Home » Dock Life » Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part Four)

Walking the Island Board Walk Trail (Part Four)

island board walk

The final part of the Island Board Walk Trail brings us to the east of the Island and views over to North Greenwich and the unmistakable O2 complex.


However we begin near the George Pub with a board that illustrates that working in the docks could be a precarious way to earn a living. Whilst there were a large number of permanent workers in the docks, large numbers were taken on casually to cope with the often erratic nature of when the work was available.


Large numbers of workers would hang around gates waiting to see if any work was available. If selected you may be lucky to have half a day or a full days work but were not guaranteed any more than that. This created a great deal of uncertainty about whether you could earn enough to survive. The George would often be the place where men would congregate and wait for their name to be called out.


We then move back into the Millwall Dock on the east side to the board near Glengall Bridge and the floating Chinese restaurant, the view across the water and up to Canary Wharf gives some idea of the large number of developments that have sprung up since the docks closed in the 1980s.


The walk then takes us up to South Quay and along Marsh Wall to the Blue Bridge and the West India Dock Entrance. If you are in this area when a ship comes into the dock, it gives some idea of the disruption a ‘bridger’ causes. The sight of the Bridge coming up is a wonderful sight and people in their cars often get out of the vehicles to watch the boats moving into the dock. However ships coming into the dock are limited and a ship often comes through the dock within thirty minutes. In the past the bridge may be up for hours while a succession of boats entered the dock and Islanders could be effectively stranded for hours.


The walk down East Ferry Road takes you into Cubitt Town which has been a built up area for over a century with a quite odd mix of buildings both quite old and modern. The next board is situated in Castilia Square, a small neighbourhood shopping area near the green space of St John’s Park.


Poet, writer and broadcaster John Betjeman wrote an article for the Spectator in 1956 about architecture  that brought him to the Isle of Dogs in 1956 where he made an unexpected discovery.
One of the best new housing estates I have seen since the war, comparable with Lansbury, intimately proportioned, cheerful and airy and yet London-like. It is called Castalia Square and makes one realise. when one compares it with the gloomy blocks of ‘artisans’ dwellings’ of the mid-war and pre-1914 periods, how good modern architecture can be. In all the destruction I record in this column, it is a pleasure to be able to write about something newly built which makes one’s heart rejoice.
To finish the walk, we make our way to the Thames path on the east of the Island and look at the development on the other side of the river in North Greenwich. When we reach the last board, we can see the outline of Greenwich in the distance and the board offers the opportunity to reflect on the enormous variety of history in a small piece of East London. For anyone new to the area, the boards provide some insight into remarkable changes that have taken place in the area even within the last thirty years. In many ways the history of the Island is one of change, it has been the home to thousands of people from all over the world and yet still maintains it own character that is very different to other areas.
To understand some of this character, read the boards and listen to some of the wonderful interviews on the audio trail.


The Boards are a great introduction to the Island and this project provides plenty of interest, the new audio tour has been devised to coincide with the launch of the walk and will be available to download as a podcast from the website: www.islandboardwalk.com/audio-trail It is derived from exclusive interviews with those who live and work on the island and provides real insights into the past, present and future of the Island.

‘Free’ Leaflet/Trail Maps which are available to download online and to collect from The Ship pub, The George pub, HubBub cafe bar and restaurant, Cubitt Town Library and the Great Eastern pub by the School Day’s board at start of the trail.

For downloads and more information visit:



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