diamond geezer

 Friday, September 23, 2016

Should we build the Garden Bridge? I've been down to the intended site to decide for myself.

I started at the northern end of the proposed span, at Temple. Very few people were using the station, which is fortunate because it's going to have to be closed for six months when construction gets underway, and this means nobody will be inconvenienced. When the bridge finally opens the station will be immediately adjacent to a world-class tourist destination, thereby justifying its existence, and providing useful access to Somerset House and the Strand.

The area immediately around Temple station is an inaccessible backwater, adjacent only to the Thames Embankment, and would be greatly enhanced if tourists from the South Bank were able to reach it more easily. Also the East-West Cycle Superhighway passes this way, so cyclists won't need to go up to the new bridge to push their bikes across the river, and £30m of transport funding won't have been wasted.

At the moment the immediate locality can only support a small independent cafe, an Australian-themed bar and two stalls selling magazines and fruit. Although this makes it easy to buy a proper breakfast and a copy of Private Eye, modern visitors expect so much more, and the opportunity to introduce chain outlets selling mass-produced pastries should not be understated.

Alongside in Temple Place is a Grade II listed Cabmen's Shelter, a small green hut opened in 1880, providing rest and sustenance for the taxi trade. This will have to move when the road is pedestrianised, shifting parking spaces for the cab trade into neighbouring Surrey Street, and with the added benefit that passers-by will then no longer be distracted by the offer of a freshly-fried bacon butty or toasted ham sandwich from the hatch for £2.50.

Access to the Garden Bridge will be via lifts or stairs to an upper deck on top of Temple station. This upper deck already exists, and is a bland featureless expanse with only a table tennis table and more than thirty benches. Bad planning means that any view across the river is blocked by trees, so in summer there really is nothing to see, and heaven knows why quite so many people were up there.

The view from the centre of the river will obviously be much better, there being no annoyingly massive trees in the way, because the deck of the bridge can't support substantial roots. But the span will thrive with plantlife, which means nobody will miss the three plane trees on the Victoria Embankment which will have to be felled so that the Garden Bridge can carve through. From what I saw, the leaves are already turning yellow and starting to fall off, so the removal of these diseased trees can't come soon enough.

A big gap exists between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, a ghastly planning oversight which makes crossing the river very difficult. To reach Waterloo Bridge from Temple I had to walk for three and a half minutes, which is clearly beyond the ability of most people. More to the point I passed only forty trees along the way, suggesting that the new Garden Bridge will really bring this barren stretch of the Thames to life.

The view from Waterloo Bridge is distinctly substandard, with some domed cathedral in the background, and a big watery space where the Garden Bridge ought to be. Also there's no vegetation on Waterloo Bridge, only an awful lot of traffic, and none of the deck is sponsored. Especially confusing are the rules which mean the bridge is permanently accessible to the public and not sealed off overnight, nor watched over by private security guards, nor closed twelve days a year for jollies.

The South Bank is of course ridiculously busy, and urgently needs an additional exit to ease the pressure. My trek back from Waterloo Bridge to the Garden Bridge's intended landing point took all of three minutes, so was a real slog, and involved walking past another forty trees. Again the riverside walkway isn't really suitable for cyclists, so preventing them from riding across a beautiful arboreal span will prove no hardship.

The Garden Bridge clearly has to touch down somewhere, and a patch of lawn in front of ITV's South Bank studios is more ideal than most. Hardly anybody uses it, so a concrete and steel platform will be more welcome than the risk of treading in something unpleasant. A number of occasional coffee vans already utilise the embankment close by, and IBM's office block isn't exactly scenic, so the arrival of a grey structure with retail outlets won't look entirely out of place.

Somewhat disappointingly a pressure group has attached signs to each of the three dozen trees on the South Bank they say will be cut down to make way from the bridge and its associated podium. But they may be lying, and these mature specimens may somehow be left standing around the footprint of the new building, so long as the row of shops and cafes doesn't stretch out too far. What's for certain is that this invasive propaganda has an impact on those walking by, and many strike up a conversation about the integrity of the Garden Bridge as they pass.

It's surprisingly hard to envisage the impact the Garden Bridge will have at its two endpoints, even given the vast amount of publicity this landmark project has had over the last few years. Only when the trucks arrive and the chainsaws start to whirr will the reality start to bite, and it'll then be a couple of years before the utopian crossing opens and the sponsors start to get their money's worth.

The Lumley-Heatherwick Bridge, as it will surely be known, is a bold architectural project unique in its ability to divide public opinion. How astonishing it might be to walk across the Thames between horticultural specimens from around the world, pausing to enjoy the vistas opened up mid-river and paying heed to all necessary bye-laws. Tourists will flock to London to see it, two vibrant cultural districts will be linked, and an ever-changing seasonal landscape will be unlocked each day at six.

But how can the project's questionable funding be justified, and should we be encouraging the privatisation of public space, and wouldn't any bridge be better located elsewhere? Let's hope this folly is never built.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
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 weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

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
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

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

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