Tower Bridge: A Lon­don Icon

The People's Friend Special - - REAL LIFE -

Gil­lian Thorn­ton ex­pe­ri­ences this unique land­mark from every pos­si­ble an­gle.

TOWER BRIDGE is one of the world’s most recog­nis­able tourist at­trac­tions, loved by vis­i­tors from across the globe. But if you don’t have a head for heights, you might want to stop read­ing now. I’m stand­ing on one of the two par­al­lel walk­ways link­ing the twin tow­ers, more than 140 feet above the Thames, and look­ing down through a glass floor to the traf­fic be­low.

In fact, I’m wait­ing for the traf­fic to stop. The road di­vides at the cen­tre of Tower Bridge into two “bas­cules” which can be raised to let tall ships pass through, and to­day there will be two chances to watch the op­er­a­tion, just half an hour apart.

The bridge is raised around 850 times a year, but if you want to be sure of see­ing it, con­sult the Tower Bridge web­site be­fore your visit to check the times for each day.

With 10 min­utes to spare, vis­i­tors be­gin to po­si­tion them­selves around the glass panel. School teach­ers make sure their charges aren’t hog­ging the view, whilst uni­formed guides do the same with adult view­ers!

I’m stand­ing with my back against the wall, ex­actly above the cen­tre, and with min­utes to go we get our cam­eras ready as the bridge clears of traf­fic.

To­day we’re wait­ing for the Dixie Queen, a pad­dlesteamer that op­er­ates plea­sure ex­cur­sions along the river, but all kinds of craft pass through here, from sail-train­ing ships to mo­tor yachts, tugs to the oc­ca­sional cruise liner.

But it’s no good pitch­ing up and ex­pect­ing to sail your ship through. The ser­vice is free around the clock for reg­is­tered ves­sels with a mast or su­per­struc­ture of 30 feet or more, but re­quests must be re­ceived at least 24 hours ahead.

All eyes are fixed on the road be­neath as sud­denly a nar­row gap ap­pears in the

One of the high walk­ways across the bridge.

A view of Tower Bridge from the South Bank.

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