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Monthly Archives: April 2019

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Le Champlain Cruise Ship in the Thames

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Regular contributor Eric Pemberton often captures some of the more interesting boats and ships on the Thames and he recently managed to take a few photographs of the Le Champlain cruise ship as it made its way around the Isle of Dogs.

Whilst many cruise ships have got bigger and bigger, Le Champlain has gone to the other extreme with only 180 passengers and a more luxurious cruising experience. The ship has only 92 staterooms and suites with large windows, and lounge areas that open onto the outside.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Le Champlain is owned by the Ponant cruise company and the second ship of the Ponant Explorers-class of cruise ships. Each member of the class has been allocated the name of a famous French explorer, and Le Champlain is named after Samuel de Champlain, “The Father of New France”.

Photograph – Eric Pemberton

Built by VARD, Le Champlain had her hull constructed in VARD’s Tulcea yard in Romania, where her keel was laid down on 20 April 2017. A year later, she arrived at the builder’s Søviknes facility in Ålesund, Norway, for final outfitting. The ship made its maiden journey in October 2018, departed from Honfleur in France, travelling to Lisbon in Portugal.

It is the time of year when the Thames begins to get busier and we look forward to featuring a number of the ships and boats on the river.

Many thanks to Eric Pemberton for the photographs.

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Race Day : The London Marathon 2019 on the Isle of Dogs – 28th April 2019

The Isle of Dogs is thrust into the national and international spotlight once a year with the arrival of the London Marathon. In the week before the race, the roads are repaired, new hoardings appear on the roadside and metal barriers arrive to be placed along the route.

On the morning of the race, volunteers and charities take their spots along the route in eager anticipation of yet another carnival of running. From around 9am, people begin to take their positions along the route, the grey skies and cold wind ensured  that many of the spectators were well wrapped up . The spectators on the west of the Island have the benefit of watching the runners going down Westferry Road and returning via Marsh Wall before the runners head into Canary Wharf.

The elite wheelchair races are the first to start and finish and they raced around the Island at great speed, American Daniel Romanchuk won the men’s wheelchair race with Switzerland’s Marcel Hug second and Japan’s Tomoki Suzuki third.

Switzerland’s Manuela Schar easily won the women’s wheelchair race ahead of four-time winner Tatyana McFadden and last year’s champion Madison de Rozario.

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, 25, became the youngest female London winner with last years winner Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot second, Ethiopia’s Roza Dereje of Ethiopia third and Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue finished a creditable tenth place.

The men’s race was another win for Kenya with Eliud Kipchoge, Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew and Mule Wasihun finished second and third. Britain’s Mo Farah finished fifth and Callum Hawkins tenth.

After the elite races, the crowds on the Island get bigger with family and friends of the runners of the mass race taking their places along the route, other spectators come out in large numbers to offer support to the runners who face their own particular challenges, it is the mix of serious runners, celebrities, fancy dress runners and fun runners make the marathon the great success it is.

Many of the runners run for their favourite charity and since 1981, the amount raised by the London Marathon has now passed £1bn.

Eventually the large mass of runners dwindle down to smaller groups and spectators begin to drift away, the noise and excitement of the big day is replaced by quietness with the occasional lorry appearing on the course to take down various structures and the cleaning department picking up the tons of litter.

Congratulations to all those who took part and all the volunteers who make the London Marathon, the special event it is.

A Guide to the London Marathon 2019 on the Isle of Dogs

It is safe to say that although Canary Wharf is often in the news, the rest of the Isle of Dogs is seldom the focus of national and international interest. However this always changes on the day of the London Marathon when the normally quiet streets are filled by thousands of runners and thousands of spectators.

The race tends to attract the world’s greatest men and women marathon runners and this year is no exception.

Daniel Wanjiru leads some of the greatest distance runners ever, Olympic gold medallist Eliud Kipchoge will be on the start line alongside Britain’s multiple world and Olympic track champion Mo Farah. Other runners include Wilson Kipsang, Mosinet Geremew, Leul Gebresilasie, Tamirat Tola, Mule Wasihun and Tola Shura Kitata British runners include Callum Hawkins, Tsegai Tewelde, Jonny Mellor and Dewi Griffiths.

The women’s elite race is just as competitive, with Mary Keitany, Birhane Dibaba, Gladys Cherono, Vivian Cheruiyot, Brigid Kosgei, Roza Dereje and Haftamnesh Tesfay. Charlotte Purdue, Tracy Barlow and Lily Partridge will be the main British hopes.

This year’s London Marathon will host the 2019 World Para Athletics world championship marathon races, it includes five races for para athletes – three for ambulant runners and two for wheelchair racers. As well as winning World Championship medals, athletes in these races can also earn places on their nation’s teams for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The top four athletes in each medal event will win a place at Tokyo 2020.

British defending champion in the men’s T54 wheelchair race, David Weir pushes for his ninth London title against Marcel Hug and Daniel Romanchuk. Manuel Schär is the woman to beat in the women’s race with London champion Madison de Rozario and world champion Tatyana McFadden.

However, for many people the race is a personal challenge and an opportunity to raise considerable amounts for their particular charities. The large number of fancy dress runners add to the carnival aspect of the race.

Due to the fact that many people may be unfamiliar with the Isle of Dogs I thought I would do a mini guide to the Isle of Dogs.

The race enters the Island at Mile 15 when it comes onto Westferry Road , this is a long road down the side of the west side of the Island. Lots of shops and a few pubs here and most of the spectators will be locals.

Just before Mile 16 you will pass the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which leads into the Millwall Docks and is often filled with small yachts overlooked by the old cranes standing next to the dock.

The sweep around the bottom of the Island takes you near Island Gardens which has wonderful views of Greenwich and the river. Here is also the entrance and exit of the Greenwich foot tunnel.

Going up the East Ferry Road to mile 17 you will see the greenery of Millwall Park on the right and the Mudchute DLR on the left.

Just past Mudchute DLR you will see the entrance to Mudchute Farm and Park, one of the biggest inner city farms in Europe.

A little further on you have Asda on the right and Crossharbour DLR on the left, then the route takes you further up to Limeharbour adjacent to Millwall Dock and then onto Marsh Wall.

A short run down along Marsh Wall to South Quay DLR, is followed by a run past the International Hotel and Novotel to mile 18, there is a quick switchback into the Canary Wharf estate for Mile 19.

Canary Wharf has become a popular watching base for many spectators due to its proximity to the transport system and over 200 shops, bars and restaurants.

The race then goes out to Poplar and Limehouse to begin the long stretch home.

Some of the benefits of watching the Marathon on the Isle of Dogs is that you can actually watch in comfort rather than being part of the massive crowds in Greenwich and Tower Bridge. You also have easy access to the transport system and access to many pubs, bars and restaurants. To make sure you do not miss any excitement, here is the time guide.

Good luck to everyone taking part in the race and everyone who contributes to one of London’s greatest sporting events.

Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre on the Isle of Dogs

With the weather getting warmer, it has been time to visit some of the more interesting locations on the Isle of Dogs. Spring is a great time to visit Mudchute Farm and Park or to wander along the river walks. It is also a great time to wander around Millwall Dock not only to look at the birds in the dock but also to watch the many people enjoying the watersports at the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre. The centre is located at the far west end of the dock where the dock previously connected to the Thames.

The Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was set up in the late 1980s by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council carrying on the work of a  number of water based community initiatives that had been operating since the 1970s , the award winning centre was designed by Kit Allsopp. The centre is now run as a charity by The Docklands Sailing & Watersports Centre Trust.

With so many great community schemes on the Island, the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre is sometimes overlooked, which is a shame because  they have been committed to providing affordable watersports for all for many years. It is worth remembering that young people and adults enjoying water sports in an inner-city environment was virtually unknown when the centre started. Every year, over 6,000 children, school groups, families and people in the community use centre to sail, kayak, canoe and windsurf.

Quite often in Millwall Dock, you can sit and watch the various activities and see the great enjoyment that learning watersports can give to adults and children. The centre has courses for adults where you practise your skills of learn new ones, the centre is known for training competitive dragon boat teams. For the younger generation, there is Dinghy Sailing, Kayaking, Canoeing and Windsurfing.

During the school breaks especially the dock is full of children enjoying themselves and it is a very colourful scene with the different sails bobbing about on the water.

It is one of the less understood parts of the Island that although there are plenty of large developments catering for single people, for those who are raising a family on the Island there is a wonderful range of places for a family day out.

Greenpeace’s MV Esperanza in West India Dock

After my own cruise around Britain, it is some suprise to see the MV Esperanza ship operated by Greenpeace in West India Dock. The ship was originally a fire-fighter ship owned by the Soviet Navy, built in 1984 in Poland. It was recommissioned in 2000 and launched in 2002 after being named Esperanza (‘hope’ in Spanish) by visitors to the Greenpeace website.

The ship has undergone a major refit by Greenpeace to make it more environmentally friendly and has a helicopter deck and boat cranes. The ship is considered a heavy ice class which means it can be used in polar regions.

The ship is quite high tech with live webcams and state-of-the-art underwater monitoring equipment, including a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) which can shoot video down to a depth of 300 m, and a camera capable of reaching depths of 1,000 m.

It has already been involved in many campaigns, but is in London to launch one of Greenpeace’s biggest ever expeditions – an almost year-long pole to pole voyage from the Arctic to the Antarctic – to highlight the many threats facing the oceans and to campaign for a Global Ocean Treaty covering all seas outside of national waters.

The Esperanza is in London this week ahead of the expedition and has been the focus of a number of events which features a multidisciplinary team of climate scientists and marine biologists.

The Esperanza is not the first Greenpeace ship  to visit  West India Dock, MV Arctic Sunrise visited in 2013 before being taken over by Russian authorities during an oil campaign.

The Changing Face of Trinity Buoy Wharf

Nobody can fail to be aware of the major developments in Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs but a recent visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf suggests that change is even coming to one of the more isolated parts of the area.

Orchard Place has been transformed by the City Island development and gradually the building works are moving near to Trinity Buoy Wharf with the Goodluck Hope development which will provide 804 new homes, commercial units, an education space, and a restored Grade II-listed Orchard Dry Dock.

The impression of isolation that has been a major characteristic of Trinity Buoy Wharf for centuries is gradually disappearing as lorries trundle up Orchard Place.

Keen to pay homage to its history, the name of some of the old firms are now displayed in the buildings and information boards give an interesting history lesson.

The area has a fascinating history, For nearly two centuries the Corporation of Trinity House occupied this site from 1803 to 1988, but even before then in 1760s Trinity House were storing buoys in nearby Blackwall. The site was mainly used for storing buoys and other marine equipment but gradually workshops were added for testing, repairing and making equipment.

The Lighthouse was not built to aid the Thames river traffic but was an Experimental Lighthouse which was designed by James Douglass, the one still standing was not the first one however there was another experimental lantern nearby built in the 1850s in which the famous scientist Michael Faraday carried out tests in electric lighting for lighthouses.

The present lighthouse was constructed in 1864 and was used to experiment with electric light and different coloured lights the results being checked at Charlton across the river. After the second world war the lighthouse was used for the training of Lighthouse keepers.

Outside the warehouse in memory of the work of Michael Faraday is a small shed called the Faraday Effect.

Lined up against the jetty is an old Trinity lighthouse ship which has been turned into a Music Recording Studio.

Old shipping containers have been painted and made into office blocks called Container City .

Fatboy’s Diner, a genuine 1940s American Diner from New Jersey has now been moved in front of the lighthouse.

For the last twenty years, Trinity Buoy Wharf has been developed into an Arts Quarter and a film by Rupert Murray here tells the story of how the location is now a workplace to over 500 people who often work in the creative industries. There are new proposals that includes the development of new buildings to provide additional floorspace, a new riverside walkway and public square.

As usual, I will try to keep up with new developments and chart some of the changes that will transform Trinity Buoy Wharf in the next few years.