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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.

I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Trinity Buoy Wharf has that San Francisco feeling

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. We do this in a bid to be less polluting and tackle climate change while at the same time keeping a global outlook. Nerdy, laid-back San Francisco is on most people's bucket list - and now I've found a London version, Trinity Buoy Wharf which mixes big views of the Golden Gate Bridge (I mean the Millennium Dome) and an artists' colony on the River Thames.

Double take at the taxi.
I’ve been promised a trip to India and if the weather holds, Cyprus too.
World travel via London's DLR.
But I’m not going to be caught out by this cynical use of creatively named tube stops as I attempt to travel around the world without leaving Britain.

Luckily the area between East India Dock and Canning Town has a very distinct vibe, and on this sunny February Sunday there’s a definite San Francisco feeling. I’m guessing as I haven’t been to SF, but my husband Pete has and today he's playing tour guide - on a mission to get the rest of his family down to the River Lea mouth so we can stare at the site of the old Thames Ironworks, which is the birthplace of his much-loved football team, West Ham. It's also the inspiration for their club badge, a pair of hammers. Last time he visited, five years ago, he said it felt derelict - just big views of the Thames and a red leather sofa abandoned near a sign about the Ironworks.

Now it's known as Trinity Buoy Wharf, and billed as East London's most exciting arts quarter. Even without the monday-friday folk it does have a distinctly arty feel.

Snapping the photographer as she poses her dad (by a giant red herring).
From the DLR aim for the Thames path with its great view of the Millennium Dome and then turn left through an orchard, and then over a bridge past a huge reed-edged pond that used to be a well-used East India Dock Basin, and is now a bird sanctuary and then a gate that exits on to a rather unpromising looking lane. It’s awash with litter and used laughing gas canisters. But look up once you pass the taxi with an iron tree emerging from its roof and there’s graffiti everywhere. My 14 year old takes over her dad’s camera and starts taking endless portraits that could be used on Tumblr.

Once a busy wharf, now a wildlife reserve East India Dock Basin has stunning views towards Canary Wharf.
Further down the lane - also known as Orchard Place, or Bog Island - there are history boards about this part of Bow Creek. It used to be a very isolated, poor village populated by three main families. In the late 19th century the school had 160 children, of whom 100 had the same surname, Lammin. There’s still a little school on the peninsula, Faraday School which has a fenced sports ground on the top floor of the building. In those days if you wanted something you'd have to head to Poplar, now you've got Canary Wharf and several new housing developments - even islands - springing up.

The views from the lighthouse are fantastic - birds, millennium dome, London &
far further afield - and all come accompanied by non stop musical bowls.
Arts centre
Trinity Buoy Wharf by Bow Creek and the River Lea is now an artists mecca. For starters there’s Container City, old shipping containers now used as studios. There is also the Royal Drawing College and a depot for the ENO (English National Opera) and a 1000 year longplayer piece of music playing in converted Bow Creek lighthouse…. (it began in 2000 and is only due to end in 2999). Find out more here.
Bow Creek Cafe does a good veggie and traditional all day breakfast.
We found two places to eat – Fat Boys Diner which does American fast food well; and Bow Creek CafĂ© which is a sweet find where you can sit indoors or out with a view of the muddy Lea joining the Thames. There are braziers, piles of logs, pots of thyme on the wooden tables, hand-painted chess boards and fairy lights creating a definite ambience. We also spotted several music stands and stools, perhaps an invitation to just get jamming. The food here was tasty, homemade and good value. 

London changes so fast – just like San Francisco – but fortunately in this area it’s not just yuppy apartments (£300,000+ for a one bed, ow) there’s also plenty of things to look at and suitably laid-back, sunny places like Bow Creek Cafe to chill just like you are a Californian nerd (or East London artist).

Verdict: go visit, take your time, and then revisit once you've got your bearings.

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