Greenwich park and Royal Observatory

You can read about the first part of our London trip here.

When we arrived in Greenwich, the sun came out, and we made our way up to where the Cutty Sark was displayed, and is open to the public to visit.

Cutty Sark is a British clipper ship. Built in 1869, she was one of the last tea clippers to be built and one of the fastest, where she held the record time sailing between Britain and Australia for ten years.


Cutty Sark, built in 1869.

We wandered up to Greenwich market, where they have lots of craft stalls, also stalls selling vintage items, jewellery, retro clothing.   There are also lots of food stalls from around the world, selling delicious smelling dishes.

Later, we walked the short distance to Greenwich Park, which is the start of the London marathon.  You can visit the Maritime Museum, then walk through the avenue of trees up the hill to the Observatory.


Greenwich Park

The park covers 180 acres and is one of the largest green spaces in London.

On the upper level, there is an extensive flower garden complete with large duck pond, a rose garden, a cricket pitch, many 17th century chestnut trees with gnarled, swirling trunks, tennis courts, a bandstand, Roman remains, an ancient oak tree (the ‘Queens Oak’, associated with Queen Elizabeth I) and an enclosure (‘The Wilderness’) housing some wild deer.


Greenwich Maritime museum, with Canary Wharf in the distance


The onion dome built in 1893, contains the country’s largest refracting telescope

How do you know that your watch, clock or phone is telling exactly the right time? At one time, the only way was to look to the roof of the Observatory.

The bright red Time Ball on top of Flamsteed House (below) is one of the world’s earliest public time signals, distributing time to ships on the Thames and many Londoners. It was first used in 1833 and still operates today.

What does the Time Ball do?

Each day, at 12.55, the time ball rises half way up its mast. At 12.58 it rises all the way to the top. At 13.00 exactly, the ball falls, and so provides a signal to anyone who happens to be looking. Of course, if you are looking the wrong way, you have to wait until the next day before it happens again.


The time ball on Flamsteed House is still in use today.

Picture the scene, you are looking down from the Observatory to the Thames bustling with tall ships. It’s the Victorian era and naval power and the British Empire are at their peak. On the decks, officers stand ready, watch in hand waiting for the signal on the hill. Setting the time will be a life and death matter for these mariners.

What did people do before there was a time ball?

Only the richest people could afford to buy clocks and watches of their own. Most people relied on public sundials to tell the time. This led to different local times across the country, with clocks on the eastern side of the country about 30 minutes ahead of those in the west.

The difficulties created by everyone using their own local time eventually led to the creation of Standard Time based on the Prime Meridian at Greenwich.

If you missed part one of our day out in London, read it here.


6 thoughts on “Greenwich park and Royal Observatory

  1. When my dad was younger and we made our annual visit to London, we always went to Greenwich. Perhaps we got the docklands railway and walked the path beneath the Thames, or we might have done a boat trip. I rememer the covered market in Greenwich when it was new. the Cutty Sark burnt in a fire and this is now a replical. I remember the original one, The square around the Cutty Sark is often used for performances by artists. although I grew up on the north bank, 20 minutes to walk to the tower from Bethnal Green, Greenwich also has its charm.


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