On the waterfront

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Where will you find a floating church, a roof garden at ground level, a flying saucer and a llama all within walking distance of each other? Chris Fautley goes walkabout

And the answer is... Docklands - an area pulsating with lesson ideas. The following are all within walking distance of the Docklands Light Railway stations mentioned.

Royal Albert, (allow 30 minutes): Somewhere to appreciate the enormity of London's former docks. Cleared and landscaped, it awaits the developers'

arrival. (Citizenship: For what would you use this area?) Latterly, the Royal Albert and adjoining Royal Victoria docks specialised in handling refrigerated meat. The red brick building adjacent to the station was the compressor house serving one of them. (History: How was meat stored pre-refrigeration?)

A cantilever bridge, (80 steps or a lift ride to the top), crosses the dock affording, by far, Docklands finest view. It was designed as a transporter bridge, but the car was never added. (DT: How do transporter bridges work?) It leads to Britannia Village, planned in "new town-style" with housing, shops, school, and even a village green. (Citizenship: Design a "new" village.)

A 10-minute walk southeast leads to the minimal-style Thames Barrier Park, adjacent to the Thames Barrier. (Geography: Why is the barrier required?) Sunken gardens, waved ribbons of yew hedge and 32 spouting water jets add to the atmosphere. (Maths: Time the duration of each gush of water; what is the average over five minutes? Design: Plan a park with a futuristic theme.)

Canning Town, (20 minutes): 250 lifeboats, 144 warships and 287 merchant ships: all built at the Thames Ironworks, Shipbuilding and Engineering Company that covered 30 acres and employed 7,000 people. A frieze at the station entrance, with an iron plate from "HMS Warrior", built and launched here, commemorates the now vanished industry. (Art: design a frieze marking the spot's history).

Mudchute, (90 minutes): named after dredged material dumped from Millwall Dock. Walk to Mudchute Park where Globe Rope Walk marks the site of a rope works. Thereafter, it's a short walk to City Farm. Yes, there is a llama, as well as a great view to Canary Wharf. (Art: sketch the view.)

Back at the station, walk along Spindrift Avenue to Millwall Docks. The first, smaller dock you see was a dry dock. (DT: how do dry docks work?) Backtrack via Thermopylae Gate and Chapel House Street to the riverside. A plaque on Blasker Walk marks the site of a dye factory. Beyond, another plaque and a large number of wooden piles and cross-pieces mark the launch site of Brunel's "Great Eastern" ship - it took 13 attempts. (Literacy: write a letter to a friend describing the launch.)

Canary Wharf Walk, (two hours): From West India Quay station, head west for West India Dock with its unusual floating footbridge. Warehouses were for sugar and coffee. (Geography: from where were these commodities imported?) At the far end is St Peter's Barge - a floating church - and a statue of Sir Robert Milligan, the docks' founder. (Literacy: What would you ask him about his life?)

At the Hertsmere Road exit, the wall bears a huge inscription commemorating their opening. (Literacy: write a new inscription marking the docks'


Via Garford Street, cross Westferry Road; to the left of the Limehouse Link, a footpath leads to the riverside. Head south along the riverside path.

Soon, Cascades, a 20-storey, triangular-shaped block of flats, looms before you. Follow the path back to the roundabout at Westferry Road and Heron Quay. In its centre is the Traffic Light Tree, a piece of art comprising dozens of working sets of traffic lights. (Maths: choose three adjacent sets. Calculate the probability of each showing the same aspect simultaneously.)

Walk east to Heron Quays station where a plaque marks the spot where, in pre-City Airport days, Captain Harry Gee landed his aircraft in June 1982.

The airport was subsequently built three miles east. (Literacy: file a journalist's report of that historic day.) Look at the light boxes on the station platforms. (Art Design: design your own light box.)

Continue along Heron Quay to the single-masted bridge across South Dock.

(DT: design a footbridge in keeping with modern surroundings.) Then turn north towards Jubilee Park which, although at ground-level, is built on the roof of Canary Wharf Underground station.

Finally, walk to Canada Square gardens to find an enormous blue "flying saucer". It's a sculpture but, hey... (Literacy: write a greeting to the little green men who surely live inside.)

Architecture acknowledgementsource: 'The Buildings of England. London 5: East', by Bridget Perry, Charles O'Brien Nikolaus Pevsner (Yale University Press, 2005)

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