Green London Walk – 1

Bob Gilbert, creator and author of The Green London Way, led walkers’ first [“gritty”!] section from Stratford to Woolwich Arsenal on a richly varied route under sunny skies. A warm welcome to all – including Bob’s rescue greyhound Ash, most gentle presence. We gathered in Theatre Square aside Joan Littlewood for introductions and Bob’s stories of Theatre Royal’s historic contemporary, then a short turn into the Parish Church of St John’s – and a memorial to eighteen 16th century Protestant martyrs burnt at the stake on Stratford Green to a crowd of 20,000. Apace highway sprawl (outgrowth of the London Olympics, set on what was once Stratford Marsh) to Channelsea Path’s wildflower oasis of Lucerne wild carrot + parsnip / tufted vetch / hemlock / giant hog root… and the flutter of Common Blue, Holly Blue and Speckled Wood butterflies.
 

 
Outside the magnificent Abbey Mills pumping station, we were treated to a potted history of Victorian London’s sewage solution and its current upgrade. Then the warbling of whitethroats and chiffchaffs joined our chatter along a Greenway stretch between open spaces and regeneration’s rooftops. We traversed undulating wood-tracks and an A13 footbridge for a peaceful lunch by Beckton Park’s exotic tree trail, where some pollarded horse-chestnuts prompted Bob to explain how conkers directed both the outcome of WW1 and subsequent turns of history. Beyond a further swathe of parkland, a delicate Jersey cudweed pushing up between paving stones was a reminder that ‘green’ London presents on many a scale. Every detail observed. Down to the Thames via the burgeoning conurbation of Gallions Reach and on to a ‘Royal’ group of docks: three basins of impounded water, now largely redundant. Of the numerous plants on our river path, brownfield and waterside species grew on different sides. Bob was pleased to point out a rare Deptford Pink. And we were all wowed by a pair of great crested grebes in full breeding plumage bobbing close to the river’s edge. Stepping through Woolwich foot tunnel to emerge south of the river, Bob gave us more points of social history.
 

 
Lastly, we each paired up with Peter Burke’s 16-piece Assembly Sculpture by the entrance to Woolwich Arsenal Pier, before wading market bustle for a DLR seat home. (Actually / lastly, some of us dallied in a [dog-friendly!] pub…).
 
Huge thanks to Bob for joining us and sharing his knowledge, humour and wisdom.
 
The Green London Way by Bob Gilbert [ISBN 9 781907 103452] is for armchair as well as active walkers. You can also find the routes at http://www.greenlondonway.com/