Explore local history on a self-guided walk


A statue of two men holding a piece of wood

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IMAGE: The Deal Porters sculpture in Canada Dock celebrates the history of the working docks  

May is Local Community and History Month, which aims to get people across the UK interested in their local area’s past and dig into the stories behind their communities. Here in Canada Water the historical roots go deep, with Rotherhithe’s maritime heritage having shaped the area for centuries.  

To help people explore the stories of the area’s past, Our Rotherhithe, a group of local voluntary organisations, has produced a leaflet with four self-guided heritage walks. Detailed instructions lead the curious on tours of the marks history has left on the local landscape, transporting walkers back to a time when almost all of Rotherhithe was covered in a system of nine docks, six timber ponds and a canal. The leaflets have been funded by Southwark Council and British Land.  

Canada Water may be modernising, but the rough and romantic world of the historical docks lies just below the surface. As you tour the sites of wharves, shipyards, granaries and gunpowder factories, it’s easy to conjure up a time when Arctic whalers sailed out of Greenland Dock, Scandinavian sailors prayed for safe passage at the Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish churches, and the famous deal porters plied the timber ponds with huge baulks of wood over their shoulders.   

The four circular walks range in distance from 1.6km to 5km. Each should take between 50 and 90 minutes to complete, and they’re guided by finger posts along the route to make them easy to follow.  

The Surrey Quays Walk starts from Canada Water station and traverses Russia Dock Woodland, the basin of the former dock now converted to a 36.5-acre nature reserve. It takes in sights including a replica dockers’ shelter, the bascule bridge that would lift like a drawbridge to let ships pass, and a panoramic view of London.  

The dockers shelter also features on the Greenland Dock Walk from Surrey Quays station, which takes in the Lock Keeper’s Office, watermen’s stairs and some modern sculptures celebrating the area’s culture.  

The Lavender Dock Walk from Rotherhithe Station will take you past the Old Fire Station, a master shipbuilder’s residence and an air shaft from the Rotherhithe Tunnel.   

Rotherhithe station is also the starting point for the Rotherhithe Walk, which winds past the Brunel Museum with the Mayflower and Angel pubs offering opportunities for refreshment.   

Click here to download the leaflet in digital format, or you can pick up a paper copy at Rotherhithe station, Time and Talents, most local primary schools, Canada Water Library, TEDI-London, Global Generation, Docklands Settlement, most local primary schools and more.   

For further historic detail, the leaflet can be used in conjunction with the Rotherhithe Map, available at locations including Rotherhithe station and the management office at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre (by the public toilets on the lower floor).

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