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

 

 

Distance8

10 km (6 miles)

Underfoot

Paved throughout

Outward Journey

Metropolitan Line to Aldgate : About 10 minutes from Central London

Return 

By DLR, train or river boat from Greenwich

Points of Interest

Tower of London, St Katherine Docks, Sprit Quay, Shadwell, Limehouse Basin, Canary Wharf, Mudchute, Maritime Greenwich

Refreshments

Cafes and pubs at several points along the walk

Public Toilets

Tower Hill (Trinity Gardens) and Canary Wharf

Shortening the Walk

Finsh at Canary Wharf  after 6Km (DLR, Jubilee Line, boat to Central London)

 

 

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. Maritime Greenwich, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum and the old Royal Naval College.

 

 

Route Directions

1. Leave Aldgate Station and cross Aldgate High Street. Walk ahead down a pathway to the left of a bus depot to reach a road called Minories. Turn left here and cross to the right-hand footway. Go underneath a bridge and continue to the end of the road to reach Tower Hill. Still staying on the same footway, you swing right. After 100m you go down to a pedestrian underpass on your right which takes you under the road. You come out onto a walkway with the Tower of London ahead. Turn left and follow the walkway for 250m to go through a pedestrian tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, turn right and walk down an alleyway with an office block on your left. Turn left and enter St Katharine Docks. 

2. Go ahead along a boardwalk, with the dock to the right and restaurants to the left. Turn right at the corner and continue with the water on your right. Go through a walkway under some buildings and emerge facing another dock. Turn left, continue to the end of the walkway and turn right over a metal bridge. The Dickens Inn is on your left. Turn half-right and walk across a pedestrian area to turn left to pass between buildings. The one on the left is called Marble Quay. Exit St Katharine Docks and go ahead on St Katharine’s Way. After 100m look out for a pathway on the right with a Thames Path sign. Follow this down to the Thames to a terrace which has a fine view back to Tower Bridge. At the end of the terrace, turn left in order to join St Katharine’s Way again, at the point where it joins Wapping High Street. 

3. Turn right and walk for 40m across a bridge. Do not continue ahead along the riverside, but turn left towards a sign for "Redmead Lane Leading to Hermitage Walk". Pass through a gateway and enter Hermitage Basin, with the water on your left. At the end of the basin turn left and then right to descend some steps. Go ahead briefly and turn right, following signs for Shadwell Basin, to reach Spirit Quay. Follow the quayside for 1 km as it turns left and then right. You pass Tobacco Dock, where there are two ships in dry dock. Continue under a bridge and ascend slightly to reach an area of grass and trees with the grand title of Wapping Woods. Continue across, and slightly to the left, on a broad path, to reach a waterside walkway on the other side. 

4. After another 150m reach Shadwell Basin. Turn left and walk around three sides of the dock to reach Glamis Road.  On your right is a bridge which in former times could be raised to allow ships to enter the docks. Beyond that, you can see The Prospect of Whitby, reputed to be the oldest riverside pub in London and well worth a short detour. Cross Glamis Road and enter a pathway with a Thames Path signpost. Walk down to the river.  Turn left and walk through the  King Edward VII Memorial Park along the river bank. 

At the time of writing, there were diversions here around the construction site of London’s new super sewer. Follow the riverside for 400m. Turn left and right around a block of flats to join Narrow Street and walk ahead for another 400m to cross a bridge at the entrance to Limehouse Basin. Turn left along the right-hand side of the marina and climb some steps to cross a metal bridge over Limehouse Cut. At the end of the bridge turn right and walk for 50m to turn right again over another bridge. Enter a small park called Ropemakers Fields. Walk through the park to emerge again on Narrow Street. 

5. Turn left for 50m and then turn right to pass between buildings and join a walkway beside the river. Cross a curving bridge and turn left along the Thames to reach Canary Wharf Pier. Turn left and climb the steps leading to street level. Go ahead across Westferry Circus and join West India Avenue, a dual carriageway which leads directly towards the high-rise buildings of Canary Wharf. Walk up to Cabot Square with its fountains. From the centre  of Cabot Square, turn right, cross a road and go down Cubitt Steps. Turn left along MacKenzie Walk, past restaurants and bars. Go under the Dockland Light Railway and continue to Reuters Plaza. Turn right with the Jubilee Line Station on your left. You can return to Central London from here. 

6. To continue the walk, go past the station entrance and across a road, towards 35 Bank Street. The foyer of this building is a pedestrian route. Enter and walk ahead to exit on the far side of the lobby. Climb some steps and cross a metal bridge over South Dock. Turn left at the end and walk along the quayside for 200m. Turn right  between some low-walled grassy beds to a road (Marsh Wall). Cross at the pedestrian lights and turn left beneath the track of the DLR. 

7. Before reaching the entrance to South Quay DLR Station, turn right and walk down the side of Millwall Inner Dock. After 500m, at Pepper Street, turn left over a small bridge. Turn right and walk with the water now on your right. After 200m the walkway swings to the left and you can see Millwall Outer Dock, a large area of water on your right. Turn left on a path which goes through the centre of a semi-circular area of grass. Descend some steps, go under the DLR and cross East Ferry Road to enter  Mudchute Park. Climb up some steps and turn right along an elevated path.

8.  Walk for 200m to a corner where the path turns left. Leave the path, go down a ramp and go through a gate. Turn left into a large playing field. Walk to the far right-hand corner. Go past the entrance to Island Gardens DLR, cross the road and walk ahead to the River Thames and the entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, taking a moment to admire the view across the river to Maritime Greenwich, with the Royal Naval College in the foreground and the Royal Observatory on the hill behind it. Walk through the foot tunnel and come out beside the 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.