Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling


Now for another quiz question. Where did the “Mayflower” begin her journey to America? Correct; Rotherhithe.

The Mayflower pub stands on the site formerly occupied by The Shippe, and is said to mark the point where the ship left.

The captain and part-owner was local man Christopher Jones, who is buried in the local churchyard of St.Mary’s. The First Mate and also another part-owner was another Rotherhithe man John Clarke, who gave his name to Clarkes Island, Plymouth Bay, Massachusetts. They set sail with their crew from Rotherhithe, and met up with the ship “Speedwell” at Southampton. The two ships picked up the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth, and on 6th September 1620 off they went. The Speedwell soon developed difficulties after springing a leak and eventually turned back, which is why people have only ever heard of the Mayflower. After landing in America on 21st December, the ship stayed with the Pilgrim Fathers until April, and then returned to England, docking at Rotherhithe in May.

Sunbeam Weekly and the Pilgrim’s Pocket
Sunbeam Weekly and the Pilgrim’s Pocket

A little further along there is a further reminder of the connection between Rotherhithe and the early settlers. The statue, “Sunbeam Weekly and the Pilgrim’s Pocket” stands on the walkway at Cumberland Wharf. The work is by Peter McClean, depicting a newsboy in 1930’s attire, reading a copy of the newspaper depicting the story of “The Mayflower” and all that has happened in the USA since those early days. The pilgrim is reading the paper over the boy’s shoulder, looking astonished at how the world has developed since he landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. The boy’s dog also appears to be trying to read the newspaper, standing on its hind legs.

The path turns again into streets, and amazingly I walk past the Docklands Hilton. There are certain things in life that seem to fit the name, but a Hilton in this area is not one of them.

Another set of words that do not at first seem to fit together are Surrey Docks Farm. Incredible as it may seem, there is a two-acre farm right here in the middle of the reclaimed dock area. The farm was established in 1975, and its primary purpose is to educate and inform people of the city about the farming that is so important for supplying the metropolis with its food requirements. On its two acres the farm keeps a variety of livestock, cows, pigs, goats, sheep and poultry. Vegetables and herbs are lovingly tended in their relevant gardens. There are bee hives, a milking parlour and a classroom where children from all over London come to learn about the mysteries of the countryside. More importantly for the benefit of my immediate needs there is a café.

The route continues to be a succession of housing streets interspersed with short riverside walkways and a series of footbridges providing access over the many inlets from the main river.

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