Back from Burma and en route to Germany and the US, we’ve stopped by London again. I am staying with my in-laws in Woolwich Arsenal and they have splendid views across the Thames. Come to think of it, a chunk of my recent London exploration has had a connection to this river in one way or another.
Margate, where the Thames has long completed its journey to join the ocean. May 2012
In East London, I have walked through some parts of the Docklands, taking a look at Millenium Wharf and the new Air Link that connects the ExCel Centre with the O2 on the southern side of the river. Last week, we visited the Docklands Museum near Canary Wharf.
It’s a great place to get a sense of the history of London’s main water artery. We took a guided tour which was good but didn’t allow for reading the panels in the permanent collection.
There’s a an exhibition on currently which is absolutely worth seeing. Estuary brings together 12 artists who have been inspired by the outer limits of the river.
Woolwich Arsenal, General Gordon Square
A few stops on the Southeastern Rail line lies Gravesend, a town of 60,000 inhabitants. Its strategic position in the Thames Gateway helped to make it the headquarters of the Port of London Authority. Pocahontas was buried here when she died en route back to Virginia.
Most interestingly, though, Gravesend is home to Europe’s biggest Sikh community temple, or Gurdwara as it is called. We were given a great tour by a Sikh elder who showed us the various rooms for worship and community life. We enjoyed a (fantastic) meal prepared largely by volunteers before leaving.
This account by a Christian committee writes:
The Sikh community arrived in Gravesend from East Africa in the 1950s and 1960s to work in the extensive docks and factories. Building of the temple was commenced in 2000 and the community moved into it in 2010. So far it has cost £14m and a further £1m is needed to complete the building. The site was originally wasteland. It is the biggest in Europe and is modelled on the Golden Temple in Amritsar (…) The Sikh community of about 8-10,000 people is very much part of Gravesend and welcome all into their Gurdwara.
Back in London, I took another walk from St. Katherine’s Dock near Tower Bridge via Wapping back to Shadwell. Despite having lived in London for several years, much of the area had remained unknown to me before.
Shadwell Basin and much of the quays between here and St. Katherine’s Dock are lined by rather unappealing faux dockside warehouses built as residential developments in the 1980s and 90s.