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Monday 20 February 2012

10 Reasons Why I Love Greenwich

Welcome to Royal Greenwich!

Earlier this month Greenwich became a 'Royal Borough'. A gift from the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee. It reminded me of why I'm so lucky to live here. Greenwich felt like home the day I moved here. It's hard to find a sense of 'home', it's not just about having a physical roof over your head, but being in a place you feel comfortable in that you look forward to coming back to. These are some of the reasons I love this special part of South East London so much:
1. Greenwich Park
The Capital is home to many beautiful parks, but nothing beats the view of when you reach the top of the hills at Greenwich Park. There's a small wall where you can sit and take it all in. I never get bored of it. It's where I go to clear my head.
2. Free activities
Though council tax in Greenwich is high, they do put a lot of money back in to community events. One of my favourites is Charlton House's Horn Fair which has a brilliant dog show. We used to have a Car Free Day in September too when the town centre was pedestrianised for street parties - I'm not sure what happened to that?
3. Sporting events
My favourite day of the year is when the London Marathon takes place. 40,000 people run past my flat and each year I stand outside it with a mug of tea and a giant Barney the dinosaur cheering them on. Various 1/2 marathons come past here too and the Tour De France was another highlight.
4. Art&craft market
Greenwich has The Clock Tower market, which is an outdoor market that although has shrunk in size, still houses some great antiques and quirky memorabilia, but the market most people associate Greenwich with is the covered art and craft market. On Thursdays it specialises in antiques and at the weekend visitors flock there to sample international cuisine, but homemade crafts are its biggest draw. Here is the stall I used to have. Although trekking on a bus laden down with two huge suitcases to set it up was stressful, having the stall was very satisfying and made me smile, even on freezing December mornings! I stopped the stall because in the end it wasn't cost effective. Around the market are some fabulous independent shops too - I recommend visiting Libby Rose's handmade clothes and haberdashery and the antique toy shop where you can play a game of Carom. 
5. Landmarks
I was a  fan of The 02 (The Dome) ever since Pierce Brosnan fell down it, in the opening credits to The World is Not Enough. What was an iconic symbol of the new millenium for James Bond has since become a fantastic venue for live music and events. It's also a pleasure to see the incredible Cutty Sark ship (seen in the marathon photo above) unveiled again too, after it's fire - the landscape wasn't the same without it - but another place I like wondering down to is the Thames Barrier which is the amazing feat of technology that stops London from flooding. Once a year they close it for maintenance and on one side, the The River Thames becomes as flat as a pancake for a few hours. On this day thousands of birds flock there (I think it's because it's easier to catch fish?), it's an incredible phenomenon to witness.
6. Greenwich & Docklands Festival
I have so many memories of unusual and imaginative things I've seen as part of the annual Greenwich & Docklands Festival. The programmes are packed and the biggest difficultly is not missing a particular show. Last year I attended on three consecutive days and it felt just like a proper music and art festival, switching between stages, picnic in tow. And it's all free!
7. Boating on the Thames
When I used to commute into work, every Monday morning as a treat I would travel by boat. It's the most civilised way to get around London. You're guaranteed a seat, a free paper and there's a bar to buy tea. It's the complete opposite of the packed like sardines experience you get on the tubes in rush hour. Now I only get the boat if I can get a 2 for 1 voucher or on very special occasions like my birthday! The Greenwich Yacht Club pictured in the rear of this photo is also a lovely place to visit - it's members only but there are some days when non-members can go in and use the bar which I highly recommend.
8. Local initiatives
As a journalist I've always had an appreciation for local rags and I can confidently say that the local newspapers in Greenwich are better than a lot I've read. They tend to be community focused rather than sensationalist which is welcomed. There is the local council run (Royal) Greenwich Time which once had a writing competition to mark the year The Tour De France went through Greenwich. I won the adult competition and was awarded with this bike, which I happily posed on, but I never quite mastered learning to ride properly : ( 
9. Institutions
Sadly some of Greenwich's most famous signature places are now just pieces of history to reminisce over. There used to be an incredible Old Bottle Shop in The Clock Tower market which sold retro randomness, Flying Duck Enterprises, an incredibly kitsch gift shop specialising in retro goodies and The Observatory, a remarkable vintage clothes shop. The most missed place however is Goddards Pie Shop, every day of the week it had queues of people, outside, waiting to go in and eat the cheapest most satisfying grub in town (excellent veggie options too.) The day it closed was tragic BUT while they no longer have their two floor cafe, they do have a van parked beside the Clock Tower market where you can still eat their classic British cuisine on weekends, only you're outdoors rather than inside! It costs less than £3 for a pie and mash with peas or beans served with liquor or gravy. Cherry pie with thick creamy custard is a must for dessert and costs around £2. For afternoon tea head to Royal Tea cafe or The Fan Museum.
10. Community
Before I joined The Arches Leisure Centre I was one of those statistics that had a gym membership and never used it. But now you'll find me at The Arches on most days. It's a pretty simple gym with an uninviting swimming pool and changing rooms that are always leaking but the atmosphere is very inclusive. I've managed to get fit not just by turning up, but by the motivation of the other locals that go there. They give me the will power to keep going back - the people are lovely! As are the folk at my local knitting group at The Pelton Arm pub and the friendly people who run The East Greenwich Pleasaunce park..basically.... I've never met any miserable, mean people in Greenwich, touch wood they are all nice  : )
There are so many other things I could say to sing Greenwich's praises (like The National Maritime Museum, The Observatory, meridian line, the fact we are also an Olympic borough)...but Top 10s are made for being selective. If you ever get a chance to visit here, then I hope you enjoy your trip and if you decide to move here after reading my blog then let me know, you can buy me a tea while I fill you in on more must-see/must do activities.


  1. I used to have a stall in Greenwich on a saturday and loved walking around looking at the other stalls when i could get a break. Lovely place! Great post :)

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