Green London Way Walk 2 : Woolwich to Greenwich
We adopted the ‘Loopers’ tried and tested method of striding through the duller parts of a walk and were soon rewarded with the site of the evocative St George’s Garrison Church, built in the 1860s to serve the Royal Artillery Barracks, bombed during World War II, but still used for open-air services. Among the surviving features are marble tablets listing the names of fallen
Gunners who received the Victoria Cross. We were then treated to the grand Georgian façade of the Royal Artillery Barracks, said to be the longest of its kind in Europe at 1,000 foot long, with a Statue of Victory, a Crimean War Memorial, located in the parade ground. Given the picturesque backdrop and military history the Barracks were chosen to host the shooting events at the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. We came across the first of two ha-has before reaching open common land where with the grass left uncut, flowers and butterflies have returned. Soon we entered an innocuous looking park to discover its raunchy history. Hornfair Park is named after an annual three day party, ‘the rudest fair in England’ where spirits were sold in wheelbarrows, and women were ‘especially impudent’. Prudish lawmakers put a stop to the fun and games in 1816. Who could argue with the description of our next stop,
Charlton House, as one of the finest Jacobean houses in the country, and ‘one of the most determinedly overlooked buildings in London’? We learned about the various tragedies that had befallen its residents, including Spencer Percival, whose dubious claim to fame was that he was the only prime minister to be assassinated in office. We admired the 400 or so year old gnarled black mulberry tree, almost certainly a legacy of James I’s attempts to introduce a silk industry – silk worm larvae preferring to munch on the leaves of the white mulberry. Here too were remnants of our second ha-ha. Lunch was taken on benches
overlooking the iconic Thames Barrier where we learned about its history and future challenges. By now were heading towards our destination along a less than pretty section of the Thames Path, and across the building site that is the Greenwich Peninsula. The highlights of this stretch included the 4 acre wetland Ecology Park, the glorious wild flowers along the bank of the Thames – which as inquisitive walkers discovered were sown from packets of Homebase seeds, and Ballast Quay, so called because gravel from Blackheath was loaded here before being sold for a good price on the continent. The street comprises lovely 17th houses and a Harbour Master’s office. Our final stop was the Cutty Sark: the ship which for 10 years held the record for the fastest journey from Australia – 73 days with Captain Woodget at the helm.