Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Crossing the river at Woolwich

We were on our way back north from a holiday in Kent and missed the M25.

Now I could have owned up straight away and blamed my map reading but instead as you do I turned it into an adventure.

Our new route I discovered would take us past the old family house in Eltham and always one to seize an opportunity suggested to Tina that we make the river crossing at Woolwich on the ferry.

So we took the scenic route stopping in the High Street for some pasties and a look at the parish church, which in turn allowed me to talk about Saturday nights in the dance hall above Burtons, and on to Well Hall.

I rather fancied another stop at the Pleasaunce  to show off the Tudor Barn but could see consumer resistance setting in, it was after all a long drive to Manchester and I was in the passenger seat, so we just slowed down on Well Hall Road as we went past 294 and then up to Shooters Hill and the drop back down in to Woolwich. All of which impressed Tina as did the ferry.

Now those of us who have used it all our lives can be a tad dismissive of the journey.

You often have to wait a long time to get on, the trip across is short and often accompanied by gust of cold river wind, but it can still be pretty good.

Add to that a hot sunny day and we were set up for the long drive north.

And I had forgotten just how much the Thames still means to me.

Even now I only really feel at home as the train from Charing Cross passed over the river and we arrive at Waterloo which I grant you may sound so much romantic and nostalgic tosh but there you are that is how it is.

I suppose it’s partly because we never lived that far away from it and so for me it marks many of my childhood memories.  Like the time Jimmy O’Donnell, John Cox and I went exploring along the beach below Greenwich Pier.

We could have chosen the stretch in front of the Naval College which was clean and from memory even had a little sand.

Instead we took the steps down to the river beside the brick dome which contains the stairs to the start of the foot tunnel and turned upriver and past a couple of beached Thames barges and promptly sank in the oily mud up to our ankles and had to be rescued by a bargee.

Now I suppose we should have been thankful, but we still had to face a two mile walk back to New Cross and the inevitable inquest into how shoes and socks were covered in Thames mud.

To this day I have to admit that under the stern questioning of my mother and to my continued shame I blamed the other two for my misfortune.

Then of course it was still a working river all noise, dirt, powerful smells and full of cranes, barges and ships.

All of which was difficult for Tina to take in.  I told her about the old power station, the food factory I worked at and summers evening on the water front at the Cutty Sark pub listening the dull bang of the barges knocked together by the swell from a passing boat, none which quite fitted with the empty expanse looking east and west.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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