Walk No 21 –   From Aldgate at the Eastern End of the Metropolitan Line to Greenwich Cutty Sark Via Shadwell and Canary Wharf

Walk Distance  10 Kilometres (6.5 miles)  

Underfoot - Paved throughout

Journey Time from Central London   Aldgate is in Central London

Getting Back to Central London   By Docklands Light Railway (DLR) from Greenwich or Jubilee Line from Canary Wharf

Points of Interest   Tower of London, St Katherine Dock,  Shadwell Basin, Thames Path, Limehouse Basin, Canary Wharf, Greenwich Foot Tunnel, Cutty Sark and other attractions in Greenwich.

Refreshments -  Cafes, pubs and restaurants at St Katherine Dock, Canary Wharf and Greenwich.  Pub near Shadwell Basin.

Opportunities for Shortening This Walk -  You can finish the walk at Canary Wharf after 6KM and return to London by DLR or Jubilee Line.

What To Expect From This Walk 

This walk is stuffed full of unique locations.  It starts deep in the City of london at busy Aldgate Station and passes the Tower of London before diving under Tower Bridge Approach to reach St Katherine Dock.  From there onwards,  it leaves traditional tourist routes and goes via Spirit Quay and Shadwell Basin to reach the River Thames at King Edward VII Memorial Park where, at the time of writing,  walkers will see the huge engineering project to build London's new super sewer. A short stretch of the Thames Path brings us to attractive Limehouse basin with its picturesque boats and barges.  It is then a short walk to Canary Wharf with its super-modern architecture. The unique geography of Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs can be confusing; so please follow the route instructions.  The walk passes numerous docks and skyscrapers before reaching Mudchute Park. From there it goes underneath the Thames by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to emerge beside the iconic Cutty Sark.

Information on Things You Will See

St Katharine Docks  took their name from a 12thC hospital which stood on the site. The area was redeveloped by an Act of Parliament in 1825, and all the local houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital. The "modernisation" was designed by engineer Thomas Telford and was his only major project in London. To create as much quayside as possible, the docks were designed in the form of two linked basins both accessed via an entrance lock from the Thames. The new docks were officially opened in1828 and although well used, they were not a great commercial success as they were unable to accommodate large ships. They were badly damaged by bombing diuring the second world war and were finally closed in 1968.  In the 1970s most of the original warehouses were demolished and replaced by modern commercial buildings.  The area is now a popular leisure destination and features offices, private housing, a large hotel, shops and restaurants, a pub (the Dickens Inn) and a yachting marina.

Shadwell Basin is the most significant body of water surviving from the historical London Docks. Unlike the rest of the London Docks, which have been landfilled, Shadwell Basin, has been retained and is used for recreational purposes including sailing, canoeing and fishing. It is surrounded on three sides by a modern waterside housing development.

The Prospect of Whitby is a historic public house and claims to be the site of the oldest riverside tavern dating from 1520. It was formerly known as the Pelican and Devil’s Tavern.  In the 17thC it was the regular hostelry of “hanging” Judge Jeffreys.  A replica gallows and noose hangs near one of the windows commemorating his custom. According to legend, criminals would be tied up to posts in the water at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in. Following a fire in the early 19th century, the tavern was rebuilt and renamed The Prospect of Whitby, after a Tyne collier that used to berth next to the pub.

Limehouse Basin, in the borough of Tower Hamlets,  creates a navigable link between the River Thames and two major inland waterways: (1) the Regents Canal which leads to the Grand Union Canal and (2) the Lee Navigation via the Limehouse Cut. Built by the Regent's Canal Company, Limehouse Basin was formerly known as Regent's Canal Dock and was used by seagoing vessels and lighters to offload cargoes to canal barges, for onward transport along the whole of the canal network. In the mid19th century the dock and the canal were a major commercial success and supplied coal to gasworks and, latterly, electricity generating stations.  The basin is now used largely for recreation and leisure and the once derelict land surrounding it has been developed into luxury flats. 

Cutty Sark is a British Clipper ship built on the River Clyde in 1869.  She was one of the last tea clippers and one of the fastest,  coming at the end of a long period of design development, which ceased when sailing ships gave way to steam propulsion. The opening of the Suez Canal meant that steamships enjoyed a much shorter route  to China. So, Cutty Sark spent only a few years on the tea routes before turning to the trade in wool from Australia where she held the record sailing time to Britain for ten years. She continued as a cargo ship but was purchased in 1922 by retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman, who used her as a training ship operating from Falmouth.  After his death, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College and was later moved to a permanent dry dock for display and has become an iconic feature of Greenwich riverfront.