There is stillness, a silence, around the Thames barrier. If you stop to listen more closely, all around you’ll hear the muffled echoing metallic clang and the chainsaw buzz of construction and development. You’ll hear the low-flying planes taking off and landing in City Airport. The dull crack of demolition. Seagulls squawking incessantly.
It’s a place I’ve never been before, but have always wanted to go, for no particular reason really. It’s a pretty place, peaceful, a long garden stretching out toward Pontoon Dock station where DLR trains arrive and depart every few minutes. Now I can say I’ve been there, though there is not much else around and you can’t walk very far along the river at this point.
The park was built on one of the most polluted sites in London where former PRChemicals factory sat. The decontamination process took years, but now it’s a beautiful space with long hedgerows and lavender that blows in the breeze. There’s also a small patch of meadowland.
Down by the river, in front of the barrier, the summer sun shimmers across the compact, cracked sand of the riverbed at low tide. Occasionally, a boat glides past sending small ripples up on the shore. Besides this, and the soaring, swooping gulls, there is little movement. Along the walkway, there are a few runners, a couple of people stretching against trees, but mainly it is quiet here, empty.
The impressive domes of the Thames barrier glisten against a nearly cloudless but hazy sky. They remind me of mini cathedrals, or of ships turned on their sides. It’s mid-morning. The water is much bluer than the murky brown of Fulham.
With not much else going on nearby, I headed back to North Greenwich and hopped off near the O2 with its yellow cranes reaching into the bright blue sky. As in Pontoon Dock, there is construction everywhere in North Greenwich. At least someone decided to get creative here. I think my favourite site of the day was not the Thames barrier but the Crayola coloured cranes brightening up a nearby construction site.
The cranes are the work of designer Morag Myerscough who was commissioned by Greenwich Peninsula developer Knight Dragon. They frame the construction of Upper Riverside where architects SOM have designed a series of riverfront prisms. I read a bit more about it when I got home. Here’s a quote from Morag about her fascination with cranes: “When I travel I collect images of temporary scaffold-clad structures, and for many years I have been fascinated by cranes. So to be asked to colour a group of cranes came at the perfect time. Cranes are so skeletal, standing elegantly, moving and sometimes even dancing around in the sky,” she muses. “The sky is continually changing colour, of course, and the cranes seemingly respond to the changes. I can see a yellow crane from my living room; yesterday the sky was stormy and the light was quite eerie and the crane just glowed.” (read more here)
I wandered along, down to the river, watching the cable cars of the Emirates airline crawl along the wires and over the river. Another thing I haven’t done, but that will be for another day. The reason I stopped in North Greenwich was to see the pop up exhibition Farmopolis, which will be up for about 14 months. Jorge had gone to their opening night a while ago as part of a work event and recommended popping in since I would be in the area.
Walk along Olympian Way and you’ll find it on the Jetty. In a partnership with the RHS, the team came together and rescued tens of thousands of leftover plants from this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. They have displayed them to create a beautiful space for workshops, lunch, drinks, live music and simply hanging out in the lounge area with a view over the river.
The plan is to bring together farming, food, arts and culture and switch things up as the seasons change. Their website explains better than I can: “With sights set on the future, we are planning a makers-space and food incubator, large-scale event and festival spaces, hydroponic farming and sustainable innovations, green spaces and orchards, farm-to-table restaurants and major art commissions, community engagement and event programming year-round across the harvest seasons.”
It was surprisingly empty, considering how lovely it is. Granted it was still only 11am. If you’re planning to be in the area, check out their schedule of events. There’s everything from flower crown making to hula performances to cross-generational workshops to storytelling sessions for the kids. You can learn screen-printing, ceramics and how to improve your smartphone photography.
After a walk through, I headed back toward the massive O2 structure looming in the distance. I wish there was more of this creativity and artistic vision in West London. The area in and around the Docklands is undergoing huge regeneration right now and it’s not the most pleasant place to be with so much construction, but I love that there are efforts to make the process more enjoyable for the people who live there already.
Back in West London, I swung by Duke of York Market on King’s Road because I heard by favourite London street food vendors, Souvlaki Street, had set up shop for the day. They’re there once a month and not to be missed. In fact, stay tuned, because I’ve interviewed them for one of the upcoming Small Business Breakfast posts!