See Canary Wharf in your bikini

One of the things I love about London is how entrepreneurial people are and the surprises a visit can bring. At Canary Wharf for example, you can see floating hot tubs.

Hot Tub Skunas is the name of the company that rents them. They are electrically powered and the water is warmed by a wood fire to stay at lovely and warm. Its perfect for a British summer like the one we are having this year. All the photos here were taken in late May and look at the colour of the sky!

In case you are wondering, the couple here said yes when I asked if I could post the picture on my blog and Instagram account.

The boats are based at West India Quay. They are more or less in front of the Museum of London Docklands.  The museum is housed in an old sugar warehouse and is a must if you want to understand the old and new of Canary Wharf.

More about West India Quay

Canary Wharf is part of the dock area built by the West India Company. It was founded in 1600 to trade between the West Indies and Britain. The first ever London dock was built by them here in 1802. Before that ships could not moor next to the river bank because at low tide they would be beached. The docks enclose water using lock-gates so the ships could moor right next to the quay. It meant goods could be loaded and unloaded 24/7.

Warehouses lined the quay. Some have been saved as a reminder of the past. The Museum of London Docklands is housed in one of them.

The West India Company had strong links to the slave trade and a statue that used to be here of Robert Milligan was taken down in June 2020 for that reason.

Robert Milligan (1746-1809) was a businessman and a prime mover in getting government permission to build the docks. A 21-year monopoly for the import of sugar, coffee and rum was negotiated to compensate the West India Company for its investment. The statue was erected by fellow members of the Company in gratitude. But Milligan had made his fortune by enslaving Africans, first as a slave trader and then from a sugar plantation he owned in Jamaica where he had 526 enslaved people.    

The move to high rise, high tech

The London docks began to close down in 1965. There were many reasons but the main one was that container ships made the small quays such those at Canary Wharf obsolete. The loss of work was catastrophic and in 1982 the British government created an Enterprise Zone here to try to encourage a new type of industry.

At first it was a failure with industries that were too small to replace the dock work that had been lost. Then the building of high tech, high rise office space began but the development company, Olympia and York, went bankrupt. The British government had to provide a bailout. It worked. Canary Wharf became a thriving financial district. Island skyscrapers have been built using caissons in what had been dock basin.

Top tips on things to see and do in Canary Wharf

As well as the Museum in London Docklands and the troglodyte city of shops that are underneath the skyscrapers there are some architectural gems. Two are transport hubs.

The first is the Jubilee Line station by Norman Foster. It was opened 1999 and is 78 ft deep (24 m). The other is the Crossrail station, also by Norman Foster.

Crossrail is a new underground line that will slash the time it takes to cross London east to west. The journey time from Heathrow to Canary Wharf will be 40 minutes. At the moment there is no direct train and the tube plus Heathrow Express takes 1 hour 5 minutes.

The project is years behind schedule. The line was due to open in 2018 but that has been pushed back to 2022 although some of the trains are already running on existing lines.

The line’s Canary Wharf station building is open. It incorporates a wonderful rooftop tropical garden designed by Gillespies. They have designed gardens at many other modern sites. In London for example, for Google’s headquarters at Kings Cross and the Sky Garden of the Walkie Talkie building.

The station building also has shops and restaurants. I like the Big Easy because it has live music. Its feel is casual as the name implies.

If you like your live music in sophisticated surroundings then Boisdale is the place to go. It is in a different part of Canary Wharf. Another thing I like about both venues is how welcoming the staff are.   

You see modern art all over Canary Wharf. Close to the Crossrail station is a the Adams Plaza Bridge, a tunnel leading to other streets in the complex. The tunnel features work by the artist Camille Walala. She was born in France and lives in East London. She is known for her use of bold colour and geometric shapes. For those who know London’s Southbank you will have seen her work on the ground at road crossings there.

For information on Hot Tub Skuna see Skuna Boats | Floating Experiences in London

For more about Gillespies projects see Home – Gillespies

CONTACT ME to book a walking tour and learn more about Canary Wharf

About the author: Gail Jones

Tourist Guide

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