Messing about on the River

"The Peninsula is bipolar like this: natural and organic by day, urban and neon by night."

Anthoula moved to the Peninsula in late 2000 with her husband Matthew. 17 years on and they’re still here, albeit with the addition of an eight-year old daughter and a nearly two-year old whippet. When they first moved here Anthoula was working as a Creative in advertising and was drawn to the area because it was so unlike the rest of London.

Her husband is a dentist who runs a practice with a partner in Greenwich Village, and is in talks about opening a new dental practice and beauty studio on the Peninsula too. They talked to The Peninsulist about the hold that this emerging part of London has over them.

“I remember the excitement of moving down here. We really did feel like pioneers. There were a handful of us — the ‘early settlers’ — and we formed a tight-knit community, elated at the thought that we were part of something really special. It’s incredible that all these years later, many of those people are still living here, just like us, and enjoying the shifts and changes constantly happening around us.

In fact, it’s this mercurial quality that makes it impossible to move away. The changing landscape, both natural and manmade, feels full of possibilities. We watched the dome turn from a white elephant to The O2, we’ve got parks and cultural spaces, and we’re surrounded by art too – a short stroll from my apartment there’s work by Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. And then there’s the river. Vast, moody and mysterious, throwing up little tantalising titbits of history with every tide.

Photograph: Tomila Katsman

One of my favourite times of day is sunrise. Our apartment faces the river and we get to watch the sun glide up from behind the Thames Barrier in the morning. It’s magical; the river floods with light and colour, birds swoop and soar, the sun blazes, deep red at first then gradually fades to blistering yellow, and everything comes to life.

At weekends we’ve got the added effect of sailing boats from Greenwich Yacht Club tacking and jibing up and down the river. I’ve taken so many photos of this moment, each one different, each magnificent in its own right, none of my clumsy attempts quite capturing how moving it is. The sunset can be just as dramatic: on certain days, if you catch it just at the right moment it seems as though Canary Wharf’s glass towers are alight. And Conrad Shawcross’ new sculpture covering the Peninsula Energy Centre’s flues shimmers and shimmies as the light pierces through. Last year we watched the most incredible sunset during the Urban Village Fete.

The Urban Village Fete is definitely one of the highlights of the year around here. We walk down with our neighbours, stake a claim on a patch of grass in Peninsula Gardens and let the kids run wild. Although we heard more than 15,000 people turned up last year, it still felt like ‘our’ party. Over the years we’ve become more outdoorsy people. Living on the Peninsula has certainly influenced us in that respect. Surrounded by parks and the river, you’re drawn to be outdoors. Especially now with a child and dog to keep us entertained.

Photograph: Tomila Katsman

Sometimes we walk along the Thames Path into Greenwich to the big royal park. Our daughter on her scooter, Digby the whippet trotting beside her. It’s the long way around but the views are amazing, as is the wildlife: heron, voles, cormorants. On lazy days, we circle up and around the Peninsula, going past The O2 and coming back on ourselves to throw a ball around in Central Park. It means we can duck into nearby cafes for a break, or if it’s really bad sprint back home for cover.

Another favourite moment of mine was the Red Hook Criterium bike race around the Peninsula. It was insanely exciting watching cyclists hurl themselves around the circuit on brakeless bikes, especially at night. The Peninsula is bipolar like this: natural and organic by day, urban and neon by night. And at the heart of it all, the river.

Photograph: Tomila Katsman

That’s the beauty of the place: every day is so different and just when you think everything’s settled something new pops up. Last year it was Farmopolis, turning the old coal jetty into an oasis of green. This year I’m looking forward to something most people take for granted…streets! As more buildings go up new streets keep materialising. I like meandering through them and discovering the new ways they frame the river and channel the sun as it moves across the sky.

Living here you have the best of both worlds: the tranquility of a riverside setting, dramatic views and now we have cultural events popping up all the time, right on our doorstep. 17 years on we still can’t imagine living anywhere else.”