Ramblings about London, rivers, nature, poetry, walks

I recently got a new job, which I won't talk about here, because I know how the internet works, except to say that it is awesome and I love it, for many reasons. One reason I am really enjoying having my new job is that it is located within walking distance of my house.

I have found that since living in London my perception of 'walking distance' has mutated wildly.

When I was a teenager - not in London - working in a stationery shop on Saturdays, I'd pretty much always have my mum come and pick me up at the end of the day, because I lived a 20 minute walk away, and that was just an unreasonable distance to expect me to travel on my feet. 

When I was a student, I walked everywhere, because there literally wasn't another option, but I lived in beautiful Durham, where everything no more than a scenic 30 minutes away from everywhere else. 

When I moved to London, I assumed that if a place was one stop away on the tube, that meant it was too far to walk, and I spent a good year and a half riding the tube everrrywhere.

These days, however, I have discovered that this is categorically not the case, and by walking between two places in London I not only get some (much-needed) exercise, but also almost invariably come across some wonderful sights that make me go "what?!" and pull silly, embarrassing faces.

Yesterday was no exception. I was actually having a (for me) really productive Saturday. I'd knocked a whole bunch of things off my to-do list and was feeling pretty good. However, I had only been inside my home doing things, and I hadn't been carrying my phone around with me, so when I checked my step count at 3pm, it read '12'. Like, it thought I'd taken T W E L V E steps all day. In reality it was probably more like 60, and I simply could not let this go on my permanent record. One of the next things on my list (just after changing my bed sheets and just before blogging!) was to take a walk. I decided to do just that. 

My beloved new job is actually moving its head office in July from its current, delightfully walkable location to North Greenwich. So, I decided to find out how walkable North Greenwich is from my house (turns out, really not that walkable).

My route took me south from Mile End, down to the bottom tip of the meander of the Thames and back up north to the Greenwich Peninsula, and the O2 Arena. My deeply unreliable phone told me it was around 13km, but I think it was quite a lot less than that in reality. 

A lot of the walk took me along the beautiful Thames Path. If I had to pick my favourite place in London, I think I might pick the entire length of the Thames Path. Every moment I spend there is filled with good feelings. If I were a better writer, I would one day compose a piece about the feeling it gives me, but until that moment, I'll allow William Wordsworth to say it better than I ever could:

Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

I was not at any point on Westminster bridge, and it was dusk rather than early morning, and the air wasn't exactly smokeless, and it was certainly not 'open unto the fields' but you get the idea. When I stare out at the Thames, I get overwhelmed by the permanence of the thing. Sure, it's moved around a bit, and the land all around it looks unrecognisably different, but the big, heaving vein (artery? I am neither a geographer nor a biologist...) in the centre of my city has been there longer than anything else. It demands its own big mass of space, and carries on flowing through urbanisation, war, the rise and fall of industry. It just is.

I think being near something so primal and so aggressively part of the natural world, even in the middle of such brutal urbanisation, makes me feel kind of at home. I'm hardly a country girl, but I've always lived close enough to open fields to be able to get into that environment within a few minutes, and I think that's what the river gives me.
The bottom tip of the Isle of Dogs at dusk.
[Side note: Jimmy Nail's 'Big 'River' genuinely just came on shuffle and I'M NOT CRYING YOU'RE CRYING]

So the river is beautiful and gives me a lot of feelings. I was walking along it, looking across to the south bank (from where I took the above picture, sorry it's out of order) and I knew eventually I'd get to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. I don't know what I was expecting, but it somehow wasn't this:

I walked the length of this magical tunnel, feeling the whole time that I had never felt more like I was in the opening scenes of a horror film. At one point the one of the lights actually started flickering and I knew the end was near. But then the actual end was near and I got into a giant, wood-panelled lift to re-emerge on dry land in an even more magical place! I had no idea where I would come out (I had put very little research into this walk) and so when I found the exit at the other end, it was like I'd teleported!

The actual CUTTY SARK!
London is a wondrous place, with new discoveries around every corner!

The rest of the story is that I saw the beautiful Former Royal Naval College, marvelled at the river some more, got a bit lost in a terrifying wasteland on the North Greenwich peninsula, and finally made it to the O2 and my new workplace! It took over 2 hours, so probably won't be walking to work after the summer, but it was one of the most beautiful walks I've ever been on, so I hope I work up the stamina to walk home sometimes when we move. 

London is awesome and I am still in love with it.