesterday's photo of a yacht sailing on the Thames was taken in Erith, and the question posed was whether it was in London or not.

Tillerman answered yes, and there is solid evidence on his side. Wikipedia shows Erith in Greater London and if that isn't categorical enough then you can get there on an Oyster card, so it is officially within the remit of London Transport.

But it doesn't feel like London.

You can walk on the Thames path for five or even ten minutes before seeing another walker. And then they say "good morning", sometimes even unprompted. Real Londoner's jaws are at this moment slack, as no Londoner spontaneously acknowledges another while travelling.

What's more you can't see the Shard and how can you still be in London and not see the Shard?
Strangely enough by the time you've walked far enough towards the centre to see the Shard people stop saying good morning.

It feels very different from urban populated London. The landscape seems inhuman, empty of people, where you can hear the throb of heavy machinery and the tweet of birds but not much else.
But you can't escape the city: your nose tells you it is there.

The great works of Joseph Bazelgette created the network of tunnels that transports London's sewage away from the centre down to the city's borders, the wastelands of the estuary.

And as you walk upriver passing the Erith Marshes you reach the Crossness Pumping Station and its equivalent on the northern bank:
The Great Stink never really left, it just got transported for life.