Friday, April 20, 2012

Focus on Royal Greenwich

The London Marathon this weekend marks the start of all the big events happening in Greenwich this year and seems to have provided a soft deadline for preparations. First, though, here's that Marathon route again...

Next Wednesday 25 April, the Queen and Prince Philip will re-open the Cutty Sark. Spectators who want to oggle the Queen are invited to assemble in Cutty Sark Gardens from 10.30am (see the Greenwich Council website). The £50m refurbished monument opens to the public the following day, and last weekend finishing touches were in progress – presumably the surrounding new square will be open on Marathon Day. Some raked seating was being erected, hopefully just a temporary stand for the Queen's visit (since it ruins the view). *

There are some lovely, if regimented, new raised flowerbeds on the west side, and after months of inconvenience, the new pier entrances are looking efficient and hopefully smooth running, although the new ticket office wasn't open yet and the foot tunnel entrance was still a disgrace last weekend. Three of the four cafes and restaurants (which all seem to have been transplanted in a different form from the cinema car park at Surrey Quays) were up and running in the new riverside buildings and look to be a roaring success with visitors. Nandos opens next week.

From the riverside, looking northwest, you can view the construction work on the luxury flats taking place at Greenwich Reach (below, far left), Paynes & Borthwick Wharf (recently restarted, where the cranes are), and in the distance to the right, the almost completed Shard at London Bridge (OK, not all luxury flats). The flat bit in the middle is Convoys Wharf, site of King Henry VIII's Royal Dockyard and John Evelyn's Sayes Court Gardens. Plans are under review by Terry Farrell & Partners after the previous masterplan for 3,500 flats was rejected since it failed to acknowledge the enormous historical heritage of the site. See local blog Deptford Is..., whose vision for the site (building a 17th century warship and restoring Sayes Court) if realised, would be a short river walk from Greenwich to the place where Sir Francis Drake was knighted on the Golden Hind, where ships left to engage the Armada and the Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, and where Sir Walter Raleigh laid down his cloak for Queen Elizabeth I.

Meanwhile, in the grounds of the Royal Naval College, yet another set for Les Miserables has been constructed with filming going on this week. 81 year old Don Simms, a guide at The Painted Hall (opposite the set) likes to tell tourists he body doubled for Johnny Depp when Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed here last year.

For film fans, there's a Film Location Tour at 2pm on April 26th-29th. There is also a free exhibition about Charles Dickens at the Visitor's Centre until 15 July. In June, the ORNC will host a Big Jubilee Lunch and the Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. If you have friends or relatives visiting for the Marathon, take them to The Old Brewery, a microbrewery, cafe and restaurant tucked into the east of the Royal Naval College. 

We note that a brand new exhibition opens at the National Maritime Museum on 27th April (not free!). Royal River (Power, Pageantry and The Thames) is guest curated by mad royalist David Starkey to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and will run until 9 September. The Thames Jubilee Pageant takes place on Sunday 3rd June and promises to be spectacular – and although the Queen will disembark at Tower Bridge, many of the 1000 boats taking part will come as far as Greenwich to disperse.

With its new Sammy Offer Wing opening out onto the Royal park, the Maritime Museum is always worth a visit, as is the Royal Observatory and Planetarium – see the Greenwich Phantom's new post about a trip to the Planetarium. As s/he notes, when you're a local, you rarely bother to go and see these things that you wouldn't dare miss if you'd come here on holiday.

From the new wing of the NMM, you can get the measure of the Olympic Equestrian site, which has taken over the Queen's Field. The entire park will be closed to the public from 7 July to 4 August (except for the Flower Garden and Children's Playground).

There has been much opposition to the park's use for the Olympics and a new gallery has opened on Creek Road featuring photographs of the park. At Made in Greenwich, Greenwich Landscape Artists are still campaigning against the Olympics being held here, fearing it will herald the loss of the park as we know it, in a flood of future corporate or brand sponsored events.

Finally, Marmoset has news via reader San that there will be fireworks at Greenwich Reach on Saturday 5th May at 9.45pm. We've absolutely no idea why since it doesn't coincide with any big events...but the picture below was snapped when cruise liner the Seabourn Sojourne slipped in to dock here fairly unannounced in June 2010. Now that the Greenwich Reach development has totally obscured all views of the river from Deptford Bridge, head to Millennium Quay if you want to see 'em.

* UPDATE 24/04/12: We have since ascertained this is a permanent structure which houses lifts and air conditioning. A critique of the "restored" Cutty Sark ("Disney Sark") and the vandalism of the park caused by the Olympics, written by Greenwich resident and infamous journalist Andrew Gilligan, can be found here.


  1. There's a replica Viking boat in the churchyard at St Alfege's this weekend. Website says recreation of Anglo Saxon village, weaving and craft demonstrations, coin minting (good idea). Free, and part of their Millennium Celebrations.

  2. Wow! Thanks for the list of events, its going to be a busy few months.

  3. Hi! You mentioned a film location tour for the Les Mis set in Greenwich. Do you know who organises this? Thanks!

  4. Stevie, it's the Old Royal Naval College (ORNC).
    Thanks, DP, I wonder if Greenwich Tourism will give me any free tickets?!

  5. Thanks Sue! Found all the info I need on their website!