Hidden London: East Rotherhithe Edition

The best way to explore London is on foot, discovering alleyways and stumbling upon churches – spotting things you couldn’t possibly see from the tube or even a bus. Thing is, even then it’s difficult to know why things are where they are; why they’re named what they are; and, more importantly, finding the things you didn’t even know were there.

For ages I’ve wanted a good walking guide to the city. City Walks – London has sat on my wishlist for ages – ever since I discovered Bee-Boppin’ the Boroughs which blogged the New York version – but without anyone ever buying it for me. Then, while on a book-buying spree in the London Transport Museum shop, I spotted London’s Hidden Walks and persuaded my sister to buy it for me as an Easter gift (she got two Cath Kidston for Uniqlo t-shirts, so I feel this was a fair deal). A sunny Bank Holiday with no plans other than a need to distract myself from my worldly worries seemed like the perfect occasion to try one of the walks out.

The book contains 13 walks, all aiming to take you into parts of the city you wouldn’t normally explore and reveal things you’d never even think to look for. As my only other Bank Holiday activity involved grocery shopping, I figured I’d start with a walk that began virtually on my doorstep – Canada Water to Greenwich, via Deptford. On reflection, it would have been better to do the walk in reverse seeing as my main supermarket was at the start of the walk, but I have enough map/directions issues without trying to read them backwards!

The walk was actually easy to follow, especially as much of it was along the Thames Path which is very well signposted. The only time I got lost was when I was instructed to come off the path in Deptford and was led into an estate that I wouldn’t normally have passed through. At one point my walk was interrupted by the arrival of three patrol cars and a police van – I think that says a lot. (This also rather surprised the hard-core ramblers I passed who were presumably following the Thames Path.) Actually, I generally wouldn’t go into Deptford at all and was dubious of its historic merits – turns out it’s actually quite a fascinating place…

I should have guessed that an estate named after Pepys meant the area was connected to the diarist, but didn’t expect to discover that Tsar Peter the Great lived there for a while too. Nor had I fully realised that Christopher Marlowe was killed on Deptford Strand. Or, that Deptford was such a hotspot for religious radicals (ok, Quakers) that the Church of England felt the need to build a massively imposing church in the town (for town it was until the city absorbed it) in order to reassert its presence. It all looked rather lovely in the unseasonally bright sun and all in all was just the distraction I needed.

Random things found along the river – a staircase to nowhere, and the spot on the strand where Marlowe’s body was found. 
 Deptford signage – proof that a Tsar [that’s the spelling I was taught in Russian history & I’m sticking to it] once lived here and a fabulously named playground.
 St Nicholas church – a beautiful, calm oasis in the middle of chaos and the Marlowe’s final resting place. 
The deliberately ostentatious St Paul’s and the uber fabulous Laban centre. 
Oh, and I knackered my sandals by the end of it. 
It’s the price you pay for walking miles along the mean streets of London. 
The rest of the photos are on Flickr and I’ll try and aim to do these fairly regularly. In fact, there’s another Bank Holiday Monday in the offing and I currently have no plans for it, so perhaps it could be a good day for another adventure. Fellow walkers are more than welcome, I’m sure it’ll be super fun!

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