Day two and we focus on the magnificence of the river that curvves through London, the Thames.
Or rather on its crossings. There are 33 Bridges once the Thames becomes tidal at Teddington, many miles inland from the sea and there are plenty more as the river slows to a trickle out in Gloucestershire. For today we will look at a few in central London.
Crossing the Thames is easy. There are two footbridges: the Millennium or wobbly bridge (so named after 200,000 people climbed onto it at its opening and the engineers realised it wasn’t as stable as it needed to be so immediately closed it for two years – this is after all the country that brought you Fawlty Towers, Mr Bean and Boris Johnson);
and Hungerford Bridge where pedestrians walk alongside the railway into Charing Cross station and down onto the Embankment – these footbridges were also rebuild at the millennium to replace a dreadful narrow muggers alley (infamously, in 1999 a law student was tossed off the bridge by murderous hooligans) and which dad knew as the longest urinal in Europe after a night’s drinking on the south bank.
There are also two foot tunnels out to the east at Greenwich and Woolwich, together with three road tunnels at Rotherhithe, Blackwall and Dartford, where the last bridge to span the Thames, before we reach the sea proper, also sits.
The remaining bridges (other than three railway bridges: the Hungerford above, the Blackfriars Station Bridge which had the longest span of solar panels on its roof in the UK and the one into Cannon Street Station next to Southwark bridge) are open to cars and pedestrians.
Southwark Railway Bridge; the Victorian railway engineers built those towers because they could; I wonder if they ever had a use.
Blackfriars railway station built onto the bridge in the last five years; the rather grand looking building behind is in fact the home of Unilever the soap to tea makers; in the far distance to the left is the Post Office Tower
Waterloo Bridge which was built by mainly female labour during WW2 and was in fact the only bridge damaged by the bombing – for a time it was known as the Ladies Bridge. It has to be the blandest, singularly dullest bridge across the river.
Southwark Bridge, with St Paul’s peering over the top. You can see the beach as the tide recedes. The Thames is incredibly dangerous through the city as it is now so severely embanked the race as the tides turns would defeat most swimmers. These days, at least you don’t need to have you stomach pumped too as the water, despite its murky colour from the churned silt, is remarkably clean. As of 2014 125 species of fish have been found in the tidal Thames together with a bottle nosed whale in 2006 (sadly it didn’t survive), dolphins and a pod of porpoises near Tower Bridge.
Rather notoriously Blackfriars bridge shot to fame in 1982 when a post office worker spotted Roberto Calvi, head of the Italian Bank, Banco Ambrosiano, hanging from one of its struts. It was assumed to be a mafiosi killing.
Westminster Bridge; the building to its immediate left is the old County hall now home to hotels, the London Aquarium and an exhibition space. If you look the other way (but more of that anon) you will see the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.
and to booken this tour, finally Tower Bridge
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