Monday, 17 April 2017

I have been to ... the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival

As it was Easter Sunday yesterday Sue and I decided to take a bit of a break from the normal humdrum retired lives we lead and to pay a visit to Woolwich to see the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival.

This event is a follow-up to the Tall Ships Festival that took place in 2014, and was based at Woolwich (on the waterfront in the old Royal Arsenal) and Greenwich (in and around the old Royal Naval Hospital/College and the Cutty Sark), with approximately half the ships taking part in the Festival being based in each. Besides the ships there were all sorts of other attractions at the venues, ranging from a farmer's market, helter-skelter, and carousel to historical re-enactors and a music/dance Festival.

As we expected the area around the Woolwich venue to be crowded, we used the local bus service to take us to the gates of the old Royal Arsenal site. (This is currently undergoing a massive redevelopment, and now includes housing, pubs, restaurants, shops, and banks as well as a station on the as-yet-to-be-finished Elizabeth Line that will connect East and West London.)

We ate lunch in the Guard House pub/restaurant which is situated near the gates onto the site ...

... and were very glad that we booked a table as it was very busy. After lunch we than had a walk around.

The first place that we stopped was the Local Heritage Centre, which now houses a small but interesting exhibition about the Royal Arsenal and the Royal Artillery. It also houses the local family history records, and is currently staging a display about the growth of part of the Woolwich/Plumstead area from 1750 until the present day.

We resisted the desire to go on the carousel, the helter-skelter, and the small Ferris wheel; instead we had a long look around the area set aside for the historical re-enactors. These included the Artillery Society Living History group ...

... and the Hearts of Oak naval re-enactors group. The latter had a display about medical care aboard ships during the Napoleonic era and a very small replica cannon that children (and some adults!) could learn to load and fire.

We then made our way down to the waterfront to find a suitable place to watch the final event of the Festival ... the Tall Ships sailing down the River Thames to the sea. We found a place not far from where the Artillery Society Living History group set up their field gun to fire a salute to the first Tall Ship to sail past.

The sail past was supposed to start at 5.00pm at Greenwich and to reach Woolwich by 5.45pm. Needless to say it was late, and the first ships didn't begin to sail past us until after 6.00pm. By then the light was beginning to go and the air temperature was dropping, and when my camera battery gave out at 7.45pm (I really should have charged it before I went out!) only about half of the ships taking part had reached and passed Woolwich.

The ships that I did manage to photograph are shown below.

Nao Victoria: An exact copy of one of the ships that set out in 1522 to circumnavigate the world.

Santa Maria Manuela: A former Portuguese steel fishing vessel, she is now used as a sail training ship.

A Thames Barge: Not part of the Tall Ships sail past, but it was nice to see it!

Morgenster: A former Dutch herring lugger, she is now used as a sail training ship in the Netherlands.

Blue Clipper: Built in Sweden and owned by the Hennessy bandy company.

Vera Cruz: A modern caravel that is used by the Portuguese Sailing Training Association.

Thor Heyerdahl: A topsail schooner used by the German High Seas High School since 1996.

Artemis: A triple masted barque. She was build in Norway and used as a whaler before being converted into a freighter. She was then restored and is now based in the Netherlands.

Iris: A traditional Dutch herring lugger.

Earl of Pembroke: A square-rigged ship that is similar in design to Captain Cook's Endeavour ... which was itself originally named Earl of Pembroke. It was originally used to carry cargoes of wood in the Baltic.

Jantje: Originally a cod fishing vesel, she was rebuilt as a brigantine in 1969.

Hendrika Bartels: Originally a herring lugger, she was later lengthened to enable her to operate as a cargo vessel.

JR Tolkien: Originally built in East Germany as a diesel-electric-powered sea-going tug! She was purchased in 1995 and converted into a schooner.


  1. Bob,
    Well done on your coverage of the events there at Greenwich- looks to be a really interesting and visually stimulating day of festivities. Yes, charging Camera Batteries- guess you will not be caught out again on this front. Thanks for the great photos. Cheers. KEV.

    1. Kev Robertson,

      What was interesting about this festival from our personal point of view was the lack of of coverage it had in the media serving our local area. Although we live less than two miles from the Royal Arsenal site in Woolwich, we found out that it was happening from items on the London TV news programmes.

      The digital bridge camera that I was going to take had been charged ... but I forgot to take it and instead I had to rely on my reserve camera. The battery giving out was a good excuse to go home just as the air temperature started to drop dramatically.

      All the best,


    2. Bob,
      Yes- finding out about events through the Media -especially Radio...recently I learnt from a Sydney radio channel that Camden Agricultural Show was on- I did visit on a Friday of the three day event and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon out- I particularly liked viewing the Pavillions of Competitions- plants and shrubs, baking, art, agricultural produce including fruits, vegetables and preserves, poultry and other farm animals and woodwork - Camden is only a stones throw away from our Suburb - had not the Camden show been mentioned on the Radio I would have been none the wiser about it....Local Newspapers can also be informative of events too- strange that you experienced a lack of Media serving your local area- I guess it all depends on the avenues the Promoters choose for advertising their events such as Greenwich. Cheers. KEV.

    3. Kev Robertson,

      Sometimes visiting events at short notice can be great fun, and we have found that we tend to enjoy them more than things that we have planned to do for a long time in advance.

      What surprised us in particular about the lack of local media coverage was the involvement of our local council, who were one of the main sponsors. They regularly produce an information guide, but the festival wasn't mentioned in the latest one we received and we could not find out very many details on the Council's website.

      All the best,