Sunday, 1 August 2010

Crossings of the River Thames 33: The Woolwich Foot Tunnel

I am very wary of milestones. Why? Because one day, you might actually reach them...

Charles Michel Duke


This is it!

The 33rd Crossing of the River Thames in London. Oh yes, let me go through that list once again. From Hampton in the West of London, to Woolwich, here in the East of the city. here are 33 ways to cross the River Thames by foot. Sure, there are more ways to cross the Thames if you include road or rail only crossings, but if you are wanting to use your humble feet, this is the very last time that you can do so in London. Let me go through that list one more time, from the west to the east of how to cross the River Thames in London:

Hampton Ferry (Plus a How to get there bit)
Hampton Court Bridge
Kingston Bridge
Teddington Lock
Ham Ferry
Richmond Bridge
Twickenham Bridge (Two Posts)
Richmond Lock
Kew Bridge
Chiswick Bridge
Barnes Railway Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge
Putney Bridge
Fulham Railway Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge
Battersea Bridge
Albert Bridge
Chelsea Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge
Lambeth Bridge
Westminster Bridge
Hungerford Bridge (Two Posts)
Waterloo Bridge
Blackfriars Bridge
Millennium Bridge
Southwark Bridge
London Bridge (Two Posts)
Tower Bridge
Rotherhithe Tunnel
Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe Ferry
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Woolwich Ferry

And now today, the Woolwich Foot Tunnel.

Similar in build to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, there is a port hole on either side of the Thames. Here on the north bank, spitting distance from the Ferry Pier, is the brick dome that will take you deep below the Thames:

Just like the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, it is made of cast iron segments and has a lift at both ends. Just like Greenwich, it is under repair and refurbishment by the local council. And just like the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, it is filthy, over a century of soot and dirt line these walls, where many feet have trodden before, below the depths of the River Thames.

This is one long tunnel. And unlike Greenwich to the west, this is a lonely tunnel. With the Free Ferry and the DLR extension now up and running, very few people bother with the long and very cold walk through the tunnel. And if you are like me and came totally unprepared for the English Summer, then watch out, as any wet clothes will leave you frozen at these subterranean depths...

In fact, the only people you are likely to meet down here are cyclists, despite the objections to pedal power and the barriers placed intermittently throughout the tunnel. Still, that never stops the hardy two wheeler...

And so that was that. I emerged into the cold light of Woolwich, the Southern port hole of the tunnel now surrounded by a leisure centre and the hoardings of the repair team. That was that. After three years of London based wanderings, I have finally completed this great odyssey through the Capital, my home town. What will be my next adventures through this city? Ah, I will have to decide on this one...


Getting there and away:

Woolwich town centre, on the South Bank is served by a plethora of bus services which include the 51, 53 (24 hour), 54, 96, 99, 122, 161, 177, 178, 180, 244, 291, 380, 386, 422, 469, 472 (24 hour) and night bus N1. They either stop by the pier or in the town which is a short walk away from the riverside. The nearest station is Woolwich Arsenal (National Rail/DLR).

(If in Woolwich, it is a bit of a mission to find the entrance to the tunnel, but just head towards the riverside and you will find it)

On the north bank in Silvertown, routes 473 and 474 (24 hour) serves the ferry pier. King George V (DLR) is a few minutes walk from the entrance of the tunnel along Pier Road a few yards from the entrance to the Woolwich Ferry's southern pier.


Asad said...

A wonderful series! (Btw, in December it will be FOUR YEARS since Game On...not that I'm freaked or anything...)

el director! said...

@asad - it has been a fascinating part of my life, to see such a large slice of London, but something that is so readily ignored. as for my next set of wanderings, i have yet to pick one...