Back in May, when the sun started shining again after long weeks of relentless rain, I found myself unable to stay in my apartment chained to my computer, and took to the roads of London on my bike, with my camera, to take exercise and get fit, to explore this extraordinary city that has been my home for the last 27 years, and to capture London at this strange transitional period in its history — with great wealth still apparent on the one hand, and with deepening poverty on the other, as the Tory-led coalition government’s savage austerity cuts, aimed at the poor and not at the rich, for malevolent ideological reasons, begin to bite.
That first journey — an appetiser — was around Greenwich and Deptford, close to home, and I followed it up with a ride through Nunhead and Forest Hill to Dulwich Park and back. A few days later, on May 16, 2012, I decided to follow the river from Deptford to Tower Bridge and back, mostly along the route of the long-distance Thames Path — or rather, that’s how it turned out, but when I set off I had no firm idea of where I would go or what I would do.
This set of photos — my eleventh set of London photos — captures the highlights of that journey, with parts of it familiar to me, and other parts completely unknown. It is a journey that is now my preferred route into central London and back, a substitute for the trains that I have used for many years, and one that involves travelling through Rotherhithe and Bermondsey — both areas that have not been subjected to a wholesale invasion of gentrification, with the exception of parts of Rotherhithe — primarily around Canada Water — and the parts of Bermondsey nearest to Tower Bridge, in the huge former warehouse complex of Butler’s Wharf, which was one of the earliest riverside areas to be developed in London in the 1980s.
This first journey was mostly along the side of the River Thames, but since then I have regularly got lost further inland, as this set of photos partly reveals, and there are many more photos to come. I’ll soon be posting photos of a journey I took along the other side of the river, from London Bridge through Wapping and past Canary Wharf to Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which I took to return home, and I’ll also be posting several sets of photos from a journey I took last week, along the Thames Path from Greenwich out east — through Woolwich and on to Thamesmead. I’ll also be posting some photos of journeys through south London to the City of London — and a set of photos of the City at night.
For now, however, I hope you enjoy this journey with me along the River Thames, with its reminders of Britain’s industrial past and its maritime history, and the replacement of that history with two worlds — of property development and financial speculation — which have failed to serve the majority of the people of London, but which continue to be the dominant mode of business, even as the recession and the government’s savage austerity cuts make the poor even poorer and make these towers of glass even more unaffordable — and even more insulting — than ever.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, introducing this set of photos, I wrote:
Come with me, my friends, on a journey by bike beside the River Thames, from south east London to Tower Bridge, past gentrified docks with views of Canary Wharf, and back through industrial and post-industrial landscapes untouched by money – my latest photo set, from my ongoing mission to cycle and photograph the whole of London by bike.
Saleyha Ahsan wrote:
Thank you, Saleyha. It will take a while, that’s for sure, but I do need to feel the wind in my hair and the sun – or even the rain! – on my face, and to feel my muscles working. Too much time cooped up, and too much miserable news on almost every front, is starting to take its toll on me. Holidays coming soon. Much needed.
Dhyanne Green wrote:
WOW – photos for posterity. I wonder, if you rode along the same pathway in 5-10 years, how much of it would still be the same. Andy thanks.
That’s what I’m wondering. It’s disturbing right now, with such obscene wealth on the one hand, and the average house costing nearly £400,000 in London ($670,000), and, on the other, the savage austerity driving large numbers of people into serious poverty. Something has to give …
Thanks for the encouragement, Dhyanne.
Sylvia Martin wrote:
As someone who’s never been there but loves the city from afar . . . thank you, Andy!
Oh, you’re welcome, Sylvia. I hope you’ll be with me on other journeys to come!
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