Built in 2012 in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics, this is a sponsored Cable Car ride funded by the Emirates airline, and operated by Tfl. It’s a mile long cable car crossing of the Thames running between Royal Docks on the north shore and Greenwich Peninsula on the south shore.
I didn’t journey on the cable car, as that’s for another day, but I did explore the surrounds by the O2 arena, and along the Thames Path as far as the Thames Barrier. As the daylight hours are now shortening, I also practised some night time photography, so I hope you enjoy the overall outcome from this day?
The nearest point to the Peninsula terminus is North Greenwich on the Jubilee line; convenient for me as it’s just a short hop from Stratford. So I thought I’d have a look around the iconic O2 arena and do what every tourist and visitor does: take some pictures.
Did you know that the O2 and the land around it is private and the taking of pictures with a camera lens bigger than 35mm isn’t allowed without permission? No, neither did I until I was stopped by a local security officer who challenged me, politely, and asked what I was doing. I explained and showed the pictures I had taken and after a brief consultation with the security control I was allowed on my way and to continue with my quest. But not before I had checked the O2 website and explained to the security officer there was no mention of these arrangements and no direction as to who to seek prior approval from. I don’t mind complying, but it needs to be clearly set out how this can be achieved.
I suspect security were being extra vigilant as the ATP World Tour finals were being held at the O2. It may also have had something to do with the fact that near to where I was standing, some private filming was taking place. I spoke with one of the production staff who explained they too had been challenged and they too weren’t aware of the need for prior permission. They were filming for Dunlop Sports who it seems may be sponsoring the ATP World finals next year – you read it here first.
The land immediately between the O2 and the Peninsula terminal is a construction site awash with new residential and office complexes, but the striking wintery blue sky gave an excellent photo-opportunity backdrop creating shots I had envisaged are synonymous with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Visitors for the gondola (cable car) ride were sparse when I arrived, but nevertheless, the gondolas continue to operate with robotic regularity regardless of passengers, and I hadn’t realised that depending on demand, the speed of the ride varies. Travelling at off-peak, the journey normally takes 10 minutes with spectacular views across the Thames, however at peak times, this reduces to 5 minutes.
If you’re a Londoner, you can’t have escaped noticing how the Thames shore line has, and continues to change. Both on and off shore industries laying claim to wastelands over the decades as market globalisation took its toll affecting the social and economic environments.
But with great vision, and significant investment, the last generation or two have seen rapid re-generation in previously deprived areas, although the cost of the much sought after riverside apartments far exceed the ‘average Londoner’s’ capability. More recently, Local Authorities have adopted a better socially demographic approach to fashionable development in their boroughs ensuring a good mix of residential dwellings.
Whatever the constructional motive, developers have clearly embraced an appreciation of design and the wider visual statement their buildings make, and this was on full show along this part of the Thames Path walk.
A striking club with a club house standing in splendid isolation on stilts with the tide out. Notices around the club warn of deep mud and to avoid stepping off the path, so I take note but notice an intriguing collection of debris piled up. Could this simply be an attempt at cleaning up the shoreline, or is it in fact art? You decide.
I venture onto the private slipway to capture a better view of the surrounding views. Rather breathtaking I think.
As well as being used for recreation, the Thames is also a working river, and as I stop to look around, it’s surprising how many working vessels there are constantly on the move; be it pleasure clippers, ferries or tugs pulling barges.
The view along the length of the Thames shows immense contrast between old heritage and new build, and to be honest neither looks out of place. I think that’s one of the many dynamics of the river that makes it so interesting. Walking east, I pass by/through a couple of aggregate operations: Cemex and Day. You can’t miss them or avoid them, and they’re not really somewhere to stop and look at, but they’re a stark reminder of the working river.
A little further I come to the Anchor & Hope pub, a seemingly traditional working pub now catering for both the local working clientele and the passing tourist encouraged to walk this route. It appears I’ve now moved from Greenwich into Charlton, another borough I’ve not been to until now. Before moving on, I try to capture the essence of the pub, painted all in black except for a golden dome on one corner. Striking and attractive in a peculiar way.
I hadn’t planned to walk here, but the further I travelled the path I thought ‘oh well, it’s only another mile and a half: why not?’ I’m glad I did as it’s one of those landmarks I’ve never got close to in all my 30 years living in London. The pictures, like the O2, are iconic, and it was good to get close and try different compositions and filters. There are nine piers making up the barrier, and have you ever wondered how boats know which gap to go through as they navigate up and downstream? Well, the piers operate a traffic light system with a red cross and a green arrow indicating where to go through – simple really…
There’s a timely reminder that London City Airport is just across the river as planes take off during the afternoon, and I try to capture one doing so set between two piers.
Whilst here, I meet John and Catherine, a couple from Cambridge who were spending time walking the full length of the Thames. Today was the end of their third route; they explained they’re not doing the route in geographical order, but nevertheless intend on making sure they do complete it over a period of time. I wish them well as they head off, and as I walk through the tunnel that goes under the barrier, I see a wall etching outlining the full extent of the river.
Just a little further, I see a sign for a restaurant; I was gasping by now, but alas, it’s closed for winter. But I see another reminder that I’ve stepped into Charlton through an amusing yet informative map of local landmarks.
Heading around the front of the barrier buildings I see a small memorial garden and sculpture to commemorate those who died during the construction of the barrier – poignant and a harsh reality that building mega-structures remains hazardous.
It’s time to head back through Charlton; well the retail park area which is typically similar to every other country wide retail park. I don’t stop, but press on and by the time I get back to the Peninsula terminal it’s starting to get dark, so I decide to wait until it does and see how well my camera and I can capture the night view.
Let me know what you think…?
Picture of the Day
If you have visited the Greenwich Peninsula, you’ll be familiar with an unusual steel sculpture created by Antony Gormley celebrating the millennium entitled Quantum Cloud. If you haven’t, then this alone is worth a look even only for it’s provocativeness in asking ‘what’s it all about?’ Nevertheless, an interesting curiosity near the Greenwich Pier offering a bespoke backdrop to the gondolas crossing the river.
A bright clear sky helps to create an almost silhouette effect; and I’ve tried framing the sculpture with several gondolas from the overhead cable car which pass by at regular intervals. This shot captures two just passing each other in the top right hand corner, and are complemented by another two almost hidden in the shot.
The puff of cloud in the bottom left corner also helps to balance the picture against the gondolas in the opposite corner and helps with the silhouette effect too.
Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ7.1; Shutter Speed – 1/640; Focal Length – 155mm; Film Speed – ISO100; Google Photo Filter – None
YouTube, Instagram, Google Photos, Triptipedia – here I share some tips I use when travelling around London. A different twist on my ‘end of the line’ story
For more info, lookup Emirates Greenwich Peninsula on Wikipedia