Starting off with a walk around the surrounding area of Gallions Reach and taking in some forgotten areas and dereliction plus taking in stories of the Beckton Gasworks, the Royal Docks & the site of an 1878 steamboat disaster where 600 people perished. WARNING! This section of the walk involves off-piste activities such as walking through undergrowth, decaying wooden piers, using a (short) ladder & access to a lesser frequented part of the Thames foreshore to visit the remains of a decaying barge. Nothing is too strenuous but you need to watch your footing.
Then we head into North Woolwich past a few interesting buildings such as some of London's oldest terraced council houses & a derelict pub which despite losing its upper floors during the Blitz carried on trading until a few years ago.
Around mid-day we hit a cafe for half an hour before walking to the Woolwich Free Ferry via two disused railway stations side by side and a derelict pier once graced by Winston Churchill. After our scenic (!) riverboat crossing we embark on our adventure south of the Thames and walk around the site of the Woolwich Dockyard founded by King Henry VIII in 1512 to build his flagship (Great Harry), the largest ship of its day. Much of the area is now a housing estate but there are still clues of the once thriving dockyard such as the imposing main entrance gate posts a former guard house & the 1783 Clock House and some run docks remain popular for local anglers! We then walk through a busy shopping thoroughfare which is a little unloved round the edges. We pass a few premises of businesses that defined the area such as the (derelict) Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society Department Store, the Woolwich Building Society & the UK's very first branch of McDonalds.
Next up, the Royal Arsenal - the historic site of armaments manufacture and explosives research. Once a great place to see dereliction but now it comprises one of the biggest concentrations of Grade I and Grade II listed buildings converted for residential use, with more than 3,000 residents. We will stop off for a drink at The Dial Arch now a public house. Here Paul will tell you about a group of engineers working in this block who formed the Dial Square FC which later became the Woolwich Arsenal FC. You will also have time to wander around the vicinity to look at the information boards
We walk along the Thames to West Thamesmead and then follow the route of a disused canal built in 1814 by convict labour which formed the eastern boundary of the Arsenal. Here you will see the old lock gates and a derelict swing bridge. As we visit the site of Plumstead Marshes and see the site of two former Arsenal football grounds one of which is now a derelict trading estate.
Finally we head back into Woolwich via some interesting old buildings with stories that feature on the Derelict London website where you can either head home or join Paul for another drink or two....
The excellent black and white photos below are courtesy of Tim Slessor