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Blackheath and Greenwich: 10 reasons to visit

The 211 acres of Blackheath’s common tell the story of England over the last millennium. The Royal Hundred Hides, traditionally, a hide is enough land to house and feed a family, lead south to Greenwich Park and it’s history. Over the centuries, Blackheath has been a gathering point for both celebrations and revolts: Henry V congratulated his archers after their victory at Agincourt in 1415. Henry Vlll was less jubilant having met his fourth bride, Anne of Cleves, deceived by Holbein’s flattering portrait of his future wife. “I like her not,” he bluntly told Thomas Cromwell. Wat Tyler, rallied the Peasant Revolt of 1381 on the 211 acres of heathland and Henry Vll defeated a Cornish Rebellion in 1497. Eltham Palace First it was a medieval mansion and then it became a Tudor Palace. Back then, the Palace was an escape to the country for the royal monarchs though actually located in Greenwich. In the 1930s the palace’s interior design was given an Art Deco twist by its owners. Today, the 19 acre site with its moat and gardens is cared for by English Heritage who run many events, such as jousting displays, to celebrate the site’s heritage. The birthplace of English golf When James V of Scotland came to London to became James 1 of England he missed his golf. The wide open spaces of Blackheath provided the perfect venue for him to hit the first golf ball ever struck in England in 1608. Goffers Road, running through the heath, celebrates Blackheath’s golfing tradition. With prior arrangement the Golf Museum at Blackheath Golf Club can be visited. The Clarendon Hotel, Blackheath The elegant Georgian facade of The Clarendon Hotel represents another page of Blackheath’s history. The population grew rich on trade with a growing British Empire, that begun on the River Thames, and built themselves grand homes. With uninterrupted views across Blackheath, the comfortable Clarendon Hotel provides an ideal base for exploring both Blackheath and Greenwich. The garden or Goffers’ Lounge, celebrating the golfing heritage, are restful places to recharge after a day exploring. The Meridian Restaurant, celebrates its location on the longitude line between Eastern and Western hemispheres, and offers a wide-ranging menu. Post Covid -19, The Clarendon takes orders in the evening for breakfast, ensuring hot, fresh breakfasts are promptly served. Having provided over 2,500 nights of accommodation for NHS staff from the neighbouring Blackheath Hospital, The Clarendon had to develop rigorous safety protocols, long before the government issued guidelines. Foodie Blackheath Exterior tables, with views across the heath, are highly prized. Zero Degrees, a micro-brewery, producing a remarkable Mango beer, has the most tables for its bar and restaurant. Everest Inn, with a Nepalese inspired menu and an award-winning chef brings bold Asian flavours to Blackheath. Film of Nepal and the Himalayas momentarily distracts diners from Blackheath’s charms. The Ivy Cafe brings The Ivy’s renowned brand to Blackheath with informal dining. A stylish setting, attentive service and a menu full of popular favourites means that booking well in advance is essential. Finally, The Copper & Ink Restaurant, run by Tony Rodd, former Masterchef finalist, demonstrates that Blackheath is becoming a destination for foodies. Greenwich Park As one of London’s lungs, the Royal Park is not just a place for locals to cycle, jog, take an exercise class or have afternoon tea. As well as carefully tended gardens it is a home to a variety of wildlife. In the 18th and 19th century Greenwich, at the heart of the British Empire and global trade was a powerhouse. Looking down over the UNESCO heritage site, across the Thames and onto the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf is a spectacular view. The Cutty Sark Built for speed in 1869, this clipper, with 15 miles of rigging and 0.7 acres of sail, was designed to bring the first crop of tea from Shanghai to London. Demand for tea was growing in Victorian England and rewards were rich: in current values the Cutty Sark’s hold filled with tea was worth £18.5m. Remarkably, with such wealth, the Cutty Sark was never attacked. The only time a shot was fired was when the crew threatened to mutiny, unsurprising given their exhausting work and cramped accommodation. The Old Royal Navy School This splendid building, stands on the site of the former royal Placentia Palace, where Henry Vlll was born and where Queen Elizabeth 1 honed her archery skills on the ice when the river was frozen over. Locals claim to be able to see, at low tide, the timber remains of the palace’s original pontoons. Designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1696 and 1712, the Old Royal Naval College is the architectural masterpiece at the heart of Maritime Greenwich. Artwork in The Painted Hall is often described as Britain’s answer to the Sistine Chapel. Artist James Thornhill took 19 years to complete the commission and was rewarded with payment of £6,685 – and a knighthood. Thames Clippers and The Tide Leaving from Greenwich Pier, the rapid Thames Clipper takes the short journey, past the O2 to Greenwich Peninsula. Immediately visitors can take a high-level board walk that takes in sculptures by Anthony Gormley and Damien Hirst. Another option is to buy a Roamer ticket for a day which allows you to ride west back into the heart of London passing iconic sights such as Tower Bridge, The Houses of Parliament and The Globe Theatre. Currently boats run every 30 minutes with frequent stops enabling voyagers to hop on off as they please. Emirates Cable Car At up to 90 metres above The Thames, the Emirates Cable Car gives views east towards the Thames Barrier and east to Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers and beyond. Crossing two rivers, the Thames and the Lea, a commentary plays on the region’s history. It tells of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s historic Thames Tunnel opened in 1843 with 50,000 people paying one penny each to walk through the world’s first underwater tunnel. There are reminiscences from a pilot who could once navigate by the smells of the Thames and more recently of an athlete inspired by the crowds of the 2012 London Olympics.

Michael Edwards

Michael Edwards is a travel writer from Oxfordshire, UK. Although Michael had his first travel pieces published nearly four decades ago, he is still finding new luxury destinations to visit and write on.

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  1. It’s unbelievable how much history these two places have seen. I knew Greenwich was pretty historic but I didn’t know how much had happened at Blackheath.

  2. Greenwich Market could be another one to add to the list. I haven’t been this year so I don’t know how much of it is back open. When it’s up and running it is a buzzing place with boutiques, cafes, pubs and loads of craft stalls.

  3. If you want to see some tourist sites in London then Blackheath and Greenwich is a good compromise. If you are worried about going on public transport even with your face covering on then this is a good place to visit. You can get around without having to rely on buses and trains, it’s a great walk around the Greenwich Park.

    Though if you don’t want to use buses then you are probably going to have to walk a lot of miles. But it is a very healthy area with all those open green spaces and fresh air.

  4. Few countries can have such a long and rich history as England. It’s amazing that those acres of Blackheath have seen so much over the years. I think most people stroll across the grass unaware of who has stood there before them. One of the advantages of this summer’s staycations are that they will give people a chance to get in touch with their own history.

  5. I personally think that English Heritage do a fantastic job with places up and down the country, and I’m sure the likes of Eltham Palace is no different. I’m not a golfer but it’s an interesting pub quiz kind of fact with the first gold ball ever being hit back in 1608 in Blackheath. I’ll have to try to remember that!

  6. I’ve always been fascinated by stories of the monarchs coming from a country with none. I think it just adds a little more spice to a nation’s history. The wealth of these royal families are evidently seen in many of the architectures around Blackheath and Greenwich. It’s lovely to walk around and just admire these beautiful buildings of the past. I’ve had a look-see at the Clarendon website and pleased to know that they’ve dedicated a page to explaining their Covid 19 procedures. It feels really good to know that in some parts of the world, travel and tourism is fighting valiantly to keep things going. It takes a bit more effort but we all need to adapt to this new normal.

  7. By coincidence a friend of mine has just had a day out around Greenwich though she said that she hadn’t seen this piece. She took her kids and parked in Greenwich Park and did a few of the sights mentioned here.

    The main thing is that she said that it was all very quiet. She had to book her ahead but she said it was great going round the Cutty Sark without the crowds, nor were there many people on the boats.

    I haven’t been into London since last summer but she’s almost persuaded me that this part of London is very safe. The biggest problem was the heat but that looks to be over now.

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