This walk starts at Blackheath National Rail Station and ends at North Greenwich Underground Station, visiting Blackheath, Greenwich, the Thames Path and the Millennium Dome (O2).

It is an easy walk of 5.69 miles / 9.17 kilometres, with some moderate hills in Greenwich Park.

The walk can be extended back to Blackheath by following the North Greenwich to Blackheath walk, which starts at the Millennium Dome and continues through Charlton, Woolwich Common and Kidbrooke, making a complete circuit of 14 miles (23½ km).

This is a walk of surprising contrasts. Starting on the airy open spaces of Blackheath, it explores Greenwich Park and Maritime Greenwich — a World Heritage Site — before following the Thames Path National Trail, with its industrial relics, and ending by the Millennium Dome (O2).

 


 

1. From Blackheath Station turn and keep left to ascend Tranquil Vale. Towards the top of the hill, opposite Camden Row, cross to a grassed traffic island, then cross again by the Victorian water fountain. Over to the right is All Saints Church, designed by Benjamin Ferrey, built in 1857-67 and curiously stuck on one corner of the heath. Blackheath — the name derives from “bleak heath” — has a long connection with protest and rebellion, being a rallying point in the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, Cade’s Rebellion in 1450 and the Cornish Rebellion in 1497. This last ended in the Battle of Blackheath when some 2,000 of the rebels were slain. Houses began to encroach on the heath from the late 17th century, and from a barren wilderness and haunt of highwaymen, Blackheath has become one of the most up-market districts in London.

2. Continue up the rise towards buildings at the top, where turn right along Duke Humphrey Road to the corner of Talbot Place, then take the forward path over the common. Continue forward to cross Shooters Hill Road and Charlton Way, and enter Greenwich Park on the drive ahead. Fifty metres on, just past toilets, take the path on the left, eventually swinging right to closely follow the park wall. Ignore a cross-path by the gate and continue on. Greenwich Park, measuring 74 hectares, and originally enclosed by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in 1433, is the oldest enclosed Royal Park. Later, in the 17th century, Le Nôtre, Louis XIV’s gardener, laid out formal avenues. The public have been admitted since the 18th century.

3. Shortly, on the left, is Queen Caroline’s Bath, so-called, although Caroline was never actually crowned queen. Another irony is that she was notoriously lacking in personal hygiene. This, together with her poor social graces, led to her estrangement from George IV, whom she had married whilst he was still Prince of Wales. Caroline lived at Montague House, which stood here, between 1798 and 1814. The house was demolished in 1815 and the land returned to the park. All that is left now are the blocked windows in the park wall and the remains of this bath.

4. Go forward into the Rose Garden which has display panels identifying the rose species. On your left is the Ranger’s House (originally named Chesterfield House), built in 1723. It now houses the Wernher Collection of medieval and Renaissance works of art, brought together by Sir Julius Wernher, a Victorian diamond magnate. An English Heritage site, it is open to the public, but by guided tour only (admission charge).

5. Continue forward and exit the Rose Garden, then pass tennis courts and a lawn with trees. Just after passing Macartney House, where lived General Wolfe of Quebec fame, take the second path on your right, towards the Planetarium, a black-domed building, with the buildings of the Old Royal Observatory over to your left. The low mounds along this path are Saxon Burial mounds. The path comes out on a road opposite public toilets. Go across the road and up the slope, to reach the Planetarium and a car parking area. Turn left here to the statue of General Wolfe, from where there are spectacular views encompassing the City of London, the Canary Wharf complex and the Millennium Dome (O2); the classical buildings of maritime Greenwich are at your feet. The scars on the statue’s inscription were caused by a wartime V1 flying bomb.

Greenwich Viewpoint 
Greenwich Viewpoint
Greenwich Park 
Greenwich Park

 

6. Turn left here for entry to the Old Royal Observatory (admission charge) or to see the Meridian Line (on the wall through the swing gate slightly to the right of the observatory entrance), then return to the statue. The Old Royal Observatory was built by Christopher Wren for John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal, appointed by Charles II in 1676. With your back to the Old Royal Observatory, go through concrete bollards to take the curved path running along the crest of the hill. Ignore the first cross-path to come out by the caged remains of Queen Elizabeth’s Oak, reputedly over 900 years old. Turn right up the hill and, at the top, turn left on a broad red tarmac path. As you come to a path junction, the mound in front of you conceals the remains of a Romano-Celtic temple, confirmed as such by Channel 4's Time Team excavation in 1999. Adjacent display boards give its history.

7. Turn left here on a downhill path. Ignore all side paths, passing, on the left, the broad sweep of the lawns below the Old Royal Observatory. At the bottom of the hill, at a multiple path junction, go forward still through a short avenue of trees, passing a small lake on the right. Thirty metres before park gates, turn left alongside a short wall, behind which are the buildings of the Queen's House and the National Maritime Museum. The Queen’s House was begun in 1616 by Inigo Jones and is considered to be the earliest classical building in England. It was intended to be the home of Anne of Denmark, the consort of James I. She died before it could be completed, however, and the project was eventually resuscitated by Charles I for his queen, Henrietta Maria. The wings were added in 1807-16 as part of the Naval Asylum School. Adjoining the Queen's House, the National Maritime Museum (free entry) is claimed to be the largest maritime museum in the world.

8. Continue to the end of the path, then turn right through St Mary’s Gate to leave the park. On the right is a large statue of William IV (originally sited near London Bridge). Go forward down King William Walk, passing public toilets. Then cross Romney Road by the lights and continue in the same direction.

Drop out point: There are numerous bus routes running from Greenwich town centre; the 386 running along Romney Road connects back to Blackheath.

9. Opposite College Approach on the one-way system, turn right through the west gate of the Old Royal Naval College. The College site, now part of the University of Greenwich, began life as the Palace of Placentia where both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I were born. The palace was swept away by Charles II. The site was then used for the Royal Naval Hospital, established by Royal Charter by Queen Mary, Wren being asked to draw up plans in 1694. The hospital became the Royal Naval College in 1873.

10. Walk forward to enter the central domed building on the right to see the Painted Hall. This contains spectacular wall and ceiling paintings, executed by Sir James Thornhill between 1707 and 1726. Lord Nelson lay in state here after his death at Trafalgar. Leaving the Painted Hall, continue further to the second domed building to see the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul, which again contains fine decoration, executed after a fire in 1779, this time in a rococo style by “Athenian” Stuart and William Newton. Both the Painted Hall and Chapel are open free-of-charge and deserve to be better known. Also on the college site are a café, brewery, toilets, and information centre containing a small museum.

11. Now retrace your steps back to the main gate, and turn right towards Greenwich Pier, passing to the right of the Cutty Sark. The clipper, built in 1869, gained its fame on the China tea run, where speed of delivery was critical. In later years she plied in the Australian wool trade for a time, before enduring changes of name and fortune after having been sold to the Portuguese. She was eventually restored, and served as a stationary training ship before being brought to Greenwich in 1954. The name Cutty Sark means “short shirt” and derives from Robert Burns’ poem, Tam o’ Shanter. A recent restoration has now elevated her to give a better view of her hull.

Cutty Sark 
Cutty Sark

 

The domed building by the riverfront contains the entrance to the foot tunnel passing under the Thames to Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs. If you have time, a fine view of Greenwich’s riverfront can be gained from there.

12. At Greenwich Pier, turn right alongside the Thames, passing in front of the Old Royal Naval College, to arrive at the Trafalgar Tavern.

Recommended pub: The splendid Trafalgar Tavern was built in 1837 and is worth entering both for its atmosphere and its real ale.

Pass behind the pub along the pedestrianised Crane Street, then Highbridge Wharf, to arrive at the petite Trinity Hospital, almshouses dating from 1613, and somewhat overshadowed by a power station, once redundant, but now planned to be in use as a back-up power supply for London Underground.

13. Passing under the gantries of the power station, notice the “Thames Tale”, set in the wall on the right at Crowley’s Wharf. The Thames now veers northwards towards the Millennium Dome. By Iron Anchor Wharf, there is an elegant pub, the “Cutty Sark”, which boasts a huge curved bay window. The rest of this street, Ballast Quay, is late Georgian and terminates in the Harbourmaster’s Office. Several houses display fire insurance plaques, dating from when individual insurance companies ran their own fire brigades.

Past Ballast Quay the riverside path is currently closed whilst new building development takes place. It is not expected to re-open until sometime in 2018. There is a signposted diversion in place as far as point 16. In case any of the diversion signs go missing, the following should suffice to keep walkers along the diverted route: As Ballast Quay ends, turn right along Pelham Road. Continue past the Pelham Arms and over Kossuth Street to turn left into Christchurch Way. Just before Enderby Wharf on the left, turn right into Mauritius Road. Turn left at the top along Blackwall Lane, keeping to the left-hand pavement. Cross Telcon Way and Salutation Road to fork left along Tunnel Avenue. This soon gives way onto the horrendously busy Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road. Go under a gantry to pass Morden Wharf and continue past a footbridge spanning the main road. Go past a second gantry, soon to turn left along a footpath flanked on the right by a concrete block wall (by a main road sign advising 100 yards to Blackwall Tunnel). On reaching the blue storage tank, ignore the forward path but turn right between metal fences to regain the original route.

16. This arrives at an open quay by Hanson's Victoria Deep Water Terminal — still very much a working site. Industrial plant may be in operation, but personnel should be aware that this is still a right-of-way. After the arid environment of the Terminal, it is something of a surprise to find it followed by a newly-constructed golf driving range. Keep to the left here by the river. Over the river, the low-rise housing on the Isle of Dogs now has the skyscrapers of the Canary Wharf complex as a backdrop. Maintain your contact with the river by eventually passing around an inlet at the end of Drawdock Road and keeping left of the Millennium Dome (O2), the river itself swinging right as it finally finishes with the Isle of Dogs.

Drop out point: If you want to omit the riverside loop around the Dome, a shortcut to North Greenwich Underground Station can be had by following the wide carriageway to the left of Drawdock Road.

River Barges 
River Barges
Decay and Splendour 
Decay and Splendour

 

17. A hotel and huge new buildings now briefly mask the Dome. Alongside the river a collection of artworks can be found. The first of these is "Here", in the form of a simple signpost; the figure of 24,859 relates to the polar circumference of the Earth. At the apex of the bend there is a portion of a ship hard-by — "A Slice of Reality", by Richard Wilson. Continuing past a large control sign, which regulates shipping passing through the Thames Barrier. the Emirates Cable Car, which crosses the Thames to Royal Victoria Dock, comes into view. We arrive at our third installation, "Liberty Grip", by Gary Hume. In the distance yet another artwork can be seen — "Quantum Cloud" by Antony Gormley, although we leave the river before this is reached. Arrive at a vertical display panel explaining the Thames' ecology and sited in front of a reed-bed. At this point, turn sharp right between fences to arrive at Penrose Way.

However, if completing the circuit back to Blackheath Station — another 8½ miles (13½ km) — ignore this turning, continuing forward alongside the river, and refer to the North Greenwich to Blackheath walk for instructions.

18. Pass to the right of the Ravensbourne Building which has cladding like a tricoloured jigsaw, to reach Peninsula Square. Cross this half-left then turn right to reach North Greenwich Underground Station.

Peninsula Square 
Peninsula Square

 


 

© Mike Biggs, Ramblers (Inner London Area), 2017.

If you have any comments about this walk, or notice that it needs updating to take account of changes on the route, then please contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.