Checking out of our hotel near London City Airport we headed to Greenwich where we enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the Gate Clock pub. Around the corner from here is the 19th century Cutty Sark, the world’s only surviving tea clipper.
The sailing ship has been raised over three metres so that visitors can walk beneath the vessel to admire its hull. Our idea was to take a walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, one of only two foot tunnels under the Thames in London (on Day 2 we walked through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel).
The foot tunnel entrance is just beside the Cutty Sark and it’s interesting to take a ride down the large wood panelled lift and walk through the tunnel from the Royal Borough of Greenwich at one side to Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs (Tower Hamlets) across the water. From this side of the river one can admire fine views of Maritime Greenwich.
Several rowing crews were out practising so we paused to watch them awhile before continuing our Sunday morning walk heading north west through Millwall Park to the dock basin, passing Mudchute DLR station on the way. Arriving at Millwall inner dock we passed a sailing school and watched some children dinghy sailing awhile. It’s so good to find sailing clubs so close to the huge financial and business hub of Canary Wharf.
Continuing, my son noticed a large naval vessel moored in the South Dock so we wandered over to take a look. We soon discovered that HMS Duncan, a type 45 destroyer was in port for the weekend and open to view. Few people seemed aware of this and after passing through security screening we were soon climbing on board this modern naval vessel which was only handed over to the fleet in 2011.
We were able to tour large parts of the ship starting on the deck where a Navy Wildcat helicopter was positioned. We viewed some cabins which looked particularly spacious having much better living conditions for the crew than older ships. HMS Duncan has a crew of 190 but can accommodate a further 50 if needed. Next we saw the Officers Mess, and in the Operations Room we were invited to sit and view the shipping charts. It really was an unexpected treat to take a tour of the ship and back on land the Southend Sea Cadets had a welcoming fundraising stall selling cakes and drinks.
A few minutes later we arrived at Canary Wharf where we visited the Museum of London Docklands located in a converted dockside warehouse at West India Quay. This is another of London’s lesser known museums but one we always enjoy visiting. Admission is free and it’s open daily between 10.00 am and 6.00 pm.
This interesting museum contains eight galleries starting with the building of the dock in 1802 demonstrating how the docks and warehouses operated. We then learnt about Trade Expansion – how ships sailed from London to India and China bringing back cargoes of tea, spices and silk. We walked through a re-created street ‘Sailortown’ and explored the dark alleyways of this impoverished part of the city.
By 1880 London was the world’s busiest port and until the outbreak of the Second World War the warehouses along the Thames contained almost every commodity, but by the 1960’s the docks declined, finally closing in the 1980’s.
The final gallery brought us up-to-date with Europe’s largest regeneration project, transforming Docklands into one of the world’s largest financial and business centres together with the building of the Docklands Light Railway and the extension of the Jubilee Line.
If you do get an opportunity to visit, I’m sure you will find this museum very enjoyable and interesting. It was then mid afternoon so we headed off for afternoon tea at John Lewis on Oxford Street. I’m not a fan of Oxford Street except for visiting John Lewis and Selfridges, but our tea and cakes were very nice.
We ended the day with a walk along the South Bank near Waterloo and just had enough time for our favourite Romana Padana goats cheese and caramelised onion pizzas in a branch of Pizza Express before our late evening trains back home – the end of another lovely, long weekend in London.
If you are looking for more ideas of what to see and do in London you might like to read about my previous weekends visits to the capital: