London Bridge is apparently falling down but, thankfully, Tower Bridge just seems to be getting bigger and better.
As someone who lives in London Tower Bridge always seems to be the bridge that has all the glitz and glamour – it looks good and was centerpiece of the London 2012 Olympics – but thanks to one children’s rhyme it feels very short changed.
To kick that bridge in to touch, Tower Bridge now has a glass walkway which I decided to take my son too on a unusually sunny winter’s day at half term.
You can get off the tube at Tower Hill but it is much more fun and interesting to jump off the train at London Bridge and enjoy the views of the bridge you walk along the southern bank of the River Thames.
Get on the Thames Path and first thing you will see is the HMS Belfast which has a spectacular backdrop of the Gherkin and Walkie Talkie buildings.
Then carry on east and you come to the egg shaped City Hall with Boris and his mates decide who is going to be sponsoring our bikes next. And this is where Tower Bridge truly comes in to view.
This beauty of a bridge was opened to the public in 1864 and, in a variety of guises, has allowed Londoners from both side of the Thames and ships from around all the World to ply their trades.
Tower Bridge is a bascule bridge which means, in simple terms (ie mine), it has two large weighted ends that push down to lift the central part of the bridge for passing ships. When telling your kids just hold your hands out and touch your fingers together with palms facing up. Then just tilt your hands up as if they were weights to raise the fingers. Do it in private as there is campness to the motion which may get you some looks.
The main bridge is open to vehicles and pedestrians and looking up you get your first view of the glass walkway. To be honest we were a little disappointed as we expected it to go the whole way. However, I am no physics genius, but I was guessing that holding two massive towers together by plexiglass does not a stable bridge make.
Book online and you can save a couple of quid and you just have to flash your QR code to get in. The lift was not working when we were there so it was walk to the top. “I have climbed the Monument” my son shouted as he dismissed the attendant who told us there was a few stairs to climb.
The interior staircase reminded me of some old Hollywood movie where gangsters would chase a guy and his moll. No doubt he would end up falling off the top leaving her to pine for the rest of her life. I also half expected King Kong’s fingers to pop through a window at any moment and grab us.
Reaching the walk ways you can see it fully extend across the Thames and the glassed area tantalises you.
The excitement was too much and my son made a break for it. Thankfully he had his hooded coat on so I could grab it and wrenched it back. “Slow down, enjoy all the bridge.”
There is an exhibition and displays about other bridges all around the World, from the oldest to the tallest and the longest. Almost all the best ones were built using materials mined and crafted in the North East. We built the world don’t you know!!
Finally I let him walk on to the glassed area which is about 10 metres long and, if you suffer from fear of heights, is sure to bring a little bit of sick up in to your mouth.
For a moment it felt like that lurch you get when you step off a non-moving escalator. Your mind is ready to handle the sudden shift of movement which is not there so your whole body lurches. It’s like that but with a sense that you might plummet to your death! Now what kid would not love that feeling?
Looking down you see all the cars and vans that pass beneath you. Not quite like ants. More like terrapins we thought!
I then downloaded the Tower Bridge Experience app (free wifi so don’t panic). When you then point your phone at a poster on the floor, next to the walkways, it shows you a video of what the bridge looks like when it opens below you.
I got my son to look through the camera as if the bridge was opening. He then ran back to the glass and got confused it wasn’t actually opening. Good luck explaining augmented reality to your kids as I got flummoxed.
The views from both walkways are fantastic especially if it was a clear day like we had.
It’s then time to head down to the massive lift which takes you to the ground floor. Follow the blue line and you enter the Engine Rooms where you can find out more about all the technology and machinery that allow this huge structure to open and close at will.
All in all we were in there a good 90 minutes as plenty to see and a good game of Red Car on top of the bridge is a must.
It was then off for a coffee and juice while my son finished off his Tower Bridge passport with free stickers which kids are given as they walk around the experience.
Click here to book your tickets for The Tower Bridge Experience and have a great day!!