A journey up the Lea Valley

From Greenwich Park it’s possible to see north over London, views which stretch way up the Lea Valley. Looking out, you’re looking out towards Tottenham, towards the home of Luke Howard, the gentleman whose records and analysis of the weather led to the first cloud classification system. Trace the route up the valley and you move under the Thames, along its bank past the old docks, up through Stepney and Hackney and Stoke Newington. There are green spaces along the way, places where the buildings recede and the sky opens up again before you – Mile End Park, Victoria Park – before you’re caught up again between buildings. None, though, have the height and prominence which gives Greenwich its views.

The views go a long way towards explaining its historical significance. It’s why the Observatory was built there, close to the Royal Naval College and the docks, because they were all linked. Astronomy was integral to telling the time, and knowing and measuring the time was integral to calculating latitude, an ability which was crucial for navigation at sea. Thus the history of time, the history of the British Empire, horology and astronomy were all linked.

And there’s another link, too, one which isn’t explored or explained: to meteorology. As crucial as navigation for maritime exploration (and the Maritime Museum now stands at the foot of the hill), the developments in technology and in our understanding of weather patterns and systems owe much to those same adventurers.