London Bridges Walk (3) 26 September 2019


The final leg of the Walking Groups epic outing to cross the bridges of London (and one tunnel) took place on 26 September.

The day was overcast, but we were fortunate that there was no rain. The group, now expanded to fifteen, met at Mansion House Tube Station. A short walk took us to Millennium Bridge, our last crossing point on 29 June.

Happy and ready at Millennium Bridge

A short walk east, passing Shakespeare's Globe took us to Southwark Bridge. Southwark  Bridge is an arch bridge in London, for traffic linking the district of Southwark and the City across the River Thames. Except when others are closed for temporary repairs, it has the least traffic of the Thames bridges in London. The bridge provides access to Upper Thames Street on the north bank and, due to the ring of steel, there is no further road access to the City and the north. The bridge is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. The current bridge was given Grade II listed structure status in 1995.

Still happy - posing at Southwark Bridge
Well, we all have our critics!

We crossed north over Southwark Bridge and picked up the Thames Path east, passing under Cannon Street Railway bridge to London Bridge.

Several bridges named London Bridge have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark, in central London. The current crossing, which opened to traffic in 1973, is a box girder bridge built from concrete and steel. It replaced a 19th century stone-arched bridge, which in turn superseded a 600-year-old stone-built medieval structure. This was preceded by a succession of timber bridges, the first of which was built by the Roman founders of London.

The current bridge stands at the western end of the Pool of London and is positioned 30 metres (98 ft) upstream from previous alignments. The approaches to the medieval bridge were marked by the church of St Magnus-the-Martyr on the northern bank and by Southwark Cathedral on the southern shore.

Until Putney Bridge opened in 1729, London Bridge was the only road-crossing of the Thames downstream of Kingston upon Thames. London Bridge has been depicted in its several forms, in art, literature, and songs, including the nursery rhyme "London Bridge Is Falling Down".

The modern bridge is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, an independent charity of medieval origin overseen by the City of London Corporation. It carries the A3 road, which is maintained by the Greater London Authority.

In 1967, the Common Council of the City of London placed the bridge on the market and began to look for potential buyers. Council member Ivan Luckin had put forward the idea of selling the bridge, and recalled: "They all thought I was completely crazy when I suggested we should sell London Bridge when it needed replacing." On 18 April 1968, Rennie's bridge was purchased by the Missourian entrepreneur Robert P. McCulloch of McCulloch Oil for US$2,460,000. The claim that McCulloch believed mistakenly that he was buying the more impressive Tower Bridge was denied by Luckin in a newspaper interview. As the bridge was taken apart, each piece was meticulously numbered. The blocks were then shipped via the Panama Canal to California and trucked from Long Beach to Arizona. The bridge was reconstructed by Sundt Construction at Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and re-dedicated on 10 October 1971. The reconstruction of Rennie's London Bridge spans the Bridgewater Channel canal that leads from the Uptown area of Lake Havasu City and follows McCulloch Boulevard onto an island that has yet to be named.

We crossed south and picked up the Thames Path just north of Tooley Street, taking the path at the back of the London Bridge Hospital and Hay's Galleria. We continued east passing HMS Belfast and the GLA Building at Potters Fields Park.

Still happy - but we have only walked 2.5 miles

Onwards towards Tower Bridge. 

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Because of this, Tower Bridge is sometimes confused with London Bridge.

Situated some 0.5 mi (0.80 km) upstream. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the Trust's bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets.

The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. Before its restoration in the 2010s, the bridge's colour scheme dated from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Its colours were subsequently restored to blue and white.

The bridge deck is freely accessible to both vehicles and pedestrians, whereas the bridge's twin towers, high-level walkways and Victorian engine rooms form part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition, for which an admission charge is made. The nearest London Underground tube stations are Tower Hill on the Circle and District lines, London Bridge on the Jubilee and Northern lines and Bermondsey on the Jubilee line, and the nearest Docklands Light Railway station is Tower Gateway. The nearest National Rail stations are at Fenchurch Street and London Bridge.

Crossing northbound we pick up the Thames Path on the north of the river. This is the longest part of the walk between crossing points. We walk through St Katherine Dock and continue into Wapping High Street. This is behind the many apartments converted from riverside wharves. It is difficult to appreciate that we are now in Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived boroughs in London.

The path alternates between the riverside and the streets behind the buildings. But as we move on we approach Limehouse and Canary Wharf and spend more time alongside the river. Canary Wharf is the site of the West India Docks.

West India Dock was by this time owned by the Port of London Authority in 1909. Canary Wharf itself takes its name from No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock. This was built in 1936 for Fruit Lines Ltd, a subsidiary of Fred Olsen Lines for the Mediterranean and Canary Islands fruit trade. The Canary islands were so named after the large dogs found there by the Spanish (Gran Canaria from Canine) and as it is located on the Isle of Dogs, the quay and warehouse were given the name Canary Wharf.

We continued around the peninsula to Island Gardens and the start of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.

At the start of the tunnel - our numbers have dwindled...

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approximately 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs. It was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie and was opened on 4 August 1902 at a cost of £127,000. The tunnel is lined with 200,000 glazed white tiles.

The circular entrance buildings are similar both sides of the river and contain a lift and a long spiral flight of stairs. It is open 24 hours a day, although the lifts do not always run the full time.

The Woolwich Foot Tunnel, situated about three miles downstream and opened ten years later, is very similar.

Still walking strong - in the Foot Tunnel

We emerge from the tunnel and are right in from of the Cutty Sark at Greenwich.

Objective achieved - some very tired and happy walkers.

Wanting to punish ourselves even more we walked past the Old Greenwich Naval College for a very pleasant riverside lunch at the Trafalgar Tavern.

Walked, fed and watered

We returned to Central London on the Thames Clipper service.

On the day the group covered ten miles from Mansion House Tube to Greenwich. Overall, many of the group had walked from Hammersmith Bridge to Greenwich, a total distance of 25 miles. I believe that whatever route you took, you all did extremely well. The next serious walks are in the planning stage.

London Bridges in three parts