Wednesday, August 29

Canada Water

Last weekend was the last three-day weekend of Summer. It also seemed to mark the start of the only Summer we’ve had all year. Until now the season has been note-worthy only for the simple fact that its the wettest on record. On Saturday we woke to beautiful weather. For the first time in months London was bathed in sunshine and shirt-sleeve temperatures.

Garry and I decided to take advantage of the our good fortune. We set out to explore the southern stretch of the Thames Path between Canada Waters and London Bridge. We caught the Jubilee line to Canada Water and soon found ourselves on the banks of the Thames looking across to the warehouses of Wapping. Being London, the area naturally has its own selection of historical landmarks.

The first such landmark we encountered was St Mary’s Church in Rotherhithe. This church is the final resting place of Christopher Jones, the captain of the Mayflower. In 1690, this ship set sail from a nearby dock, transporting the Pilgrim Fathers to North America. So often you hear the story of the Mayflower as an American adventure. It’s easy to forget that its passengers were actually Europeans. As a result, it becomes almost counter-intuitive to believe that the mythology of such a powerful American icon’s has its beginning in a quiet English neighbourhood.

The Mayflower left England on September 6, 1620 after several aborted attempts to depart mid-Summer. It eventually dropped anchor at Cape Cod on November 11. The ship become temporary accommodation for passengers during their first winter in New England. Tragically, the confined quarters were an ideal breeding ground for disease resulting in the loss of half the original company by Spring. The 53 that survived later gave rise to modern America’s Thanksgiving tradition. The Mayflower eventually arrived back in England on May 6, 1621.

St Mary’s current building is almost 300 years old. It was erected on the site of an earlier church in 1714-15 by an associate of Sir Christopher Wern, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral. I was fascinated to learn that a church has existed on this site since 1282, possibly earlier. Roman ruins have also been uncovered on the grounds.

From here we made our way toward Tower Bridge – our next landmark. Over the course of the afternoon we watched the bridge open and close twice. I was thrilled by this sight as I don’t recall seeing it open before. We stopped for lunch at Butler’s Wharf a waterfront redevelopment offering a range of cafes, each with its own uninterrupted view of Tower Bridge from the east.

After lunch we crossed the Thames via Tower Bridge and made our way along the sunny river walk towards Embankment, before heading inland to Soho. The remainder of our day was spent catching up for drinks and dinner with friends we’d not seen for many months. Needless to say the evening that followed continued well into early hours of the morning.

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