Local Perspective: Helen Fernandes

In what will hopefully be a new feature for Royal Wharf News, we're offering local residents an opportunity share their stories and advice from living in the area. Our first contributor, Helen Fernandes, has lived in the local area for almost a decade, and has been an active member of the community.

Before I lived in the Royal Docks, I lived in a countryside village. It’s where I’d grown up, and as I walked around I would always see a friendly face. Villages have that certain feeling, when you move there you’re joining a community, not just renting a house. When I moved here, I thought I would lose all of that. London is a huge city, and growing quickly. It would be physically exhausting to greet everyone you pass on the street! But asides from
the amazing views, the great thing about being isolated between the river and
the dock is that once you start getting to know people, you will keep bumping
into them, and you can truly build a community here. This place really is a
small town in the middle of a big city.

I moved here on a gap year doing youth work, and almost nine years later it is still the place I call home. At first Silvertown appears to
be fairly quiet, with our tiny amount of amenities and community spaces. If you
choose to, you can keep yourself to yourself, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
So how do you do it? How do you start to work out who of the thousands of
people you see each day it’s actually worth getting to know?! For me, the
answer has been in community activities. After working as a Maths teacher
locally, I now work for
as a Community Developer, trying
to find ways of bringing people together. I’m also the associate minister at

. I want to share with you some of the places I’ve
come to love in the area, and also the ones where you can meet other people.

Places to make sure you check out:

  • is a great place for a summer picnic, as well as having a good
    play area and outside exercise equipment.
  • has some of the best views in London,
    and is one of the few places you can catch a breeze on a hot day! (although you
    do have to go up 80 steps, the lifts are rarely working).
The Royal Victoria Dock footbridge, courtesy of Tom Page on Flickr.
  • is further afield, but shares the amazing history of the
    Royal Docks, and has a great children’s indoor play area.
The Docklands Museum, courtesy of Ben Sutherland on Flickr.
  • – There are lots of restaurants and bars around
    the dock, and they come alive in the summer evenings. Make sure you check out
    the tasty cakes at the café in
‍The Crystal, courtesy of tom_bullock on Flickr.
  • is a great place to get an aerial view of your home, and to build
    up your mental map. On a windy day it can feel a little scary, but it’s well
    worth it, and the O2 in North Woolwich is full of bars and restaurants.
  • is free for cars, cyclists and pedestrians. It’s a bit run down, but
    it’s a lovely piece of history and you’ll get some good views of the Thames
    Barrier. The riverside walk South of the river is really nicely done, and is
    the furthest East point of the Thames Clipper route.
The Woolwich Ferry, courtesy of Reading Tom on Flickr.

Places to meet other locals:

  • has lots of regular activities for the community, from toddler
    groups to exercise classes, as well as a free community breakfast every Tuesday
    and Friday. Yes I’m biased, but there is something for everyone. Pop in to get
    a full list of groups. (Britannia Village Hall, 65 Evelyn Road, E16 1TU)
  • are other
    community centres between the docks and the Thames. They have a range of
    activities that are different to Britannia Village Hall. (Asta Centre, 14a
    Camel Road, E16 2DD; RDLAC, Albert Road, North Woolwich, E16 2JB)
  • opens it’s doors every Friday and Saturday. They make great beer
    for well below the average London price, and you’ll be sure to meet a few
    friendly locals. (58A Railway Arches, North Woolwich Road, E16 1AA)
  • is a free, timed 5km run which happens every Saturday morning
    at 9:00am. Meet outside

has wake boarding and paddle boarding on the dock, including a group
of regular paddle boarders who go out every weekend; a beach appears on the end
of Victoria Dock during the summer holidays each year; new cafes are appearing
along the south of Silvertown Way.

Dragonboat racing on Victoria Dock, courtesy of asands on Flickr.

If you want to get in touch and find out more about anything
I’ve mentioned, please do!
 I’d also love to hear what I’ve missed out – please comment with other places
you’ve discovered, or ways you’ve been able to meet people.

Are you interested in following in Helen's footsteps and contributing to Royal Wharf News? Get in touch.

Feature image courtesy of Sémaphorismes on Flickr.