This is one of a set of walks in the Isle of Dogs. It begins at Island Gardens DLR station, takes in Mudchute, Crossharbour, South Quay, Canary Wharf * and Herons Quays, ending at West India Quay DLR station. Quite an experience!

From Island Gardens station turn left and walk through Millwall Park, taking the left hand path by a viaduct. Between 1872 and 1926 this carried the ‘Penny Puffer’ to the terminus of the Millwall extension of the London & Blackwall Railway. When the DLR came into being in 1987 the viaduct was used once more, but with the construction of the under-river extension to Lewisham in 1999 it fell into disuse again.The playing field to your right is of interest to football fans, as Millwall Football Club played here from1901 to 1910 when it moved to New Cross. Previously it had been pastureland. Owing to its proximity to the place where the mud was dumped from the excavations for Millwall Dock over the road (hence ‘Mudchute’) the ground was so wet it had to be steam-rollered before the first game. Follow the path round to the right towards a row of trees. These line the Globe Ropewalk. A long, low shed belonging to Hawkins and Tipsons rope works ran the whole length of the walk where manila and sisal were twisted into extra thick ropes of the kind attached to life-boats as fenders. They occupied the site between 1881 and 1971. Immediately behind the ropewalk is an embankment behind which is Mudchute Farm.   You will come to an entrance to this at the East Ferry Road end of the path, but I suggest you ignore it, as there is much better, step-free, access from Pier Road. Cross East Ferry Road towards Mudchute DLR. Walk past the station. When you see the sign 'Dockside Walkway' go down the steps (or slope), then up more steps (or turn right for another slope).

Suddenly, the impressive Millwall Dock stretches out before you. Opened in 1868 it was originally connected to the Thames at the West end by a double lock. Badly damaged during WW2, the dock was eventually dammed up in 1956. The far end is now occupied by the Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, so you may see sails bobbing about in the distance. If you look to your left you will see a large chunk of machinery painted red. This is a grain pump brought from the Royal Victoria Docks, but it has a suitable home in this area, as vast amounts of grain were loaded and unloaded here. (The tall chimney in the photo belonged to nothing more interesting than a rubbish incinerator.) Timber was another commodity handled in bulk at Millwall Dock, much of the nearby land being taken up for its storage. To continue the trail, turn right and walk along Millwall Inner Dock where  houseboats are moored. At Turnberry Quay go past an attractive (modern) polygonal building and turn left into Pepper Street . To the right is Crossharbour DLR station. (If you are getting to the Canary Wharf area from that, walk down Westward Parade/Pepper Street to join the trail). This area has more of a residential feel about it, with small shops under a series of attractive stone arcades. Soon you will come to Millwall Inner Dock. Follow the waterside path (Oaklands Quay) to the right, towards a colourful floating chinese restaurant. Opposite this in Baltimore Wharf is a trap for anyone wearing dark glasses. What looks like a large black bench - just the thing you might be looking for at this stage in the walk - is actually a water feature . . . You have been warned!

Over the water you will see some old cranes and near the end of the path are two more - reflected in the exciting blue glass buildings of Harbour Exchange Square near South Quay DLR station. Cross Marsh Wall and go left to find two sets of steps leading down to West India South Dock. Take the second (western) flight (or the easy access slope further on) and walk straight ahead. [The area to the east is covered in Route D Northeast]. Go round the corner and walk along the dockside – there are often quite large boats tied up here. Soon there is a row of restaurants with a pleasant narrow path lined with hanging baskets. Walk along this to reach the gracefully curving South Quay Footbridge. From the centre of this (bouncy) crossing you get a good view east towards the  Blue Bridge at the tidal lock, beyond which is the O2.  

Once over the footbridge, go down the steps (or take lift**), then pass through two sets of glass doors, crossing a large atrium. Turn left and cross at the lights – you have arrived at Canary Wharf, the heart of the Docklands business centre. (Herons Quay DLR station is on the left.) Now there are no physical imports and exports here – only the ‘invisibles’ of financial wheeling and dealing. To the north the famous pyramid-topped 46-storey tower block of One Canada Square presides over the whole Canary Wharf estate. A landmark for miles around, this first skyscraper, completed in 1991, has now been joined by other giants. The expanses of water that help to make this area so intriguing also remind us that part of it was literally built over the West India Docks. For a full description of the development, including details of the various architects involved, see links below.

Just so nobody is left in any doubt about what Canary Wharf is all about, the curved Reuters building to the west has an illuminated ‘ticker-tape’ of share prices running round it. Meanwhile, red DLR trains constantly trundle to and fro nearby - as you wander round you will often see them suddenly appearing and disappearing on raised lines between the office blocks. The Tube station is not the only public subterranean area. Underneath Canada Square is an extensive mall with floor mosaics depicting various commodities that used to be handled in West India Dock. It is accessed through sets of glass doors conveniently placed throughout the square so you are never far from an entrance.  As you can imagine, at lunch time it gets very busy, so if you fancy buying something for a picnic try to go earlier. You may find telling the time by the array of the six clocks in Nash Court outside No.1 is a little confusing, since they are an art installation by Konstin Grcic (1999). Although each clock tells the same time, only one (different) numeral shows on each face. I mention a picnic, because to the south of the Underground station is Jubilee Park which has a delightful raised granite ‘stream' . In fine weather it's ideal for a pause and people-watching.To investigate Canada Square further, wander along by the stream to the end of the park, turn left and walk along Upper Bank Street until you get to an entrance to the Jubilee Line.Go over the road towards what looks a bit like a giant glass slug. Actually it’s another entrance to the Tube. Walk left, cross South Colonnade and pass the pale green Waitrose. Go over North Colonnade and walk to the right. No 15 is spectacular - two joined blocks, one at an angle to the street with a huge atrium joining the two buildings. Cross the slope that leads to Service Area No 9.

The road then goes over a channel between the docks. Follow the road as it curves round in Churchill Place, then goes straight to the Cartier Circle, with its shaped trees. This is the place where security staff*** check all vehicles wishing to enter the eastern end of the estate.At the roundabout turn left and carefully cross the entrances to Service Area T to find a bridge, Trafalgar Way. On the left you can see Billingsgate fish market which moved here in 1984. The brick building with red doors in the fish market car park is an old (1857) hydraulic accumulator tower which served the London and North Western Railway. Retrace your steps as far as Upper Bank Street, but this time cross straight over to South Colonnade. You may be surprised to see the pair of bronze lions outside the HBSC building. They are replicas of the ones that guard the bank’s offices in Shanghai and are a kind of mascot for the business, appearing outside several other HBSC headquarters throughout the world. At this point cross over the road towards Canada Square Park where you will see a striking artwork, The Big Blue (Ron Arad, 1998) which sits atop a circular window, a lighting source for the underground mall. Walk to the right to past the stainless steel pillars of No. 1.

Continue to the end of South Colonnade and turn right into Cabot Square with its large fountain and angular statue, Couple on Seat (Lynn Chadwick,1984). Cross the road to Wren landing, north of the square, and descend steps to a yellow floating footbridge (1996). It reminds me of those water creatures that skim over the surface of a pond. Before you is the quay of West India Import Dock. The first two West India Docks, Import (north) and Export (middle) opened in 1802 to cope with the problems of overcrowding, as ships from the Caribbean laden with rum, coffee, sugar and other produce arrived mainly between July and October. Nine warehouses were built along the dock to store the valuable cargo and the area was surrounded by closely guarded high brick walls in an attempt to stop goods going missing. Sadly, of the warehouses only Nos.1 and 2 remain, the rest having been bombed in WW2. Today we are impressed by the height of the office blocks, but just imagine what a sight nine 223ft warehouses must have been!

The quay was known as Blood Alley because of the damage to dockers’ skin from unloading sacks of sticky sugar. Beyond the warehouses to the west is the Ledger House, now a restaurant, where records of everything that went through the docks were kept. Once over the bridge go to the left, passing St. Peter's Church Boat, originally a Dutch freight barge. At the end of the dock turn to the left again to discover some interesting veteran tugs. Ahead is the small-scale replica of the Hibbert Gate. The original was the former main gateway to the new docks, west of the existing warehouses. It is named after the model ship on top, ‘The Hibbert’, which bore the name of the first chairman of the West India Company, George Hibbert, a plantation and merchant who traded mainly in Jamaica. The statue of another merchant, Sir Robert Milligan, in front of the museum is the original (1812). Milligan worked with Hibbert to get the docks built here instead of Wapping. Go through the Hibbert archway and walk to the right through the Credit Suisse car park towards the Cannon workshops. In the nineteenth century these were used by engineers and carpenters etc, nowadays they house a series of small businesses. In the yard was a water tank in case of fire - from 1875 used for compulsory swimming lessons for boy labourers. At first the dock companies employed their own police forces to try to cut down on the pilfering (the Metropolitan Police Force was not created until 1829.) The round building (1805) was a guard room where arms were kept. It was on one side of the main inner gateway.

Originally there was another one on the other side which was used as a lock-up. In 1909 all the dock security forces amalgamated and were run by the Port of London Authority. The building to the north of the Cannon Workshops was a PLA Police Station and bears the date 1914. On the curve of the massive dock wall to the right is a foundation stone laid in 1800. Hibbert and Milliagan are mentioned as being instrumental in promoting an undertaking ‘which, under the favour of God, shall contribute stability, increase and ornament to British commerce’. It is worth walking round Hertsmere Road to the back of the old warehouses where you can get more of an idea of what the area must have been like.  As you turn the corner you will see the Georgian Dockmaster’s House on the left, once dock offices, now a restaurant – never lived in by a Dockmaster. The DLR train in the background of the photo is going over the old Blackwall railway viaduct.
You can cut through back to the quay by going down the steps under the archway half way along the warehouses (continue to the end for a slope). As you pass through the building, notice the huge timber beams resting on millstone grit blocks to protect the wood from rotting. Once back at the dock you might want to visit the (free) Museum of London Docklands with its excellent section on what happened round here in WW2. Not surprisingly the docks were a prime target for German bombers and suffered serious damage. Nonetheless important war work was carried on – much of it in conditions of strict secrecy. An example is the construction of parts of the Mulberry Harbours so crucial to the success of the D-Day landings. As in the other locations concerned in their building, those working on them had no idea of their purpose. For a detailed history of this fascinating area and its regeneration go to links below.
 As you are so near West India DLR station (it’s at the eastern end of the dock, just behind the two large cranes), you may prefer to get home from there rather than going back to Canary Wharf.

*To start Route A from Canary Wharf DLR station, take the exit signed JubileeLine/Cabot Place. Go through glass doors labelled 'One Canada Square' and start going round the circle to the right, then right again to South Colonnade. Here turn left and cross the road at the lights - you will see Canada Square straight ahead.
**Disabled access throughout the estate is excellent, with lifts or slopes where needed.
***A word of caution. You will not be surprised to hear that security is tight. All vehicles are checked as they enter the estate and sniffer dogs are in evidence. It is unlikely that you will be stopped and checked merely for using a camera, but it does happen. Dressing slightly more formally than you would normally do for a peaceful walk is a good idea - you will also feel less self-conscious as you mingle with the smartly dressed workers.

© DR