I really enjoyed exploring the Greenwich Peninsula. A walk by the Thames, thought provoking sculptures and a ride in a cable car. What’s not to like?
The Greenwich Peninsular doesn’t feel like the most obvious place to embark on a sculpture trail. When you first step into the light from North Greenwich underground you’re faced with a windswept concrete plaza circled by chain restaurants and empty benches. The whole set up designed to cater for the crowds that once, pre-Covid, flocked to the O2 arena.
But, don’t be put off. Grab a coffee, turn your back on the plaza and climb the steps to The Tide. This is, apparently, London’s first ever elevated riverside linear park. The initial 1km stretch has been completed but it will eventually run to 5km around the whole peninsular.
At the moment the glass balustrade of the walkway is gloriously colourful, the result of Liz West’s Hundreds And Thousands installation which will run till the end of this summer. I was exploring on a rather cloudy day, so didn’t get the full stained glass effect, but it was still a joyous sight.
When you reach the end of The Tide, turn left along the river bank to join the permanent sculpture trail. The first work you come to is Liberty Grip by Gary Hume each section is based on the arm of a store mannequin. Cast in bronze, the result is a sculpture of the human form, caught between representation and abstraction.
If you are planning to do this walk, I should point out that the path takes you round the back of the O2. This is not an attractively landscaped area, it’s a bit scrappy to be honest, but the views across the Thames are good so stick with it!
I nearly sauntered straight past the next artwork, as Richard Wilson’s A Slice Of Reality sits in the Thames. The slice, taken from an ocean-going sand dredger, was described by the artist as a ‘sound bite’, communicating Greenwich’s rich maritime history while also referencing how the meridian line slices through the peninsular.
Artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead also reference the meridian with their work called simply Here. The work marks the distance from itself along a north/south axis. Created to look like a standard UK road sign, 24,859 miles marks the distance around the world and back to here. The sign is positioned on the Greenwich Meridian.
Stick with your stroll next to the Thames and you will eventually come across Bullet From A Shooting Star, by London based sculptor Alex Chinneck. Taking its cue from industrial structures around the river, the huge piece leans at an angle as if it has been shot into the earth – I loved it.
From here, either retrace your steps back along the Thames path, or cut across the O2 plaza to feast your eyes on Antony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud. This mesmerising work questions the relationship of the self to the world. It was inspired by conversations between Gormley and quantum physicist Basil Hiley.
At this point we stopped for lunch. There are a few spots to choose from but, as the sun was coming out, we decided on a selection of excellent small plates from Spanish restaurant Ardoa, sitting outside to make the best of the view.
If you don’t feel like heading home yet jump on the Emirates Air Line over the river. This was my first time in this cable car and the views are spectacular.
You can while away an hour strolling round Royal Victoria Dock and then round off the day at The Good Hotel rooftop bar. This floating hotel offers great views of the water-ski training centre and we also spotted intrepid cold water swimmers, all from a delightfully sunny spot cocktail in hand.
Travel to Greenwich Peninsula
North Greenwich underground is on the Jubilee line and takes you right to the start of the sculpture trail.
If you prefer to drive there is ample parking. Choose car parks 2, 3, or 4 as car park 1 is prioritised for events at the O2 Arena.
The Greenwich Peninsula sculpture trail is part of The Line art walk which starts in the Olympic Park in Stratford. You can download the map here.
If you enjoyed my guide to the Greenwich Peninsula sculpture trail, you might also like my day out in Rye