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 Britannia Village Hall as a Community Developer, trying to find ways of bringing people together. I’m also the associate minister at Royal Docks Community Church. 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:

  • Thames Barrier Park is a great place for a summer picnic, as well as having a good play area and outside exercise equipment.
  • The footbridge over Royal Victoria Dock 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.
  • The Docklands Museum 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.
‍The Crystal, courtesy of tom_bullock on Flickr.
  • Emirates Air Line 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.
  • Woolwich Ferry 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:

  • Britannia Village Hall 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)
  • Asta Centre and RDLAC 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)
  • Husk Brewery 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)
  • Victoria Dock parkrun is a free, timed 5km run which happens every Saturday morning at 9:00am. Meet outside The Crystal, and stay for a cup of tea after. 

Of course I’ve missed so much out – to name a few: WakeUp Docklands 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! Send me an e-mail. 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.