River Thames, London – Night Time Winter Equinox (28.12.14)
“Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew –Wanted to know what the River knew,
Twenty Bridges or twenty-two, For they were young, and the Thames was old
And this is the tale that River told.” – Rudyard Kipling
My blog this week focuses on the journey between thirteen road, rail and pedestrian bridges that cross the River Thames in the centre of London. This time last year I blogged from Down Under on ‘The Coathanger – Sydney’s famous Harbour Bridge’. This year, based in London, I want to share one of my favourite home town trips.
It’s a trip enjoyed by many a Londoner, tourist, pedestrian, boater, cyclist… or even air passenger flying to London’s Heathrow Airport on a clear day. To my mind, this particular journey is the most impressive jaunt in London, and if you ever have just a few hours to enjoy the capital I would recommend walking from Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster, down river to Tower Bridge, opposite the Tower of London.
I have enjoyed this walk in all weathers, seasons and times of day, but my favourite is always at night. The River Thames, often overlooked by Londoners, is at its most majestic and exciting during the night time hours. Particularly in the middle of winter when the air feels clearer and the night sky more dramatic. This week was no exception.
Although I have previously blogged on the Tower of London at night, in addition to Remembrance poppies, I took all these photos this week when I walked from the Houses of Parliament (Westminster tube station), along the Jubilee Walk via the London Eye, Southbank Centre, National Theatre, Tate Modern, OXO Tower, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Clink and Golden Hinde II to London Bridge (Monument tube station). The pedestrian bridges of Hungerford & Golden Jubilee (between Westminster and Waterloo), Millennium (know locally as ‘Wobbly Bridge’ – between Tate Modern & St Paul’s Cathedral) and London Bridge all offer the most fabulous views up and down river.
The walk, during the night of this year’s Winter Equinox, took me over four hours. It’s a journey you could easily complete in half the time if you weren’t obsessed – as I was – with snapping shots from many different angles and vantage points. In fact this photo essay of twenty plus images is a selection from over 280.
I hope that they give you an insight into how dramatic the blend of night time colours are at this time of the year: bright purples highlight the London Eye and Southwark Bridge; reds and greens illuminate the Southbank merry-go-rounds; and there is an orange honey-glow in the sky as the midnight hour approaches above St Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge. I was also blessed with a stunningly clear, dry and relatively warm night. The wind finally cut me in two as the tide turned upriver near Blackfriars Bridge.
This trail is difficult to beat – covering not only many of London’s most exciting iconic buildings, but also taking you from the Houses of Parliament to the heart of our financial centre in The City. It costs nothing but the loss of some shoe leather and will give you memories to last forever. If you are a Londoner it allows an opportunity to enjoy a part of our capital you probably never encounter in your working life.
You will also be aware that after the northern hemisphere Winter Equinox (21/22 December) ushers in Christmas, the UK’s most prestigious New Year’s celebrations will take place in the centre of London with a gigantic fireworks display over the River Thames. The show, one of the world’s biggest New Year’s pyrotechnic displays, will light up the capital’s unique skyline.
That is the good news. The bad news is that this year for the first time you have to pre-purchase tickets – all of which have now been sold.
Panic not though – New Year’s tickets aside, Old Father Thames has been flowing through London for Millennia, and my journey remains available 24/7, 365 days a year.
I highly recommend it. Enjoy the views.