Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Crossings of the River Thames 10 - Chiswick Bridge

There were many reasons why I started my series of river crossings over the Thames. Partly it was a great way to see the city I live in. Also, as a film maker, it was great to discover potential locations to film at. But the main reason was to make me get off the computer and get away from the film making. Most, hey, all of my spare time is spent making films. By exploring the river once a month I would have to tear myself away from the lonely art of film making and out to get some fresh air. At least once a month.

This month, it has been a real pain to actually explore the river. Yep, for any regular readers, you may have noticed the blog output being exceedingly thin on the ground. And that is simply due to the lack of time that I have had. So making my way to the river and back just to take a few photos was not that high up on my list of priorities.

Nevertheless, I had made a pledge to myself and to this blog. Once a month I would explore each of London's river crossings.

Chiswick was opened on the same day as Hampton Court and Twickenham Bridge and like both of those bridges was built as a result of the car boom of the 1930's. This grand structure of reinforced concrete clad with portland stone is a simple but elegant way to cross the river. And at 40mph, it ties with Twickenham Bridge as one of the fastest ways that you can legally hop over the Thames.

I have crossed Chiswick many times by car, but this was the first time I had ever attempted a foot crossing. Not surprising, it is on a bend in the river, surrounded by parkland. In other words, great for driving on, but lousy to walk across. Even the Thames cycle route ignores it, preferring the crossings of Kew and Barnes:

Chiswick represents a borderline in London's development, reflecting the technology available and the aspirations of the time. West of Chiswick is suburban London. These are the parts of London that expanded in the inter-war years. Driven by suburban developments and the increasing mobility provided by the internal combustion engine.

However, to the east of Chiswick Bridge lies the London of the Victorian era. Driven by iron, steel and brick rather than concrete. Where the bicycle and the train ruled rather than the tram and the car. From here we get to see the 'Classical London' along with gas lit lamps and pea-soupers. This is the London of Dickens, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The London that tourists want to see and the London that is familiar to bumpkins. So while we leave behind our suburban delights, we get to take a look at a more densely packed out city. A city, slowly becoming more 24 hour, a lot more cosmopolitan and a lot more fun.

Getting there and away: Only one bus crosses the river at Chiswick and that is the 190 running between Richmond and West Brompton. Routes 419, R68 and the N22 also pass close to the south bank of the bridge. Other than that, it is a serene 3/4 mile walk upstream from Barnes Bridge (National Rail).

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