Canary Wharf, Crossharbour, Cutty Sark, Mudchute, Pudding Mill Lane, Royal Victoria, West India Quay, Woolwich Arsenal.
Is it any wonder I love travelling on the Docklands Light Railway in London when I visit, with all those evocatively named stations, speaking among other things of London’s past as a thriving port? A port complicit in many things we’d rather forget, such as the slave trade, but can investigate at the Museum of London Docklands.
The journey is a window onto a watery world of harbours, jetties, watery cul-de-sacs and wharfs: old and new in close juxtaposition. And the windows of the train carriage itself reflects the cosmopolitan society that London has always been.
One of the minor pleasures of being in London is seeing its architecture and street life reflected in its many and varied plate glass windows.
The journey from Kings Cross to William-and-parents’-house starts as I take the Docklands Light Railway from Bank to Lewisham. I pass the busy financial area of Canary Wharf with its skyscrapers and waterside plazas and docklands. Here are reflections a-plenty: even, as we travel through a tunnel, the passengers in our own carriage reflected in the window of the next.
The skyscrapers of Canary Wharf as spotted from the station.
Office buildings along the DLR route.
On my way home, I might pass through the City of London, as I did the other day when visiting the Mithraeum. I didn’t call into St. Stephen Walbrook this time. I confined myself to admiring its exterior as reflected in the new office buildings which surround it.
I’m in London, doing a spot of childminding for two-year old William. But after all that city living in Poland and Berlin, my inner Country Mouse needed some attention.
A city farm then. This turned out to be a Good Idea. It involved an exciting trip through the waterways and futuristic high-rise building sites on the route of the Docklands Light Railway. It involved, in the smart business district of Canary Wharf, an exciting intermittent fountain that commanded William’s rapt attention for many minutes.
It involved a ferry crossing to get us from one side of the Thames to the other. ‘Did you see the seal?’ said one of the crew. No, we didn’t, but it turns out they’re rather common.
And it involved a saunter along the Thames views. Then we arrived. Surrey Docks City Farm. Path, through parkland and with riverside.
It’s a farm, but not as we know farms here in North Yorkshire. The animals are behind fences, and the crops are in beds rather than fields. But it’s nicely ramshackle, in a good way, and a real piece of countryside among the high-rise. William and I befriended sheep: monster woolly breeds from the South Downs and from Oxford, quite unlike their rangier northern cousins. Donkeys requested loving pats on the back. Here was the biggest sow ever. Ducks were a-dabbling, up tails all. Goats played King of the Castle to increasingly complicated rules, jostling each other off the heights: and hens busied themselves policing the entire site.
William was, if anything, even more interested in the vegetables. Those gourds! They were long, thin, and taller than him. Those pumpkins! So big, so h-e-a-v-y. And the long leaves of the cavolo nero! So tough, so leathery, and such an intense shade of dark green.
Everything in the cafe is home-made. So we had lunch there – an enormous lunch – before retracing our steps. The ferry was still as exciting, and there were workmen hanging off the gangway onto the boat, doing unimaginably interesting things.
The fountain as entrancing as first time round. By the time our train journey was over, William was fast asleep.