I don’t know this neck of the woods very well. Turning east  out of Wapping Station I was surprised to come across this lovely sight while crossing the less than picturesque bridge at Shadwell Pierhead.

A bunch of people enjoying a perfect London Saturday afternoon messing about in boats in  the Shadwell Basin. The Shard, the Walkie-Talkie, Cheese-Grater  and the Gherkin are all peering over the top of the houses at the far side of the Basin trying to get a better view of the action.

The Shadwell Basin is the last remaining part of the old London Docks. Not to be confused with the wider London Docklands which comprised all of the docks within London, the London Docks was one of ten docks in the city which was active 1805-1968. In truth, it was never a great commercial success. Dug out in the early 19th century it was already too small for the large boats that increasingly brought goods to and from London from the mid-19th century.

All of the rest of the old London Docks apart from (Shadwell Basin) was filled in during the 1970’s and 1980’s and has since been built on.

There is a very good outline of London’s Dockland history here. I “borrowed” the following quote from it which describes London Docks:

London Docks 1805-1968
The London Docks are situated about half a mile downriver from St Katharine Docks at Wapping. Opened in 1805, the entrance to the dock was from the Thames at Shadwell. The facilities at Wapping took up an area of nearly 90 acres, of which 35 acres consisted of water, and there were almost 2.5 miles of quay and jetty frontage. The docks were surrounded by a high wall and had room for more than 300 vessels. The  warehouses, four storeys high, had space for over 200,000 tons of goods. The dock was used by short-sea traders, carrying cargoes such as tobacco, dried fruit, canned goods, ivory, wool and spices.

There are less than 7 acres of water left here now but its good to see they are being used by sailors and canoeists.