The Capital Ring – Beckton to Woolwich Part One

Dear Readers, this turned into a rather more exciting walk than we expected, due to unexpected route changes, broken down trains and all sorts of other shenanigans. However, we are not averse to an adventure, and sometimes things that seem like a nuisance can reveal sights that you would never have seen otherwise, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s post. For today, though, we start where we finished last week, at Albert Dock Docklands Light Railway station. It always seems a bit space-age in these parts, what with the Blade-Runnerish elevated railway and the driverless trains. When we were young and the DLR had just opened in 1987, we used to ride it from one end to another just for the novelty value (rather as we ride the Elizabeth Line today, big kids that we are).

We head to Beckton District Park, which is rather green and lovely after all the rain.

This is described in the Capital Ring book as a ‘trotting track’, which to me implies horses, but I can find no mention of this either presently or historically. If anyone knows anything about it, let me know! My grandfather-in-law on my mother-in-law’s side (if you can get your head around that without a flowchart) used to own a champion trotting horse in Ontario.

And then we’re heading down to the Royal Albert Dock, part of the Royal Docks which were opened in 1880 and at the time were the largest in the world. They were closed to commercial shipping in 1982 but are now, as we will see, a massive watersports facility. First, though, I pass an absolutely massive fig tree, probably the largest that I’ve seen in a private garden outside of a stately home.

The plane trees seem to be suffering from the heat and drought again, with huge chunks of bark missing.

And how about this very handsome cat? He had his eye on a squirrel, and was rather disgusted when we got in the way.

Then we pass through Cyprus DLR station, named after the Cyprus estate, which was in turn named after the British capture of the island in 1881. My husband, who I love dearly, is always rushing on ahead if there is any uncertainty about the path (a characteristic that he shares with many in his family), and so he pops up a few times in the photos this week. That’ll teach him.

We are entering the campus of the University of East London. Last time we were here it was open and we were able to get a coffee and a sandwich, but of course the universities haven’t reopened yet, and so here we are, coffee-less, which is a disaster as regular readers will know. Nonetheless, we take the time to admire the student residences. Arsenic green seems to be all the rage this year.

Many people were out training on the river, including the folk in this dragon boat. Their cox was a very shouty person, but maybe that comes with the territory.

There were lots of smaller craft out and about too, and they were somewhat quieter.

And let’s not forget that just across the water is London City Airport. This is a Category C airport, which means that it needs specially trained pilots and crew due to its tight approach and the close proximity of buildings. I managed to get a video of a KLM plane taking off, and very pleased I was with myself too. I find this rather thrilling, though I understand why the local residents would be reluctant to support any expansion. Sound up for the full effect! And to hear me shushing my poor husband.

On the way to get coffee, we passed under the Sir Steve Redgrave Bridge, formerly the Connaught Bridge. This was named after the Olympic rower, who won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games, and has close ties to Newham as well. Little did we know (bit of foreshadowing here) that we would soon be crossing it.

But for now we are meandering around the edge of the dock, admiring the water birds.

We pass the Galyons pub (which was a hotel) – you’ll see a lot of ‘Gallyons/Gallions’ around here and I thought they were probably named after galleons, those magnificent tall ships from the 16th Century. But no – a local family called Galyon lived around here in the 14th Century and many of the sights around here are named after them. The building used to be right on the railway, and was used as a hotel by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. One person who stayed overnight was Rudyard Kipling en route to India.

We wander towards the dock, and find, joy of joys, a cafe that is actually open, and an optimistic swan who seems to know that crumbs might be available.

It’s not as peaceful as all that, though…

And now begins a series of strange detours and minor misadventures, but be assured that there is a happy ending! More of this tomorrow….

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