It had been a glorious few weeks in London, with warm sunny days and hardly a cloud in the sky.
And with the heatwave forecast to continue and the skies set to remain gloriously blue across the UK for a good while yet, there’s rarely been a better time to get outside and enjoy the sights.
The River Thames
Making the most of the sunshine, I enjoyed a lunchtime walk along the River Thames. The river is home to over 119 species of fish, as well as otters, voles, and eels. It also provides two thirds of London’s drinking water. How long is the Thames River?
The Thames is 215 miles long, it is the longest river entirely in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn. There are over 200 bridges spanning the river, the Tower Bridge and the Millennium Bridge are well known tourist spots but the vast majority are just an everyday route to cross the river Thames. Is the Thames a tidal river?
The section of the Thames beneath Teddington Lock is tidal, while the rest, from the source to Teddington, is not. The lower reaches of the river are called the Tideway, derived from its long tidal reach up to Teddington Lock. It rises at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, and flows into the North Sea via the Thames Estuary.
The Thames drains the whole of Greater London. Its tidal section, reaching up to Teddington Lock, includes most of its London stretch and has a rise and fall of 23 feet (7 m). It runs through some of the driest parts of mainland Britain and is heavily abstracted for drinking water, the Thames’ discharge is low considering its length and breadth.
The Millennium Bridge
From the world’s most visited modern art gallery, the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank, I weaved past holidaymakers, school children and office workers in shirtsleeves and summer dresses as I walked across the Millennium Bridge – or the wobbly bridge as it remains affectionately called by Londoners after it’s unsteady launch on the 10th June 2000.
What are the statistics for the Millennium Footbridge? The bridge has two river piers and is made of three main sections of 81 metres (266ft), 144 metres (472ft) and 108 metres (354ft) (north to south) with a total structure length of 325 metres (1,066ft). Why is the Millennium Bridge nicknamed ‘The Wobbly Bridge’? On the official day of opening, the footfall on the bridge was phenomenal and at any one time there were on average 2000 individuals walking and taking in the views.
Those on the southern and central spans felt the bridge begin to sway and twist in regular oscillations. Feeling unsteady, the pedestrians altered their gait to the same lateral rhythm as the bridge. The adjusted footsteps just magnified the motion: the more it happened, the more people responded to the movement, and of course it got worse and worse.
The phenomenon is called Synchronous Lateral Excitation when loads of people flooded over the deck of the walkway. On 12th June 2000, it was closed again. It then reopened, permanently on 27th February 2002.
It’s now perfectly stable and affords some lovely views downriver towards Tower Bridge, the City and the 72-storey skyscraper, the Shard – the tallest building in the EU, which dwarfs Southwark Cathedral and everything else nearby.
St Paul’s Cathedral
I reached the steps of another of London’s most recognisable landmarks, St Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral which, as the cathedral of the Bishop of London, serves as the mother church of the Diocese of London.
It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London and is a Grade I listed building. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604.
The present cathedral, which dates from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren’s lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. earlier Gothic cathedral (Old St Paul’s Cathedral), largely destroyed in the Great Fire, was a central focus for medieval and early modern London, including Paul’s walk and St Paul’s Churchyard being the site of St Paul’s Cross.
The cathedral is a stunning sight on this route and I stopped to admired its beautiful dome before heading back across the river and enjoying a well-earned pint of beer by Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, sitting in the sunshine by the water’s edge. Let’s hope it stays like this for the rest of the summer!