An overnight stay in Greenwich last week allowed to explore another stretch of the River Thames.
For orientation, Greenwich lies east of central London and is famous for its naval college, observatory (set in a beautiful park with stunning views over London), maritime history (including the Cutty Sark) and, of course, the meridian. West of here is the stretch of former docklands that was so famously converted into a financial district and associated yuppie neighbourhoods from the 80s onwards.
My interest lay east of here, beyond the Millenium Dome and into the less famous areas of the this stretch of the river, in order to see how this area had coped with the rapid changes of the 21s century.
Greenwich itself has changed relatively little, it always having been an affluent and historical village surrounded by London.
As I walked eastwards there were one or two signs of the industrial and social history and heritage of the area, but this faded away and was quickly replaced by swathes of modern development - mainly apartment blocks. It was only by clinging close to the river bank that signs of what there was is still visible but it is but a bit slither on bits of water, jetties and riversides that you simply can't build modern housing on.
Further east still and into Silvertown, established redevelopment is replaced by a vast moment of change, one huge building site as modern developments replace the old commercial and shipping sites. Whereas in more central areas there has been an attempt to co-opt old buildings and convert many into modernity, here it is more year zero, with wide areas laid to waste and levelled to make way for huge housing blocks and shopping malls. There are still living signs of the type of industry that used to dominate this part of London, but they are clearly shrinking even as they plough on, seemingly trying to ignore the surrounding invading armies of cranes and newly build steel monuments.
The guy in the next photo stopped me (on his way to work in a sugar factory that was a former WW2 bomb factory) to explain that all this will only accelerate as they are due to bore a new tunnel under the Thames to replace the ancient Victorian versions, and completely reshape the surrounding area as they do so.
Nothing stays the same forever of course, but I do wonder if we will look back at the nature of this particular change with fondness, or with the same sense of disillusionment we have for the concrete towers of the 60s.