The ever evolving Thames Part One…

January 3rd, 2014 by Guy
Alex Von Humboldt at Sunset

Illustration of proposed London Garden Bridge

As Tower Bridge has just entered her 120th anniversary year, it seemed only fitting to celebrate the Thames and how much it has changed. All too often the Thames’ industrial and trading past is celebrated and we forget that the Thames is moving forwards as well. Its dynamism continues to be at the city’s core. When entering the upper pool on the Barge last week, it was really striking how much the skyline has changed! With the growth spurt of the Shard and the ‘Cheese Grater’ the area once renowned for brick warehousing and trade has now become a glassy, modern and futuristic soaring metropolis. Add the growing loom and reflective, car-melting dazzle of the so-called ‘Walkie-Talkie’ and London’s beginning to look more reminiscent of Tokyo or New York not the familiar Victorian London!

London's Cable Car

London’s New Cable Car

The same event took us down to our Clay Pigeon Shooting area in Thamesmead, where a similarly space-age panorama meanders round from the Thames Barrier of the O2 Arena, the heights of Canary Wharf and the brand new Emirates Airline Cable Car (which we really cannot recommend more!). The string of pods hang across the river like fairy lights and provide a new river crossing between the Excel Exhibition Centre and the O2 Arena. Interestingly, it has only just celebrated its first birthday this summer – London is changing fast and the Thames seems to be at the forefront of these eye-catching new monuments to London as a world Capital.

New River Crossings

Like the Cable Car, new river crossings are filling the news at the moment. It’s a tradition that stretches right back to the early Roman pontoon bridge that became the first of many incarnations of London Bridge. The Thames is a natural barrier from North to South and bridges encourage and spur change and development, bringing isolated areas together for the first time. There are three sites for a potential new lower Thames crossing to ease traffic over the Dartford Bridge and further link communities either side of the estuary. There is even a proposed new bridge idea for Woolwich. Extraordinarily, presently, the lower Thames only has crossing points at the Rotherhithe Tunnel, Blackwall Tunnel and Woolwich Ferry between Tower Bridge and the M25 at Dartford. New plans to move the ferry up river to construct a fixed toll bridge instead are radical. The proposal has even received many criticisms from environmentalists because of the predicted vast  increases of through traffic to the area. The world may have changed but people still need to cross the river!

A Garden Bridge!

Views from the Garden Bridge

Views from the Garden

On a slightly more environmental note, there is also the fantastical proposal from designer, Thomas Heatherwick, and actress come-lobbyist, Joanna Lumley, to create a Garden Bridge! Although this was considered a fantastical pipe dream when first proposed a few years ago, Heatherwick’s astounding success with the new Route Master buses and his triumph with the inspired Olympic Torch has not only given the idea credibility but also allowed the traditional British cynicism to lapse for a time and believe in the impossible. Over half the money has now been raised and recent political support has come in from Mayor of London Boris Johnson and, surprisingly, the Chancellor himself George Osborne. This magical pedestrian bridge of trees and plants would be the first new bridge in the capital since the Millennium Bridge was constructed in 2000. If agreed, the new bronze hued bridge will widen and narrow organically, linking Temple Station with the South Bank. Such a vision can only help to secure London’s position, as a world Capital and the Thames still features at its heart!

By Guy Wimpory

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