Saturday, 24 January 2009

Crossings of the River Thames 19: Vauxhall Bridge

Late last year I was at the southern end of Vauxhall Bridge just as a random visit to another gyratory system in South London. And last night I was again in Vauxhall, but for very different reasons. And last night too, I crossed Vauxhall Bridge the gateway to Central London and the beginning of 2009's Crossings of the River Thames.

Now, from a distance, this does not seem to be much of a bridge, especially after the fantastic examples of late last year. But this is quite a whopper of a bridge. Allegedly 80ft wide, it has bus lanes, cycle tracks as well as carrying the traffic trying to escape London's Congestion Charge. It's big and chunky to drive across, daunting if on foot. Admittedly the surroundings do not do it any favours. Also it is surprisingly rusty...

But I like this bridge. For it has one of those little quirks that truly makes it a Londonesque bridge. Figurines. Statues, representing the arts and the sciences. Of course, being London, there is no way in hell you can actually get a decent view of these sculptures if you are on solid land, as can be seen:

Eight statues, on the downstream side they represent Local Government, Education, Fine Arts and Astronomy. On the upstream side Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering and Pottery are fashioned out.

(Miss Pottery in all her glory!)

This is one of those times when it is definitely better to be a water rat than a cyclist. I was lucky enough to have been treated to a cruise down the Thames and the Vauxhall crossing was one of my favourites, simply due to the statues that were there.

And so, back to the bridge. At just over a hundred years old in its current guise, it has taken its toll with a quiet dignity. Linking Pimlico with Vauxhall and on a grander scale, linking the Inner Ring Road across the river, Vauxhall Bridge is in a fascinating place. On the North Bank of the Bridge is the Tate Gallery or as it was more recently branded, Tate Britain. I have only visited this particular gallery once, not being a big fan of the arts itself. Although I admit to being a philistine, the building itself is quite nice.

However, no visit to Vauxhall Bridge is complete without a take on MI6. This gargantuan structure on the South side of the river is pretty, well, obvious for the Secret service. It also serves to remind the taxpayer how much cash we actually generate for the Exchequer. Everytime you surf for porn on the net, a little light bulb goes off in this building. Everytime you type in the phrase 'Osama is my Hero', two light bulbs go off. (Remember, the name of the president of the USA is spelt with a B not an S).

Getting there and away:

Phew, this is going to be a big list. Nearest Rail/Tube is Vauxhall. Bus routes are a plenty, including the 2, 36 (24 hours), 77, 87, 88 (24 hours), 156, 185, 196, 344 (24 hours), 360, 436, N2, N87 and the N136. Or if you're in Whitehall, just walk along the tunnel...

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