Curdling the blood seems to be the main aim of the Met weather forecasters these days as they go about their appointed task. Even so, despite a week of dire warnings about dreadful conditions for the ORAA 2014 New Year Ramble, 20 brave walkers assembled in the shadow of the Monument close to Pudding Lane to brave the elements on our North of the Thames to Greenwich outing. (Slightly pusillanimously, an almost indoor alternative had been arranged: train, plus an underwater walk to Greenwich. It wasn’t needed, at least not in that form. See on.)
Rain held off as Ramblers decided to walk, not entrain, and down the river we went, heralded by the 12 fine bells of St Laurence Martyr: an auspicious start. We stopped for a group photo (luckily early on, as it turned out) by Tower Bridge, but at St Katherine’s Dock the Thames Path was cordoned off, the authorities perhaps reacting to weather fears for their legal responsibilities if walkers got splashed by the tide.
This turned out to be a theme of the walk: key permissive paths gated and closed, so that we were forced away from the riverside for quite a lot of the way. The alternative along the cobbles of former warehouse streets in Limehouse and Wapping is not uninteresting, but it lacks the frisson of the unfolding river. Surely planning permission for redevelopment along the Thames should have been granted only on condition of restoring public access to this enthralling stretch of water? Most of the new apartments do not look over-occupied at the weekends, anyway, so few would be disturbed by ramblers.
The Prospect of Whitby diverted attention from walking, and momentum was lost over relaxation and refreshments. When the party emerged from the pub at noon, the wind had whipped up along the waterfront and nasty rain scudded in, as promised by the Met. After a bit of struggling along the Thames this led to a first ever decision formally to abandon a walk, leaving participants to continue by means other than an ambulatory or return homewards by bus or DLR, which was quite close by.
The parting of the ways came at Westferry Circus, convenient for the DLR to Greenwich, the main endpoint of the emergency bad weather plan promulgated earlier in the week. But at this point the rain stopped, the sky brightened and two of the 20 decided to complete the walk to Greenwich on foot. It was fine and brisk with bold open views across the river to that mysterious country north east of the Old Kent Road. What happens there?
Gladly we made Island Gardens—the original walk target—in the dry, and tunnel and then enjoyed the “indoors if wet” alternative ramble through the Greenwich Tunnel to the south bank of the river where an advance and sober portion of the party were waiting for food at the Trafalgar Tavern, notably quieter than normal because of the forecasters, said the barman.
No pudding on this occasion, in memory of an absent pudding friend. But a big cultural rush after lunch, at the superb Turner and the Sea exhibition at the superb National Maritime Museum. It was a heady reminder of how groundbreaking Turner was, enormously accessible and simply dazzling thus exercised, fed and pumped up with art, we took the train home.
A slightly chaotic and multichoice start to 2014, but a rewarding one, especially from the artistic point of view. Ya Boo Sucks to the weather persons. But it was the first time rain has ever come anywhere near stopping play.
Let’s hope spring is wonderful and warm, on the last Saturday in April, the 26th.
Words and Pictures: Peter and Annie
More of Annie and Peter’s pictures of previous Thameside outings:
Want to relive past walks? Find them in the Archive