For Sunday 20th October I had three appointments in my diary. The first was for monitoring down on the Charlton foreshore with the Charlton FROG. We hadn’t visited Charlton for at least six months, and it is one of my favourite sites, besides having the advantage of being close to home. So this was definitely going to happen. Then there was a recording session at Surrey Docks City Farm, an opportunity to visit the farm again, and also to improve my wobbly drawing skills, this would happen at 2, whereas the monitoring was in the morning. So far so good. Then I learned that City Of Adelaide, sister ship to Cutty Sark would be moored at Greenwich at the weekend, but would depart at 2 on Sunday. So I could do all three, Wow, and thank goodness for the DLR and Jubilee!
I was just about to set out for Charlton when the heavens opened with such ferocity that there was soon a trickle of water under my kitchen door! Fortunately the rain stopped just as suddenly, and Charlton was bathed in glorious sunshine by the time I got there.
Charlton foreshore is an area between two jetties constructed in the Second World for military purposes. It is thought that the one nearest the entrance to the foreshore (a precipitous concrete slipway) is a mine watching station, but the posibility also exists that both jetties could have served as anti- aircraft platforms- but there would have been a searchlight platform in the middle, and no- one has found that yet, but maybe just because they haven’t looked. My feeling is that there were many AA positions near the foreshore, as the incoming aircraft followed the river, and I have probably started looking for them. But I digress.
In former times, Charlton was a ship- breakers yard owned by the Castle Family. Thus it is no suprise that most of the features there are large timbers which have formed part of the hulks which were moored there to be broken up. The largest concentration of these is a stack formed from the timbers of HMS Wellington, the largest warship of the sailing era, she was large enough to be converted to sail/steam power before being taken to Castles to be broken up. There used to be many more timbers from Wellington down on the foreshore at Charlton, but a few years ago someone came in the night with a lorry and removed some of them! The stack is still an impressive sight, but timbers are breaking loose and drifting off to wander round the foreshore.
Further along the foreshore is a slipway formed from the timbers of another Naval vessel, a frigate, and indeed the curving lines of some of the timbers echo the lines of the vessel’s shape when it was in one piece. This is definitely standing prouder of the foreshore than we remember.
Conditions that morning were not ideal, as it was muddier than usual, probably due to the recent heavy rain, this can make observation more difficult. But those of you reading this who are FROGs who have been to Charlton can look at the photos either here or on Flickr
and make your own minds up!After our monitoring session, we had coffee and a natter about the foreshore and all things FROG, then Hugh and I caught the bus into Greenwich to look at and photograph ‘City of Adelaide’ moored outside the Old Royal Naval College. I felt it might be useful to publish a picture of the ‘Cutty Sark’ as well for comparison purposes, as Hugh and I agreed she looked bigger than the ‘City of Adelaide’, but this may be something to do with the fact that she has a full standing rigging, which includes a bowsprit, which will of course lengthen her appearance, but I am sure there are facts and figures about both ships somewhere on the internet!
After we’d completed our inspection of the clipper ships, I carried on alone via the DLR and Jubilee line (and a 381 bus) to Surrey Docks City Farm, being the first of the TDP team to arrive. This gave me a time to browse round the Old Forge, our object of study for the day. Formerly a reception and assessment centre for smallpox victims who were then ferried by river ambulance to isolation wards or a hospital ship, The Old Forge is an amazing place. The structure in the ambulance days was mainly glass, this was mostly destroyed in bombing raids, so only the floors and a roof support or two are original. The Forge is a brick building, and as you wander round it, it is like the original Alchemist’s lair, missing only the stuffed crocodile hanging from the rafters! There are skulls, a huge crab painted black, a tinplate toy car, a head from a rocking horse, a copy of the periodic table on the wall, and as well as the forge itself, a magnificent collection of anvils of which Kevin the smith is justifiably proud.
We did some drawings of the bricks on the floor, and Margaret and Guy produced a floorplan with me acting as auxilliary tape- holder. Then it was time to go, but I think for some of us it is by no means the end of the story at Surrey Docks City farm.
So that was last Sunday, full of action. I’ve just had time to wash my kit, publish my blog, and tomorrow(Wednesday) it’s off to the Houses of Parliament to do some filming with Gus our leader for the BBC Coast programme. Because of our Tidal dependency, it all happens at once for the FROG!