diamond geezer

 Saturday, May 13, 2006

  the definitive DG guide to London's sights-worth-seeing
  Part 8: Thames Barrier Visitor Centre

Location: Unity Way, Woolwich, SE18 5NJ [map]
Open: 10:30am - 4pm (11am - 3:30pm in Winter)
Admission: £1.50
5-word summary: mini exhibition beside engineering marvel
Website: here
Time to set aside: ½hr indoors, ½hr outdoors

The Thames Barrier is a marvellous sight. Its gleaming aerofoil piers span the river at Woolwich Reach, protecting large swathes of the capital against the threat of innundation. Admittedly Beckton and Belvedere are still in for a soaking, but the residents of Chelsea and Camberwell have good reason to thank the GLC for their foresight. Designed as long ago as the early 1970s, the Thames Barrier was engineered to withstand even a once-in-a-millennium storm surge. When the call comes, and it comes more frequently with each passing decade, six hidden gates rise up out of the water to block the incoming tide. The mechanism's based on gas-tap technology, you know. I know, I saw it at the exhibition.

Visitors aren't allowed inside the main Thames Barrier buildings. Instead there's a small 'official' café built atop the flood defences on the south bank where you can rest awhile after taking in the awe and majesty of the barrier gates. Maybe you fancy a nice cup of tea and a jam-topped scone, or perhaps you have a sudden urge for a cheap souvenir pencil or tacky fridge magnet. But offer the lady at the till a handful of coins and she'll buzz you through a side door down into the basement where an exhibition reveals the barrier's secrets. It's not a very large basement, indeed on entering you'll wonder if there aren't several other rooms and galleries tucked away out of sight, but what you see is what you get. Display boards recount past floods, most notably the disastrous storm of 1953. Learn too about the ecology of the Thames and the estuary's other flood defences. Flick through some of the designs which lost out to Charles Draper's rotating underwater gates. Look, there's a murky fishtank complete with murky fish. And over here is a big model of the barrier in a glass case which whirrs into action so you can see how everything works. Maybe you'd like to watch it go through its paces a couple of times, just to stretch your visit out to fifteen minutes.

For your second fifteen minutes, enter the mini-cinema with its mini-video. If you've ever watched Tomorrow's World or seen one of those terribly worthy public information films, you'll know what to expect. Lots of shots of engineers standing around holding clipboards; a succession of workmen moving things with cranes and pouring concrete into moulds; a strip of dull white text speeding across the screen outlining a list of dry facts and figures; some BBC-type bloke reading out an earnest commentary in proper Queen's English; a burbling synthesiser playing over-dramatic tinkly muzak in the background. Yes, nobody's replaced the video at the visitor's centre since the barrier was opened in 1984, and it shows. Still, the film kept the attention of a visiting toddler without him running around and screaming, which was more than the rest of the exhibition had managed.

Back outside a far more impressive attraction is the barrier itself. The nine silver piers poke out of the water like a row of submerged skyscrapers. Red crosses or green arrows glow beside each gate like giant traffic lights. The harbour police scud aimlessly down the river. Passing couples linger at the water's edge to take awestruck photographs. Toddlers play happily, and noisily, on the climbing frame. You could do worse than come visit for yourself, if you have nothing better to do. But, all things considered, you might prefer the view from Thames Barrier Park on the northern banks instead.
by bus: 161, 177, 180, 472  by train: Charlton, Woolwich Dockyard

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this month?
28 Jan – 23 Apr (10am-4.30pm)
Sussex Modernism
The sixth annual exhibition at Two Temple Place focuses on radical art/writing in Sussex, and is damned excellent.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Feb17  Jan17
Dec16 Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards