A London Walk: In the Footsteps of Samuel Pepys

The best way to know a city is to walk it. And here is a particular walk that Samuel Pepys took on his inspections of various shipyards (for his work):

He very often walked along the south bank of the river, into Redriff (now Rotherhithe), and on through the meadows and orchards and meadows to Deptford, Greenwich and even Woolwich. He enjoyed walking, and adjacent countryside were so little frequented that he often read a book as he followed the familiar grassy footpaths, breaking off to find stiles. You can take this route today through housing estates, past grimy churches and scraps of garden and over the foully polluted River Ravensbourne, your imagination struggling to clean up and empty the world as you go. The river was unembanked then, and at low tide a wide beach appeared. There is still a Cherry Garden Pier marking where he bought cherries in the orchards close to the river, and an inn at the water’s edge between Southwark and Rotherhithe on the spot where he often stopped for a drink. The fifteenth-century tower of St. Nicholas’s Church also remains at Deptford, where skulls grin over the churchyard gate. The green hill of Greenwich, rising solidly before you as you round the loop of the river, has changed little in three hundred years, and for Pepys this was one of the most familiar views in his working life.

Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, p. 136

It is so lovely to think of this layering of history over physical space, and London continues to be my favorite city because of these kinds of twinned pleasures.

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