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It is a tradition of Isle of Dogs Life at this time of the year to write a review of the ships that have called at West India Dock. Whilst we have not had the numbers or variety of previous years, we have a number of interesting visitors.
It has been the year of the superyachts in the dock and three of the ships are still in the dock, Bravo Eugenia, PHI and Here Comes The Sun have been here since December. The old favourite tall ship Tenacious made an appearance and in Greenwich was the RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship for a time.
Bravo Eugenia superyacht
Moon Sand Superyacht
Here Comes The Sun Superyacht
Super Yacht Kismet
Tall Ship Tenacious
RRS Sir David Attenborough polar research ship
Let us look forward to the return of more ships to the dock. The development surrounding West India Dock and Canary Wharf is gradually becoming completed and hopefully we can put the pandemic behind us in 2022.
I would like to wish our readers a happy and healthy New Year.
Wandering around a chilly Canary Wharf, I came across a Diwali lights display in the Jubilee Park gardens.
This is one of the many displays that Canary Wharf have around their estate.
It is perhaps a good time to provide some information for events to come.
ICE RINK CANARY WHARF
Saturday 23 October 2021- Saturday 26 February 2022
CANARY WHARF SQUASH CLASSIC
Sunday 14 – Friday 19 November 2021,
CAROLS & CANDLES SERVICE
Tuesday 14 December 2021, 6pm (doors 5.30pm)
Wednesday 19 January – Saturday 29 January 2022
Yesterday, I took the short walk to The Museum of London Docklands to have a look at their major exhibition entitled London: Port City which explores how the Port of London has changed and shaped the city, its people, places and language. The exhibition covers more than 200 years of experiences and activity on a river.
It is appropriate that exhibition about the Port of London is located in an old warehouse complex which was part of West India Docks, London’s first enclosed dock system and packed with valuable cargoes from around the world from 1802 until its closure in 1980.
The exhibition is based upon the extensive archives of the Port of London Authority (PLA), over the years I have used plenty of information from the PLA to tell some of the remarkable stories of the Port and the Docks. Therefore it was quite exciting to see some of the 222 objects in the exhibition which cover a timeline of over 200 years.
The exhibition illustrates the work of the PLA and an impressive audio visual display allows visitors to watch life into the PLA control room, using large-scale projections to create a day in the life of the Port of London. The PLA was responsible for making sure the docks were fully functional and the exhibition features a 1950s diver’s helmet and air pump used by someone clearing riverbeds.
The exhibition includes a fascinating range of maps, plans and documents like the one commemorating the original unveiling of the statue of merchant and slave owner Robert Milligan, which was removed from outside the museum in 2020.
One of the really interesting aspect of the exhibition is the old films that show the port and docks in their glory days, it is watching these films that you began to understand the scale of the operation. Hundreds of ships and thousands of workers created a bustling and often dangerous environment with cargo from all around the world making its way through the port.
The exhibition tries to give some idea this activity, with exhibits about the various smells and aroma, visitors to the exhibition can experience distinct scents, carefully blended to capture the original pungency of the port.
The exhibition also reveals the stories behind 80 words and expressions associated with the docks that have entered the English language including ‘crack on’, ‘aloof’ and ‘Mudchute’.
Over the 200 years, many different types of cargo entered the port and the exhibition includes examples like a pot of dehydrated meat from the 1940s and a pot of ambergris or whale poop as it is labelled.
The PLA has collected a wide range of art connected with the port and a selection is shown together with films showing how the port has been used in films, tv programmes and video games.
It is not often that the museum itself is an intrinsic part of the exhibition, but this small free exhibition provides an opportunity to enjoy the exhibits and the surroundings. Despite the limited use of space, the exhibition covers a wide range of subjects to tell the remarkable story of the Port of London. The Isle of Dogs is an important aspect of this story and anyone interested in the local history of the area will find the exhibition fascinating.
It has been a very quiet year for boats visiting West India Dock but we have the arrival of a regular visitor over the years. The Super Yacht Kismet was last here in 2019 before the pandemic.
Kismet is a large superyacht and has visited the dock a couple of times before in 2014 and 2016. It often comes to London when its owner Pakistani-American billionaire businessman Shahid Khan wants to entertain guests attending NFL matches in London. His NFL team Jacksonville Jaguars play Maimi Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on the 17th October 2019.
The yacht is often tucked away at the bottom of the dock for some time before being taken up to near Tower Bridge for entertaining guests.
Kismet is 308ft long has three decks and a private sundeck with a pool-Jacuzzi-BBQ area and all mod cons. The ship features exterior styling by Espen and interior design by Reymond Langton Design featuring marble and rare woods, it will accommodate 12 guests in six staterooms, and has a crew of 20.
This ship is the second vessel named Kismet owned by Mr Khan and estimated to have cost 200 million dollars, a previous 223ft yacht was sold for a rumoured £70 million in 2013. The new Kismet was built at German boatyard Lurssen.
Unusually for the secretive super yacht world, a great deal seems to be known about Kismet and it was rumoured in 2019 that the yacht was up for sale.
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.
Well that’s what normally happens, but we do not live in normal times. Although the 2019 Marathon was its usual race, the 2020 Marathon was confined to elite runners and was run in St James Park with no spectators.
This year’s marathon unusually run in October rather than April will feature large numbers of runners but crowds are not encouraged and will be restricted in some areas.
The race tends to attract the world’s greatest men and women marathon runners and this year is no exception.
Shura Kitata (ETH) caused one of the biggest upsets in London Marathon history last year when he beat the great Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) he returns this year looking to get his first win on the traditional course from Greenwich to Westminster after a second place (2018) and a fourth place (2019) on his previous two races on the famous route.
But the Ethiopian will face stiff competition with Birhanu Legese (ETH),Mosinet Geremew (ETH), Titus Ekiru (KEN), Evans Chebet, Sisay Lemma (ETH,), Kinde Atanaw (ETH), and Vincent Kipchumba (KEN) in the field.
The British field will be led by Jonny Mellor, Mohamud Aadan, Joshua Griffiths and Charlie Hulson.
World record holder Brigid Kosgei (KEN) is aiming to be the first woman since Katrin Dorre in the early 1990s to win three back-to-back London Marathons.
but there is a large field of talent lining up alongside Kosgei on the Start Line, including Lonah Salpeter (ISR) Joyciline Jepkosgei (KEN), Birhane Dibaba (ETH), Roza Dereje (ETH), Valary Jemeli (KEN), Degitu Azimeraw (ETH), Zeineba Yimer (ETH) and Tigist Girma (ETH).
Charlotte Purdue, who is the fastest Brit in the field and will be hoping to qualify for a spot on the British team for the World Athletics Championships in Oregon in 2022. Other Brits running include Natasha Cockram, and Sam Harrison.
The newly crowned Paralympic marathon champion Marcel Hug (SUI) will be the man to beat as he comes off a dominant Games in Tokyo.
Hug won an incredible four gold medals at the Paralympics in the 800m, 1,500m, ,5000m and defending the marathon title he won in Rio five years earlier. Britain’s David Weir, is racing in his 22nd consecutive London Marathon.
The defending women’s wheelchair champion Nikita den Boer (NED) will resume her battle with last year’s runner-up Manuela Schär (SUI) on the streets of London. Other women in the field include Tatyana McFadden (USA) and Shelly Woods (GBR).
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 in normal times 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.
The event will be televised live on BBC TV and broadcast around the globe.
00:00: Virtual Virgin Money London Marathon (participants must complete the 26.2 miles by 23:59:59)
08:30: Virgin Money Giving Mini London Marathon
08:50: Elite wheelchairs
09:00: Elite women
09:30: Elite men and mass start
TV coverage (subject to change)
BBC2 08:00-10:00: Live coverage
BBC1 10:00-14:30: Live coverage
BBC Red Button/iPlayer 14:30-16:00: Live coverage
BBC2 18:00-19:00: Highlights
Good luck to everyone taking part in the race and everyone who contributes to one of London’s greatest sporting events.
After a very quiet period, we welcome an old favourite back to West India Dock with the arrival of the STS Tenacious tall ship
The Tenacious is a wooden sail training ship which was specially designed to be able to accommodate disabled sailors. Launched in Southampton in the year 2000, it is one of the largest wooden tall ships in the world. It is 65 metres long with a beam of 10.6 metres at its widest point.
The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson are owned by the UK-based charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust who have for many years have pioneered sailing for the disabled.
The Jubilee Sailing Trust became a registered charity in 1978 and was the brainchild of Christopher Rudd, a school teacher and sailor who wanted to give the disabled children he taught the same experiences his able-bodied students had.
Since its launch Tenacious has taken nearly 12,000 people sailing of these 3,000 were physically disabled and 1,000 were wheelchair users.
Over the last few years, the top of the Island and Canary Wharf has seen unprecedented development with a number of large scale projects. One of the largest developments has been the Wood Wharf site which will have a mix of uses, including a residential area for over 3,200 new homes, nearly 2 million sq ft of commercial office space, and 335,000 sq ft of shops, restaurants and community uses.
Wood Wharf is part of the historic West India Docks and is the largest addition to the Canary Wharf estate since it came into being.
With part of the development near to completion, it is now possible to have a wander around some parts of Wood Wharf.
Wood Wharf is connected to the main estate by a bridge with two large Floating Pavilions nearby, one of which will be a restaurant.
Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf makes full use of the docks themselves with dockside walks and views from the Blue Bridge to the new buildings in the west.
The neighbourhood will have everything a thriving community needs, from a new local primary school to its own doctor’s surgery.
Like Canary Wharf, Wood Wharf already has plenty of outside public art and sitting areas.
Wood Wharf is multi-billion pound development and is expected to generate £2bn gross value from new jobs, add £199m into the local small business economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.
Under normal circumstances, the opening of Wood Wharf would a cause for celebration, however recent events have cast a cloud over the whole Canary Wharf site.
With many large firms allowing workers to work for home, many people are now looking at Wood Wharf and now asking whether it is surplus to requirements. Due to its mixed usage, it might escape the slowdown in Canary Wharf itself.
What the site does for visitors is provide plenty of attractive walks around the docks and places to sit and watch the boats and ships when they return to the dock.
After the latest lockdown, I decided to enter the brave new world by taking a walk around Canary Wharf and taking a look of some of their new artworks and to enjoy some spring sunshine.
During the lockdown a series of new works have appeared and other works have been relocated, here is quick tour around some of these pieces.
One of the most noticable new pieces is Gillie & Marc: Tandem Lovers 2020 in Reuters Plaza, ‘Tandem Lovers’ takes you on an adventure with Gillie and Marc’s characters, Rabbitwoman and Dogman.
Near the Canary Wharf station is Richard Hudson: Tear which offers a different perspective of the large buildings.
Although Cabot Square is dominated by Henry Moore’s Old Flo, and new piece tucked away is Bob Allen’s: It Takes Two which is a bronze cast of a carving from the fallen bough of an ancient English Yew listed in the Domesday Book.
Jubilee Park is full of new pieces including Helaine Blumenfeld’s Fortuna
For a pychedelic expereience go to Adams Plaza Bridge for Camille Walala’s Captivated By Colour
For something completely different, have a look at Julian Wild: Scribbleform
In the Crossrail Place Roof Garden is Michael Lyons: Shepherd of the Sun and Julian Wild’s Origin (Vertical)
Until the 19th of June, the roof garden is transformed into Crossorelle Roof Garden, a magical installation inspired by the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech.
Created by artists Baker & Borowski, the design is inspired by the history of the West India Docks and the plants that were brought there from faraway lands, such as North Africa.
Although it may be too early to visit museums and art galleries, there is plenty to enjoy artistically wandering around Canary Wharf.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Before the Christmas lockdown, local photographer Loren Brand began to provide a visual update around the Island and Canary Wharf. Because of the large developments over the last few years, the skyline has changed considerably and it is a great time to get up to date with the ever changing landscape.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
One of the pleasures of living on the Isle of Dogs is it is a great place to walk. Unlike much of London, cars are not found in great numbers and much of the Island has areas to walk well away from the road. Although the promenades next to the Thames are lovely with wonderful views, the walk around Millwall Dock brings you to the heart of the Island and uncovers a number of surprising links to the past.
The Millwall Dock was opened in 1868 and is L-shaped, with a ‘Outer Dock’ running east-west, and a ‘Inner Dock’ running north from the eastern end. Millwall Docks originally contained around 36 acres of water and the site covered 200-acres. The western end of the Outer Dock was originally connected to the Thames at Millwall.
It is now possible to walk around the whole of Millwall Dock, which of course was not the case when the docks were working docks.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Around the Inner Dock is new developments that have grown considerably in the last few years. Across the dock is the new Baltimore Tower and the Lotus Chinese Restaurant that has been on a large pontoon since 1994. Up from the restaurant is Harbour Exchange which has two 1960s cranes standing in front of the glass covered buildings.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Glengall Bridge is where the inner and outer dock connect but also marks where many of the large developments cease and the older developments from the 1980s are in view. These older developments were part of more low level housing that used the space around the dock when it closed down.
The Outer Dock is much more relaxing with plenty of swans and ducks swimming amongst the sailing boats from the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre which is located at the far West end of the dock near where the dock previously connected to the Thames. The centre was set up in 1989 by the London Docklands Development Corporation and the Sports Council and provides plenty of water experiences to a wide range of people especially young people.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Near to the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre was the large West Ferry Printing Works, which was the largest newspaper print works in Western Europe when it was built-in 1984–6. It has now been flattened for yet more residential development. Walking on the other side of the dock gives wonderful views of Canary Wharf and allows you to look at many of the new developments at the top of the Island.
If you carry on, you end up the picturesque Clippers Quay housing estate built in 1984–8. Although now filled with water, this was the site of Millwall Dock Graving Dock which was a dry dock for ship-repair which opened in 1868. Many famous ships have been repaired in this dry dock including the Cutty Sark. It was said this dry docks was the best on the Thames, it was one of the largest, at 413ft long by 65ft wide with a depth of 25ft. It was closed and flooded in 1968 and is a haven for birdlife with swans and ducks enjoying its quite secluded location.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Walking on round the corner, you come across of a number of houseboats, mostly Dutch in origin , they offer some final interest before we come back to Glengall Bridge.
© Photograph by Loren Brand
Unlike West India Docks, the original buildings around Millwall Docks were more modest with sheds rather than grand warehouses. Therefore little remains from the estate from the working docks period other than 1960s cranes and a large number of bollards dotted about. But the docks themselves are still full of water and are an important resource for the Island. In the frantic redevelopment of the Island , the docks provides an attractive space and peaceful oasis to sit and watch the world go by.
Recently I was contacted by writer, illustrator and broadcaster Jude Cowan Montague who has just published her latest book entitled Love on the Isle of Dogs.
The book is a graphic memoir of her early life against the background of a changing Isle of Dogs in the 1990s. Jude Cowan Montague lived on the Isle of Dogs with her husband in the early 1990s, it was a whirlwind romance and a very difficult time for her as she became quickly pregnant and her husband’s mental health began speedily to degenerate. The stress increased and the knock on effect for both after the separation dominated their lives for years to come.
What is unusual about the book is that the story is first told visually using drawings and then by using text.
Jude’s drawings illustrate how the Island provided the background for her life and romance. In the beginning, the drawings have a children’s picture book quality but gradually they become darker and more menacing.
Jude’s husband was one of the participants in a self-build scheme on Westferry Road and their house was close to Mudchute Farm, which became for Jude, a welcome escape from the pressures of modern living.
The text part of the book is more about how Jude tried to make sense of her life as it enfolded from working at an Arts Centre and moving forward to marriage and motherhood. It is an honest portrayal, full of unrealistic dreams, denial, love, concern, anger, fear and loss.
The book is very much a modern love story about romance, marriage and having a child. However, not every story has an happy ending and a series of incidents turns the relationship into a nightmare. The Isle of Dogs like any place is not just a location but a home to thousands of people. Those people all have a story to tell but not everyone can tell that story in such a graphic or creative way like Jude. It is her talent that she can see her own story in a wider perspective and understands that sometimes the environment reflects the personal. The confusion and changing times of early 1990s Docklands reflected the strangeness of a relationship that moved quickly from light to darkness.
These are lessons, all of us have had to deal with in recent times, when the familiar has become strange and unsettling. We can take some solace from Jude’s end of the book which reflects her hope and determination to create better times in the future.
You can order or buy a copy of the book here