The much promised Indian Summer has been a little sporadic to say the least, so on sunday I determined to may the most of the glorious sunshine, and go and explore a rapidly changing corner of London. Before the millennium, chances are, the only reason you might have spent time on the Greenwich peninsula, was because you were sitting in traffic queuing to get through the Blackwall Tunnel. Of course, with the arrival of the Dome in 2000, what had been for many years an industrial wasteland, was slowly showing signs of coming back to life. The neighbouring Jubilee Line station and latterly the Emirates cable car, also helped to make a hitherto remote and hidden part of the city into somewhere more accessible. While the o2, as it’s now infuriatingly known, is now a well established London landmark, drawing crowds to all manner of events, how many venture a little further along the serpentine edge of the peninsula, or indeed, venture inland to its now pleasantly green centre? The area has a surprising amount to offer, and is the perfect size for an afternoon’s exploring.
Emerging from North Greenwich station, one is immediately confront by the Dome/o2. The building makes its presence felt throughout the peninsula, and acts as a lynchpin to the surrounding developments, much like St. Paul’s does in the city. Wherever you are, those instantly recognisable yellow masts poke cheerily into view.
Initially hugging the east side of the peninsula, I headed out past the cable car towards the Millennium Village. This was a showcase development designed by Ralph Erskine, using the latest in renewable energy technology. Its bulk is disguised by its patchwork structure of different heights and colours, but what sets it apart is the stunning landscape in which it sits. What was once toxic and polluted is now a tranquil and delightful Ecology Park. Strolling along the boardwalk over water filled with rushes and lilies, it’s hard to imagine that you’re only a tube stop away from Canary Wharf.
Across the park, they are building the latest phase of the village, which echoes the earlier buildings with its splashes of bold colour, but here in a slicker, some might say blander, style.
At this point, I started heading back via a verdant strip of park which leads all the way back to the Dome. And then a complete surprise. In the middle of all this newness, a quaint terrace of 19th century cottages, and a pretty old pub at the end, provided a striking contrast. The timing couldn’t be better, and the pause for a pint and a scotch egg was very welcome.
Then on a grassy hillock, I stumbled on these curious sheds. I’ve no idea what they were for.
Back at my starting point, but only half way through the walk, the last stretch would take me around the tip of the peninsula, circumnavigating the Dome. I’d already seen so much: an ecology park, a historic pub, and probably enough new housing to provide homes for twice as many Syrian refugees than the government plans to accept. Still to come, a beautiful school of art, a less beautiful new hotel, intrepid climbers, a beach, a garden bridge, and “a slice of reality”.
The Ravensbourne school of art building, designed by Foreign Office Architects.
Intrepid climbers scale the regions lowest peak.
And here’s that garden bridge I mentioned. Perhaps they don’t need to build the other one after all.
I’m sorry but the new Inter-Continental Hotel being built beside the Dome, must win the Carbuncle Cup for worst building on the peninsula.
And finally, “A slice of reality”, a piece of maritime art by Richard Wilson.
So, this meander is at an end. One last pleasure however is to board the train back at North Greenwich station, possibly my favourite on the network. The big blue whale of an underground station, designed by Will Alsop, sits beneath a winged transport interchange designed by Lord Foster.
More about some of the new developments being built around the Greenwich Peninsula, here.