THE ENTRANCE to the Albert Basin is an abandoned and overlooked place. The easiest way to get there is via Gallions Reach DLR, near which there isn't much to do unless you work in one of the mysterious big shed buildings. A furtive-looking part of the Capital Ring path leads from a radio mast westwards to the Basin's mouth.
By the dock gates stands a row of short aluminium flagpoles and, in windy weather, the weighted halyards bang against them. The clicks and clacks make a random koan, onto the meaninglessness of which you can project what you like. But there is no power. Dereliction only happens in its absence, which is perhaps part of the consolation of such places. Everything round here is changing and the flagpoles will disappear along with the wooden boardwalk nearby and its rotten-looking planks.
When the wind slackens the sound of hammering and drilling resumes on the new flats nearby. Some builders three storeys up call to a woman climbing out of a car, trying to get her attention. The road leading away from the Basin's river gate to Woolwich Manor Way is covered with cement dust from lorries. I wander around hoping that there will be a snack caravan somewhere to buy a cup of tea and a roll, but there isn't one.
The Capital Ring continues down the side of the National Construction College and then along the Thames to the Woolwich foot tunnel. This stretch is even scruffier-looking than that leading from Gallions Reach, just a muddy path with a few paving slabs scattered at intervals. Parts of the flanking undergrowth are flattened as if someone has tried sleeping there. Occasionally the warbling drone of scrambler bikes comes from the nearby Docklands Riders track. Riding scrambler bikes and quad bikes along flood defences and on custom-made dirt tracks is part of estuary culture; this is its westernmost outpost.
Developers promise that the new flats will be affordable with residential blocks centred round a spacious courtyard of playable spaces providing a colourful social hub for the community, according to the contractor's website. The planes flying to and from City Airport are noisy so it seems unlikely this will become an upmarket neighbourhood.
Back at the mouth of the Basin I notice a small brick building, which probably once housed some supervisory role in the docks. It looks tidy and cared-for and a sign says that it's the Holy Trinity Family Chapel. At the top is a line from Genesis: Truly the Lord is in this place.