Even though you are in the beating heart of London’s east end you’ll discover that walking on a Sunday is perfectly tranquil.

Having just finished walking from Camden to Hackney I rested for an hour at a friend’s flat before deciding that I really wasn’t done for the day. Kristina decided not to join me for a second walk in one day, we had already clocked up 6.5 miles, so off I went to Limehouse to tread a part of the Thames that I’d barely ever explored.

Starting Point: Limehouse DLR station, Limehouse Marina.

Finishing Point: East India Dock DLR station.

Length: 6.94 miles (11.2 kilometres).

Ordnance Survey Maps app route link here

Download the GPX file for this route here Limehouse Basin to Blackwall

With the sun as my constant companion I alighted from the DLR and admired the monoliths (wait, ‘multiliths’ or ‘polyliths’, ‘polylithic’?) of the Isle of Dogs. Last time I was in Limehouse Marina I deeply admired the sense of peace lying over the area. The occasional peal of church bells and the rumble of the light railway are really all you can hear at all. I guess that the puttering of boats drifts around at times but I’m yet to witness it.

Limehouse Marina and Canada Tower

The Thames was gloriously shiny. I maintain that this reach is one of the most pleasant in the truly urban part of the city. The wide promenade leaves ample room for local residents to go about their business, and touring bikers still have space to cycle without too much concern. A Thames Clipper service sliced the river deeply and sent a range of different reflections lapping over the area. The waves themselves crashed noisily against the steps down to the water but within seconds all was as it was before. I was put in mind of Camus’ The Outsider (AKA ‘The Stranger’ – a fantastic novel) where the sun overwhelms Meursault with sensation and causes him to lose his mind for second. With catastrophic consequences.

Mid 19th Century Dunbar Wharf from the Thames Path

As you walk towards the very obvious bulk of the Isle of Dogs you enter a region of cafes and restaurants. People lounged over benches or reclined under the power of the sun. Few people were actually walking or exploring. I spent too much time watching the people-watchers and missed signs that there was a Thames Path diversion in effect. Suddenly I reached a dead end. Backtracking for a few metres I climbed steps up to a wide plaza of patchy grass and bleached stone. More sunbathers cluttered up the plaza in that way they do when they splat down and shed possessions throughout their vicinity.

Crystal Palace from the Thames Path

I followed the diversion signs after I admired the immensity of the hole being prepared for a huge new structure. I’m unclear what is being built south of Westferry Circus but it reminded me very much of Ground Zero, as it was during my visit to New York City in December 2004. A mass of huge steel pipes and multicoloured crates. To navigate around this building site I had to cross Westferry Road east and then back west again after nipping down some stairs. The lifts were broken and looked like they had been for some time so disabled people will find it very difficult here.

The huge hole at the north end of Millwall

Forging south I felt the sun searing my right side. It was gone 4pm so there was little shade on this time. Obviously I forgot to bring sun cream again. Doofus. It made the residential blocks on my left look extra interesting, with their strange stepped façades and the backdrop of the giant corporate towers.

Strange flats along the Thames Path

By the time I reached Sir John McDougall Gardens most people there were exposed to the glare, but unlike me they were all natural sunbathers. Tan lines an’all. Here I happily turned my back on the sun as the Thames Path veers into the Isle. I took a wrong turn back towards the Thames, past a man I witnessed down most of a bottle of brandy in one go. Finding another riverside dead-end I passed by the very stable looking drunk as he recycled his empty bottle and rejoined Westferry Road for a few hundred metres. The endless quiet was weird. But what broke it was weirder. Suddenly the tremendous roar of a suped-up quad bike rent the air and turned everyone’s heads. He must have been doing at least 60mph down this empty road.

Following Thames Path blazes brings you back to the Thames not a moment too soon. Through a steel gate and back into the full sun once more. Masthouse Terrace Pier creaked hideously while I enjoyed looking across the river and into Deptford Creek, somewhere else I’ve trodden.

As the path curves around the droop of the Isle you pass the launch site of the SS Great Eastern and then a pretty old paint factory. There is no modern sense of industry in Millwall today. Just people enjoying barbecues on their balconies.

Greenwich from the Thames Path

Greenwich swings into view with a lot of pomp. The sight of the Cutty Sark and the foot tunnel entrance beguiles you long before you notice the Royal Observatory in the background, and then the Old Royal Naval College in all it’s magnificence. Today a paddle steamer full of party goers sailed past and lent a weird surreality to the views.

Old Royal Naval College from Island Gardens

Morden Wharf across from Cubitt TownIsland Gardens to Cubitt Town is pretty much an exercise in gazing across the river. There is a long ‘beach’ and that was being used by a bundle of young families but otherwise the quiet gardens backing onto the Thames Path gave away nothing about life here.

Your only glimpses of that life might well be the flags of football clubs stuck inside the windows of the yellow brick estates. The sun was now blotted out by the housing so I felt I could slow my pace a little. I knew I was already burned though.

The cable car across the Thames, from Cubitt Town

The Millennium Dome/O2 looked lovely in the full light of the late afternoon. I could spy groups of people climbing the new(ish) path over the top of the Dome. Albeit very, very, very slowly.

People scurrying over the top of the Dome, from across the Thames

The enormous bulk of the old West India Dock that still bisects the Isle of Dogs came into view soon after. The glass and steel towers felt as dead as the surface of the water. The cranes rusted and idle. It’s a stupid thought to romantically pine for a heavy industry that I never experienced and that by all accounts was pretty terrible to those who worked it, but I can’t help it – I pined for life here where there is none today.

Cranes at West India Dock

At this point I had seen the promising outline of a pub on the Thames, and when I saw a blaze reading ‘Riverside Pub’ I couldn’t resist. ‘The Gun’ is a fairly pricey pub but it is attractive and most importantly has a decking outside overlooking the river and the Dome. I was here on a Sunday, late afternoon, and the deck was fully occupied so I had to sit in the doorway with my pint. Oh well.

Section of a boat across the Thames at North Greenwich

Beyond here the Thames Path peters out in a very short distance. You zig-zag between the main road and a waterfront dominated by construction and hotels before you walk through a residential area, over a lot of broken glass, and to the floor compass at the end of Prime Meridian Walk. Turn left and minutes later you reach the confluence of the Rivers Lea and Thames – East India Dock Basin. From here it’s a shot loop back to the DLR station and you’ve completed the Thames Path in east London.

East India Wharf Basin, the end of the Thames Path

Or so you’d think. There is a short stretch more near the Woolwich Ferry, a few miles further downstream, but it’s certainly miss-able. Be content that you’ve covered the most tranquil part of the Thames in London. Nowhere else on the river will you be less harassed by joggers and cyclists and nowhere else, certainly not on a weekend evening, are you so free to wander amongst your own thoughts.