Walks with views: Blackheath to Greenwich Observatory
A surprise view amongst the trees, observatories and ice cream
By Chris Waywell
This is a lovely walk, equally good through the changing seasons: London’s finest park has nearly 600 years of trees and planting, the meridian, several observatories and one of London’s stunning views.
This route springs that view on you completely: by approaching Greenwich Park from the heath you’re not ascending a hill so you don’t end up looking down on somewhere you’ve just come from. It also has a large number of places to purchase ice cream.
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Start at Blackheath Station (S), which looks like one of those places Sherlock Holmes is always turning up at with a dark lantern. Go left and get a coffee, and maybe a bacon roll, from Hand Made Food (1), an upmarket traiteur with well-sourced local ingredients. You can also get take away fine-dining ready meals. Then head up to All Saints’ church (2).
Ice cream number one can be purchased from the van here. You are now faced with a choice: either walk dead ahead across the heath to the park wall you can see, and go through the main gates and along Blackheath Avenue, or go along Goffers Road via the legendary Blackheath Tea Hut, then past the Ranger’s House of 1723 and the rose garden.
Blackheath itself is a bracing (read sometimes perishingly cold), gently inclined, huge expanse of green. It used to be more wild and woolly, a bit like Hampstead Heath, but much of this was smoothed out with rubble landfill from the blitzed East End. Its emptiness is conducive to walking off worries and hangovers; its space makes it popular with families, dog walkers and fans of the garrotte (sorry, kite-flyers).
General Wolfe statue
Outside Greenwich Park gates (3) there is another ice cream van, and some docile donkeys giving rides. Inside the gates there is another place to buy ice cream. Find the visual marker of one of Greenwich’s most characteristic sights: the statue of General Wolfe in his tricorn hat gazing over the Thames. Head towards this and you’ll pass yet another ice cream stop (if you haven’t already lapsed into a hyperglycaemic coma), a sausage shack and the entrance to the observatory on the left.
The view from Greenwich Park
And suddenly there it is: London from Greenwich Park. Below you is Inigo Jones’s Queen’s House and Wren’s Hospital (later the Naval College); to the right, the Dome. Opposite are the towers of Canary Wharf and upstream the West End. As you stand on the zero-degree meridian beneath Wren’s Royal Observatory (4), the whole city seems to stretch out in time and space.
Feeling energetic after all those ice creams? Why not do the Maritime Greenwich walk while you're there.