The impact of the industrial revolution and its disruptive nature can sometimes be seen starkly.
Yesterday, acting on the advice of one of the guys that I’m renting my apartment from through AirBNB, I rode a Boris Bike down to Wapping, around half a kilometre South of here.
After trundling along past a huge brick wall for hundreds of metres, I turned down a street and found that it encircled what used to be the Tobacco Dock, just one of many dock areas which made up the former Port of London and one of the later evolutions of dock areas, providing greater security of inbound cargoes to minimise piracy and pilfering by mudlarks.
After following a series of canals which are now lined with housing, the path burst out onto the Thames bank, just East of Tower Bridge. Where formerly there was a babel and bustle of commerce and boats, there is now a view of massive contrasts.
Fascinating juxtaposition of images of the past, present and possible futures.
Now, to stand and look back toward the Tower Bridge, alongside the new apartment buildings, we
can only imagine how it must have looked when Monet painted this picture of a similar view.
Many of the old docks were reclaimed as the coming of steam ships meant larger ships, and their inability to come this far up river. Ships having to dock down at Tilbury and trans-ship cargoes by barge made this uneconomical and so change occurred. Just as today’s impact of the Digital Revolution has made some places and careers and skills redundant, here too is direct evidence of shift happening.
The streetscapes still show the cobbled intrigue of the past, with a bend almost beckoning the walker to see what lies beyond.
The river bank was dotted with pubs and warehouses. One, the Prospect of Whitby, still serves cask ale on the same spot it has occupied for over 400 years. I can just imagine that on a lovely summer day, the upstairs terrace, overlooking the river must be an awesome place to enjoy a pint!
Just to the north east of here is Shadwell Basin, one of the surviving former docks: connected to the Thames by a channel which now plays host to an outdoor adventure business; high ropes course, kayaks and climbing wall.
The entrance channel is bridged by an amazing lift bridge and the basin itself is now lined with houses, with the pavement reverberating to the pounding feet of multiple lunchtime joggers.
I used my City Cycle app to find the location of another Boris Bike rack and walked up to hire another bike and head East along the Cycle ‘Superhighway.’
First stop was the dock area at Limehouse, where new housing surrounds the former dock, where old riverboats with cute names like ‘Nifty’ act as houseboats and the DLR rushes across the viaduct in the background to Limehouse Station.
The cycleway continues on, East toward Canary Wharf and a veer left toward East India, on through Canning Town and then past the Emirates cable car and the new ExCel.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked on my app and had wrongly assumed that there would be Boris Bike docks at ExCel. Um, wrong!
The nearest dock was at East India DLR station so..a return cycle into the howling westerly which had forced the suspension of the cable car service and around 2k back to dock the bike at East India before getting the DLR back to ExCel!
As I waited for the approaching DLR service for Beckton via ExCel, I reflected in on the lines and design of a modern place for moving people and things.
Feasting on the bones of a rich heritage of comings and goings. East India DLR