Tag Archives: Greenwich

Short Stories of Tall Ships

Greenwich hosted the Tall Ships Regatta last weekend. There were 51 tall ships on the Thames, the majority arriving from Falmouth as part of the Falmouth – Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta having. They left Falmouth on 31 August, racing to the Needles on the western tip of the Isle of Wight before heading to Greenwich where they were joined by a dozen other ships.

They were an impressive site and apparently the largest Tall Ships event on the Thames in 25 years since the end of a Tall Ships race from Hamburg to London in 1989. It got me wondering about the history of some of the boats

Sadly, I didn’t see one of the few locally built ships in the regatta, Leila, which was constructed in Charlton, as she was moored at Canary Wharf. However, there was a real mixture that I passed on my run/walk upstream from the Royal Arsenal to Greenwich.

The Grayhound
The Grayhound was moored in front of the Old Royal Naval College and had a very distinctive sail pattern It is one of the newest of the ships in the regatta having been built in 2012. However, the Grayhound’s roots are much older as she is a wooden replica of a 1776 Cornish-built privateer – as regular readers may recall, I have covered these state sponsored pirates before in the origins of the name of the Antigallican in Charlton. The original was heavily armed but the 21st century version is a charter yacht.


The Basque schooner was built largely by volunteers in Lekeitio, midway between San Sebastien and Bilbao in the 1980s. It was originally designed to circumnavigate the world following the route of the Basque explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano – who was the leader of the first circumnavigation of the world, taking on the leadership after Magellan’s death. However, the voyage never happened and it initially became a cruise boat in the Canary Islands before more recently doing longer cruises, sail training and promotional work.


Dar Młodzieży
A Polish ship, built in Gdansk, Dar Młodzieży is a navy sail training vessel and was one of the larger ships at Greenwich, moored at Enderby Wharf and requiring a dinghy to get visitors on board. She was the first Polish sailing boat to circumnavigate the globe.


De Gallant
One of many Dutch ships in the regatta, she was built as a herring drifter and launched in 1916. She later became a cargo vessel before being salvaged and rebuilt as part of a Dutch government-aided employment scheme to provide young people with work experience. De Gallant is now a sail training vessel.


Iris was launched in 1916, initially working as a Dutch herring fishing boat, tending to work around the Shetlands. From the 1920s until 1975 she worked around the Baltic and since has returned to the Netherlands as a cruise ship.


The ‘Oosterschelde’ was built in the Netherlands in 1918 in Rotterdam, originally a freight vessel, sailing along the coasts of northern Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa. In the 1950s the sails were removed and the then the Fuglen was motorised. She was restored in 1992, she now provides a base for promotional and PR work for Rotterdam as well as being a long distance cruise ship having made a round the world trip and an expeditions to Antarctica.


Tenacious was launched in 2000 and is a wooden sail training ship which was designed and built to allow people with a wide range of disabilities to go to sea on a sailing ship. She has wide, flat decks and powered lifts for wheelchair users, as well as a speaking compass for blind and partially sighted crew members and an induction loop and vibrator alarms for hard-of-hearing crew. It is owned by the Jubilee Sailing Trust and is the largest wooden sailing ship in the world.


Greenwich’s Books About Town Benches

I stumbled across one of the benches a couple of days ago when running through Greenwich Park, despite having passed several others over the summer I had contrived to miss them. They are dotted around Greenwich and the Park and are a good mixture of adult and children’s fiction and many have links to South East London.

Books about Town is being promoted by the National Literacy Trust with Wild in Art. There are four trails of benches around London, all are shaped as open books, decorated by professional illustrators and local artists. After the trails close in mid September, all the benches will be auctioned to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust’s work to raise literacy levels in the UK.

Being Greenwich there are some fantastic backdrops (and in many cases backs) to the benches …..

Clockwise from the top left
– Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”
– Rudyard Kipling “The Jungle Book”
– Charles Darwin’s “Origin of the Species”
– Captain Scott’s Autobiography
– David McKee’s “Elmer the Elephant”
– H G Wells’ “The Time Machine”

Clockwise from the top left
– Sue Townsend’s “The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole : Girl Engrossed”
– Dr Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary
– Samuel Pepy’s Diary
– Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”
– E Nesbit’s “The Railway Children”
– Douglas Adam’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

As for the local links, they include – E Nesbit lived in various homes in Lewisham before moving to Eltham (there will be a blog post here on her later in the year); H G Wells was born in Bromley and was a regular visitor to Nesbit’s home at what is now Well Hall Pleasaunce; Darwin lived in Downe for many years; Pepys lived in Deptford; Michael Rosen is Professor of Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths’ and, finally, Elmer the patchwork Elephant clearly inspired the cladding for Lewisham’s new Glass Mill Leisure Centre.

As for my favourite – it has to be “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” – both because Helen Oxenbury’s simple illustration works well as a bench and in its location -next to the pond and close to large rhododendron bushes in the Flower Garden – it is possible to envisage a parent with a degree of imagination acting out the story with their children in the park; but most of all, I liked it because it brings back happy memories of reading the book to my children when they were younger.