Yes, that's correct, you hear me right. Today we're going to walk underneath the River Thames in London!!
The Greenwich Foot Tunnel connects Greenwich on the south side of the River Thames to Isle of Dogs on the north side. It was built in 1902 for workers living on the south to get to work at the docks on the north. Today it is still used by workers, but many of these workers now are middle class professionals living in the desirable south east London boroughs and working in Canary Wharf. What a change a whole century has made to the demographics of this major city.
THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE RIVER THAMES
The entrance to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel is next to the Cutty Sark, the last surviving clipper, built in 1869. That itself, is worth visiting particularly if you are interested in maritime history. The building with a green dome is where the walk underneath the River Thames starts.
Before we head over, lets take a look at what it's like on the south side of the river. There's a lot of open space around here, I actually came here twice when I was in London recently. The first time in the early evening to watch the sunset. I posted about it here. The second time was to walk underneath the River Thames. On both occasions, the area was fairly busy despite Covid, but not crowded, which was good. I know normally at this time in the year, Greenwich is a magnet for tourists from both overseas and local. It's only a short distance away from central London, and many come here to visit the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Mean Time. That's the timeline for which all countries base their time on ie GMT +/- . There is an actual line on the ground where you can take photos! Anyway, I've digressed as I will talk about the GMT in another post. Let's head over to the north side of the Thames now.
Ok the tunnel looks a bit worn out, sorry to disappoint you. This is a functional tunnel, used by 1.2m people every year so there's a bit of wear and tear on the fabric. However, great British engineer means this over century year old tunnel is perfectly safe.
It's built of cast iron, and after it was damaged by bombing in the second world war, thick steel and concrete lining was added to reinforce the tunnel. The entire tunnel is 1215 feet / 370 meters long and took me around 8 minutes to walk across (I've fast forward that to 1 minute in my video below). It's built 50 feet / 15 meters deep and is very cool inside, that was perfect for my visit as it was one of the hottest day in summer that day. There are elevators on both ends which weren't working when I was there. Apparently because the elevators are so deep under water, their precision on opening and closing the doors have to be very accurate, hence are always under maintaince. Seems like people's livelihood have improved during the century, but British engineer have taken a step back!
THE NORTH SIDE OF THE RIVER THAMES
The entrance on the other side of the Thames is located at Island Gardens, at Isle of Dogs. This used to be one of the dock areas, and is around 2 miles away from Canary Wharf. It's a bit of distance away for the commuters, that's why most of them will cycle. In my video, you'll see some of them in the tunnel, and you can imagine how much they'd appreciate the cool temperature in the tunnel when they have to heave their bike up and down the 100 steps when the elevators aren't working. Plenty of exercise!!!
I have made a short video of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, walking underneath the River Thames. I hope you will enjoy it.