Saturday, 30 November 2013

Let's reclaim God's own country in London: Bermondsey Beach

From the home of Bermondsey's working-classes, to London's premier pleasure beach?
When taking a lazy evening stroll along  The Queen's Walk, SE1's Thames-side walkway, it is very easy to miss the clues that point to Bermondsey Beach's place in history as the home, workplace and playground of the ordinary working people of Bermondsey.  Riverfront terraced housing, later rebranded as 'slums', has long since been demolished; Hay's dock and with it the livelihood of tens of thousands of locals has been filled-in and 'gentrified'; and the industrial heart of Bermondsey, including the Anchor Brewery and bonded warehouses ripped out of the once gloriously rich Thames promenade.  Whitewashed and airbrushed out, but not forgotten.
Hay's Galleria, formerly Hay's Dock
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
But with the demise of the docks and wharves, and with them Britain's shipping industry, Bermondsey's brightest and best were progressively and brutally ejected from their deckchairs on London's finest beach.

©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Enjoyed today by men and women from all over the world, and toiled over in days long forgotten by innumerable dockers and labourers  from the once all-powerful Bermondsey working-classes, the beach formed the gateway to the now defunct 'larder of London', with over three-quarters of the city's butter, cheese, bacon and canned meats landing there.  Although dockers were poorly paid, they along with many food processing firms such as biscuit manufacturer Peek Freens and Co and Sarson's Vinegar provided additional employment to sustain the lives of our hardworking families. 
St Saviour's Dock, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Ships would dock weekly in their thousands, offloading their wares, and in turn feeding the hungry mouths of millions of families across London.  These days, powerboats scream past carrying the wailing well-to-do on their birthday gift experiences.  London's cheese, poultry and meat industries no longer employ generations of Bermondsey families at Hay's Dock - instead our premier markets at  Spa Terminus (Spa Road) and Maltby Street sell some of the best produce in Britain, albeit to an exclusively middle-class elite.
The Beach at Cherry Gardens, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
In 21st century Bermondsey, the modern beach front houses some of Britain's finest places to spend a Friday night: from The Pont De La Tour and Blueprint Cafe, to the buzzing All Bar One and Browns bars.  In fact, it's thanks to the Butlers Wharf and Shad Thames pioneer Terence Conran that much of this area was redeveloped at all.  The question is, how can these be made more inclusive, and as a result inviting, to those living in the poorer parts of Bermondsey?

Butlers Wharf, Shad Thames, SE1
Nonetheless, if you haven't seen lately the views from the beach, get down there today: London's testicle, otherwise known as City Hall, is provocatively tickled by the Shard; the Cheese grater shaves off slices of the Gherkin before your eyes; and standing majestically in the distance  is St Paul's Cathedral - but is Sir Christopher Wren looking down with delight or disdain?
The Shard and City Hall (known affectionately as The Testicle), SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Views across the river of  Wapping and Tower Hill are nothing short of spectacular.
View across the beach to Wapping
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Today, we are extremely fortunate to be able to float away to Greenwich, the South Bank or even onto Hampton Court by catching a clipper boat from at least two Bermondsey piers: Cherry Gardens and London Bridge City behind Hay's Galleria.  Thanks to both Ken and Boris, the Thames is being used more often - now it's time to make it cheaper and easier to use by the very same Bermondsey Brits who breathed life into it through passion and gritted graft over hundreds of years.
View across the Beach to The Tower of London
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
When you've seen the views, at dawn and at dusk, there is only one conclusion that can be reached: Bermondsey is God's own country in London!
View from the beach - Tower Bridge
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
The problem is that the only place tourists and locals alike fail to venture down to is the beach itself: sandy, sometimes silty, it is a veritable haven for probe wielding treasure-hunters and those who want a minute's peace, but unfortunately not for much else.

Rugged and rich in history - the Beach near Cherry Gardens
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
This decade's real challenge is to turn Bermondsey Beach into London's foremost pleasure beach; not with chutes, slides and big-wheels, but by sticking up two fingers to the 'elf-'n'-safety bigwigs and following the example set by our parents and grandparents: playing football, launching small tethered sail boats, building sandcastles and even paddling in the Thames. (These people built an empire and fought and won two world wars, and the beach didn't harm them!) Furthermore, the disturbing and unacceptable outbreak of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in modern day Southwark could be beaten decisively by beach bathing on a towel  or a deckchair - oh, and of course by feeding our kids a healthy diet, rather than neglecting them.  Let's reclaim the beaches from the exclusive enjoyment of the privileged few that can afford to live there - we will all benefit.

View of Bermondsey Beach from Rotherhithe 
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
From sunrise to sunset, the views from Bermondsey Beach have strangely medicinal qualities, lifting tired and broken hearts and breathing new life into cynical and weary souls.  So, bring your knotted handkerchiefs, bucket and spade and a copy of Southwark News - then, stop and marvel at world-class views.  And for the truly daring, come on in - the water's lovely!

Friday, 29 November 2013

What's happening in Bermondsey SE1 and SE16?

Bermondsey's Best Blogs

Bermondsey Photographs shows an interesting selection of images in and around the Bermondsey Street Conservation Area.

Corner of Dockhead and Mill Street, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Not strictly a blog, more of a hybrid-forum, Bermondsey Boy is our first port-of-call for comparing images of places and buildings old and new, as it charts the changes in Bermondsey throughout the years.

©Bermondsey Boy

Offering faith, hope and love in south-east London, St. James' church's Canon Gary Jenkins' blog Bermondsey Vicar offers musings on the area from a thoughful Christian perspective.

St James' church, Thurand Road, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
And finally, try relative newcomer 'Bermondsey, my village', written by a member of the new Bermondsey gentry (and a lover of SE16, too).

Grange Road, SE1
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
And of course, our blog Bermondsey Beach!

You can also follow us on Twitter @BermondseyBeach.

Or better still, enjoy some of the best Bermondsey photographs and images on Instagram @BermondseyBeach.

Bermondsey Beach near Cherry Gardens, SE16
©Bermondsey Beach 2013
Whichever Bermondsey blog you read, we hope that you enjoy discovering more about the jewel in London's crown - Bermondsey SE1 and SE16.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Today Bermondsey pauses and hopes for a better world

A prayer for the world on Remembrance Sunday

Today, thousands in Bermondsey joined together with Southwark, Greater London, Great Britain and the rest of the world, united in support for the dedication of our armed forces, their families and loved ones and those who performed the ultimate sacrifice - giving up their lives so that we might live ours in love and peace.

Copyright 2013 BBC
As the day draws to a close, the words from Graham Kendrick's song 'Beauty for Brokeness', offer us comfort and hope: comfort in the good that we see daily everywhere in Bermondsey, and hope for a better Bermondsey and a world of decency, justice, equality and peace.

Copyright 2013 Royal British Legion

Beauty for brokenness
Hope for despair
Lord, in the suffering
This is our prayer
Bread for the children
Justice, joy, peace
Sunrise to sunset
Your kingdom increase!

The View from Bermondsey Beach at dusk

Shelter for fragile lives
Cures for their ills
Work for the craftsman

Trade for their skills
Land for the dispossessed
Rights for the weak
Voices to plead the cause
Of those who can't speak.

Jamaica Road and Bermondsey Tube Station at sunrise
God of the poor
Friend of the weak

Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame.
Cherry Gardens
Rest for the ravaged earth
Oceans and streams
Plundered and poisoned
Our future, our dreams
Lord, end our madness
Carelessness, greed
Make us content with
The things that we need
The Shard and Southwark Cathedral
God of the poor
Friend of the weak

Give us compassion we pray
Melt our cold hearts
Let tears fall like rain
Come, change our love
From a spark to a flame.
Bermondsey Spa Gardens and the old Municipal Offices of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey
Refuge from cruel wars
Havens from fear
Cities for sanctuary
Freedoms to share
Peace to the killing-fields
Scorched earth to green
Christ for the bitterness
His cross for the pain.

 Video Links:

1. Royal British Legion:

2. 'Beauty for Brokenness' by Graham Kendrick

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Support the 2013 Poppy Appeal TODAY at Bermondsey Station

Bermondsey never forgets to remember

In a post-modern world that is often cruel, cynical, selfish, and sans sacrifice, this November our beloved Bermondsey stands tall and proud in supporting the work of the Royal British Legion, and in turn honours in perpetuity the brave men and women who surrendered their lives, so that we didn't have to.
The Royal British Legion will be collecting today at Bermondsey tube station from 9am until around 5pm - you'll find them just inside the ticket gates.  So have at  the ready your donations; however large or small both coins and notes are welcome!  And so far, it appears that Bermondsey man and woman have been extremely generous in helping the armed forces.  Over the last two weeks, a dedicated team of volunteers have been quite literally overwhelmed and swamped with interest, smiles and ungrudging charity - Bermondsey at its best! 
In exchange for your kind support, the team will be giving away a range of products from The Poppy Shop: wristbands, bracelets, large car bonnet poppies, metallic brooches and wooden crosses.  One of the perks of giving is watching the heartfelt smiles and glances of passers-by, as they too understand the deep meaning behind such a simple and enduring symbol: pride, honour, courage and fearlessness.

But, it is perhaps the tradtional red paper poppy adorned with a green oak tree leaf that says it best.  Indeed, it is a little known fact that Bermondsey led the way in making the first ever remembrance poppies, so in giving generously today we continue a gloriously British tradition that started long ago here on the shores of Bermondsey Beach.

Bermondsey will join together in poignant displays of unity and solidarity in  remembrance services at churches and war memorials tomorrow, as well as the two minute silence on Armistice Day this coming Monday.

So, to those uber-liberals and naysayers who perpetrate dangerously the nonsense that dropping £1 into a collection tin is in some way supporting war and conflict, we say this: when Bermondsey forgets to honour and help the armed forces today, it sows the seeds of its own dishonour and destruction tomorrow - and don't you ever forget it!
Donate to the Poppy appeal NOW:
Every donation helps to support British Armed Forces past and present and their families
All images (except the church) copyright 2013 The Royal British Legion