River Thames pub crawl: Greenwich to Tower Bridge


Cutty Sark outside

Boat drinks: Crawlers came prepared with suitable refreshments for the voyage

A BOAT. A pub crawl on a boat. In London. On the River Thames. Would that work?

Following up the success of October’s number 38 bus route pub crawl would be difficult.

Many have walked the well trodden paths of Thames pub crawls along the banks at Hammersmith, around Greenwich and even through Bermondsey, but the decision was made to give a unique, edgier take on this old cliché.

A plan was resolved upon: three pubs in Greenwich, a short ride on board a Thames Clipper and a stroll through Southwark up to Tower Bridge.

On Saturday 13 April 2013 a group of determined souls met in Greenwich just after 1pm with the itinerary below. Photos have been anonymised to avoid reprisals.

  1. The Cutty Sark Tavern, Greenwich
  2. Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich
  3. The Gipsy Moth, Greenwich (followed by a boat trip up the river)
  4. Wibbly Wobbly, Surrey Quays
  5. The Ship and Whale, Rotherhithe
  6. The Clipper, Rotherhithe
  7. The Blacksmith’s Arms, Rotherhithe
  8. Old Salt Quay, Rotherhithe
  9. The Mayflower, Rotherhithe
  10. The Angel, Rotherhithe
  11. The Anchor Tap, Tower Bridge
Thames pub crawl map

Treasure map: The walking crawl included a short boat trip between The Gipsy Moth and Wibbly Wobbly

The crawl

1. The Cutty Sark Tavern, Greenwich

Pub profile page on Beer in the evening

The Cutty Sark Tavern

The Cutty Sark Tavern: The outside the pub group photo was back

Agreement was never reached on whether the Georgian architecture of this pub warranted the amount of money charged for sausage rolls.

There was a good crowd, a few families, enjoying lunch and the beamed interior at 1pm. Picnic tables outside by the Thames proved adequate seating underneath the greying sky.

The starting five of the 38 bus route crawl were present – Fat Peter Sutcliffe, Vicki the bus spotter, the Vasco De Beauvoir manager, Binksy and Palts the Balt – plus a few other stragglers.

Binksy had one hanging on him and reports came through before his arrival that he was sick running for the train. Crawlers were quick to point this out when he turned up.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Pretentious and expensive menu (no burgers!) but tidy bar staff.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Do we get to go on a bus on this crawl?”

2. Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

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The Trafalgar Tavern:

Trafalgar Tavern: Potato wedge fortress

The Trafalgar sits like a fortress on the banks of the river. Fortunately, it was penetrable and offered wooden floors, views of the river and what an estate agent would call a ‘well-appointed’ interior.

Lots of photos of an historic British naval theme inside. Admiral Nelson features heavily. A French provincial would enjoy this place as much as Nick Griffin would enjoy taking Napolean in his mouth.

Plenty of punters early in the afternoon. The Wandsworth Window Lickers manager and Dynamo Charlton manager joined the crowd.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Pretentious (but nice) potato wedges took too long to arrive.” One gets the feeling Sutcliffe would find eating with a knife and fork ‘pretentious’.

Vicki the bus spotter said: “I’ve been mis-sold this crawl. I thought there would be buses.”

3. The Gipsy Moth, Greenwich

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The Gipsy Moth

The Gipsy Moth: You haven’t got the power, you haven’t got the touch

The epicentre of Greenwich? The throng of people in here probably more due to its location between the market and the rebuilt Cutty Sark rather than its strengths as a pub.

Gipsy Moth

A quick meal break in front of the Cutty Sark

Walk through the front bar and it opens out into semi-conservatory style area.

It’s a pity to think this kind of boozer is the image of a traditional London pub many tourists take home.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Pretentious (i.e. small) macaroni cheese.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Binksy had to go on to the bloody Mary the cure the hangover.”

The boat queue, Greenwich

Boat queue

Queue rum: A miscalculation of ferry times resulted in a wet wait

Thames Clippers run regularly, but as the mantra goes ‘no one every plans to fail, they only fail to plan’. It turned out rather than bowling on board, London Oyster cards had to be used to buy tickets from a booth.

To cut a long story short, a 20-minute wait in the drizzle was overcome with the boat drinks.

The boat, River Thames

On the Thames Clipper

“They are all having far too a good time to notice if one of those girls disappears,” mused the sinister man at the back of the boat.

The boat trip from Greenwich to Greenland Pier takes around 10 minutes. Ample time to have a drink and hack off all the other passengers…

On the Thames Clipper2

“That photographer looks like a fat Peter Sutcliffe. Pervert,” she reasoned.

4. Wibbly Wobbly, Surrey Quays

Pub profile page on Beer in the evening

Wibbly Wobbly note

Wibbly Wobbly: What a pair of charity collection tins

If a sign outside a pub says ‘No work wear’ then it’s safe to assume there are building sites nearby. So what conclusions can be drawn of the surrounding community’s socio-economic make up if the sign says ‘Tops must be kept on inside the bar’?

Wibbly Wobbly Dave the Rave

Karaoke with Dave the Rave – every Sunday from 3pm

The growing inclemency of the weather meant all tops were on, but did little to dampen the spirits in this welcoming boozer on board a boat moored in Surrey Quays.

The ceiling around the bar was covered in foreign currency, Binksy’s cue to show off his exotic trillion dollar bill. The barmaid smiled for the camera and afterwards asked him to pay in sterling.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Nice Cockney boozer. Probably best to avoid on Millwall match days.

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Nice maps on the ceiling! Rough as hell but very amusing. We all kept our tops on.”

5. The Ship and Whale, Rotherhithe

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Ship and Whale

The Ship and Whale: Five o’clock and all’s well

A short walk from the boat bar, the Ship and Whale is an enticing pub tucked away on a backstreet.

Ship and Whale outside

It would be the last energetic thing he’d do all day

Light, airy and many interesting photos on the wall, there’s little to hold against the place.

Everyone appeared to be holding it together too, although the volume knob of conversation had been tweaked up.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Classy back street boozer with photo of a famous visitor behind bar (can’t remember who though).”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Much nicer than the last pub! Good beers on tap.”

6. The Clipper, Rotherhithe

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The Clipper

The Clipper: Get clipped

When a pub plays Heart radio from a late 90s television, one can expect all the other trappings of a proper London locals’ boozer, such as a man in a flat cap playing the fruit machine and the dip in conversation when a bunch of half-cut strangers enter.

Plenty of regulars were in early doors and a convivial atmosphere quickly resumed.

The Spartak Mogadishu manager finally arrived with an excuse that will go down in the annals of history: “I forgot where south London was.” Quite how his fellow countrymen command such terror on the high seas is anyone’s guess.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Fags behind the bar for £8.50. Don’t look anyone in the eye.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Dodgy pub – nice maroon carpet. A bit like the Duke of Sussex in Waterloo. The Spartak Mogadishu manager finally managed to grace us with his presence.”

7. The Blacksmith’s Arms, Rotherhithe

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Blacksmiths Arms

The Blacksmith’s Arms: What the panel said

Tudor building, possibly mock, with wood pannelling and an island bar. A big screen showing something we could have never planned for: Millwall in an FA Cup semi final.

Some of the initial party were starting to struggle with pints, evidenced by the switch to shorts in areas of the round.

Grumblings about the price were heard.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Surprisingly posh (and expensive). Used to have a beer garden but now full of junk.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “£5.45 for a pint of Peroni!”

8. Old Salt Quay, Rotherhithe

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Old Salt Quay

Old Salt Quay: Probably better enjoyed on a hot summer’s day

Huge. The rest of London now considered the time of day suitable for drinking, so this massive pub was bursting with trade.

There’s an upstairs, downstairs and views of the river. Crawlers nestled in a corner near the bar to enjoy the franchise.

The rain was now steady drizzle.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Aircraft hangar size and Wetherspoons style pub with all the character of something made in China.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “I think this one was that massive pub.”

9. The Mayflower, Rotherhithe

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Tongues

The Mayflower: Quite unprepared for our kind of party

Everyone was looking forward to this place, and the pub itself didn’t disappoint. Curious articles on the wall and a decked terrace right over the river make it a must visit.

Crawlers found a big table to sit around and, as more had joined the ranks, one by one gave a short introduction of themselves.

When it turned out that two of the girls both had freakish long tongues, the day’s refreshments turned into open raucousness.

Three times were the party told to ‘keep it down’, which marred the visit but the not the mood.

Mayflower panoramic

Nights of the rowdy table

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Full of grumpy locals and landlord who kept asking us to keep the noise down on a Saturday night. WTF?”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Best pub of the day. Very cute but we did get shushed a lot.”

10. The Angel, Rotherhithe

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Photobomb

The Angel: Blaxploitation’s answer to Harry Potter photobombed

When it turned out the Angel had a fireplace and wand-like poker, one crawler’s scarf was pressed into action for Harry Potter impressions. Don’t judge, if it wasn’t for the photos no one would have remembered it.

The Angel outside

Talk about a rabble…

Lord alone knows what the assembled locals thought, but when the Spartak Mogadishu manager spilled his drink everywhere the landlord made him clean it up, much to general amusement.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Sam Smith’s and landlord makes the Spartak Mogadishu manager clean up his own spillages.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Do like a Sammy Smith’s pub!

BONUS PUB: The Old Justice, Bermondsey

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The Old Justice

The Old Justice: Battered seafood and rice wine. Appalling, but free

On the Sunday morning recce a few weeks beforehand the Old Justice had looked shut for years, but as crawlers stumbled along the river towards Tower Bridge it was open and it seemed churlish not to pop in for one.

Tower Bridge

Palts the Balt pauses for a quick tourist snap of Tower Bridge

Without a doubt the strangest pub all day. The staff consisted of a landlord and hoardes of Asian women, who served our drinks and then gave us plates and plates of battered seafood and a free shot of rice wine.

No one was entirely sure what was happening, but everyone was glad to move on.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Oriental money laundering front with hookers out back on request (POA). Free room temperature scampi, onion rings and salmonella washed down by nasty rice wine.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Cold battered fish and odd sake!”

11. The Anchor Tap, Tower Bridge

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Rum round

The Anchor Tap: Rum all round

We made it! The last of 12 pubs between Greenwich and Tower Bridge. Everyone was so excited that change was pooled and 15 shots of rum were ordered.

The bar staff didn’t share our joy, having to cater for the rowdy bunch just before closing time and fetch another bottle of rum from the cellar.

Crawlers’ pub comments

Fat Peter Sutcliffe said: “Hazy memories of this one. Sawdust on floor and Sam Smith’s cheap booze.”

Vicki the bus spotter said: “Rough rum shots.”

The after party: Village East, Bermondsey

Website

Village East

A bus stop on Old Kent Road: I’d like to ass you a few questions

Forever dedicated to exploring new pubs the crawlers went on to enjoy more cheer at Village East on Bermondsey Street.

Recollection is sparse. Afterwards it was marveled at how we got into this marginally upmarket bar.

Life tasted good. We were pioneers of the first ever recorded pub crawl from Greenwich to Tower Bridge, and it included a maritime adventure. We were proud descendants of our country’s finest naval heroes. We were Sir Francis Drake singeing the King of Spain’s beard at Cadiz. We were Admiral Nelson smashing through the French at Trafalgar. We were… desperately trying not to fall asleep on the night bus home.

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