Saturday 23 October 2010

London Greenwich, UK Running Route

Length: 5 km (3.1 miles), terrain hilly

London Running Routes:
Best London Running Routes: Overview
Thames Embankment
Docklands-LimehouseRegent's Canal and Camden Town  
Hampstead Heath  
3-Parks Route: Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James' Park  
Regent's Park  
Hyde Park   

Heathrow Harmondsworth Moor  

Richmond Park
Notting Hill
Victoria Park
Wimbledon Common Trail Run
Royal Docks/ExCeL Route 
Kew / Brentford Thames Run  
For more running routes, see Route List. 

Pictures by Chris Hauser. Thanks!

If you've seen enough of central London, one great place to go is Greenwich. It has a very Victorian, small-town feeling, with an imposing old Naval College campus, historic pubs, the Maritime Museum, and the rolling hills of Greenwich Park, with the famous observatory on the hilltop.

NOTE: see the Destinations Tips page for tips about spending your free time in this great town!
Getting to Greenwich takes a while, but it's simple enough: go there with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), or one of the commuter trains, or -- even better -- take the Thames Clipper ferry from one of the landings in central London: it's the most unique way to see the waterfront.

The Greenwich Route
We'll start in the heart of the old village, at the Cutty Sark DLR station. The river is just a hundred meters away, opening up from the station onto a big square. The square has returned to its former glory: a few years ago, the famous Cutty Sark clipper ship sitting there in drydock way gutted by a fire, and it was covered in plastic tarps for a long spell, a sad shadow of its former glory. But it has been beautifully restored again. The Gypsy Moth yacht also used to sit there, the first boat to be single-handedly sailed around the world. But the Cutty Sark and the view of the river and the Docklands across the way are worth the stop. There is also an entrance to the old foot tunnel to the Docklands right there. But tunnels aren't terribly scenic from the inside...
Entrance to the pedestrian tunnel under the Thames
So we'll run towards the right along the footpath, with the river directly to our left, and the Royal Naval College on the right. The buildings are grand monuments to the British Empire, although they're not used by the Navy anymore. London is trying to put them to good use, with music and arts colleges occupying some of the buildings. At the far end (east) of the campus, you'll find one of the most historic of English pubs, the Trafalgar, where all the Navy heroes once drank their rum. Make sure to return sometime with appropriate clothes to have a pint and to soak in the riverfront atmosphere.

From the Trafalgar, turn right to head up Park Row, with the college on your right. After crossing Romney Road, you will have the National Maritime Museum on your right. You can gaze at the few maritime artifacts in the yard if you want.

Otherwise, continue through the park gate, going straight uphill towards the Royal Observatory. The 0 Meridian is drawn on the ground there, and it even divides the building and a doorway down the middle. In the old days, ships waited in the river to watch for the red ball to be dropped down the pole so they could set their chronometers to exactly 12 o'clock. Your digital watch probably doesn't need the extra help.
Meridian Line at the observatory
Now you can loop clockwise through the park, first heading to the left (east) along the hilltop among the amazing old chestnut trees. In the back-left (southeast) corner of the park is a nice fenced-off gardens to run through, called the "Wilderness", with some impressive cedar trees.
View from the park: Maritime Museum, then the college, with Docklands in background
Loop around the back (south end), running westwards. Then follow the edge of the park along the west side (turn right to head north).

Before the path starts going downhill, you'll come to a small exit between some interesting old houses. As nice as the park is, here is a chance to see more of this nice Victorian town.

Go out through the park gate to the street, Croons Hill, turn right and run downhill for a few blocks till you get to King George Street.

Turn left here to run through the old Victorian row houses once used by Navy officers and cadets.

Turn right on Luton Place and then, turning right again at the Prince Albert pub, you just need to follow Royal Hill down to where it ends at High Road.

Now turn right to head back the last 250 meters to the starting point, passing the old Greenwich Market on the right side, just after the church.

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