Thinking allowed — 26 June 2015

Newcastle is rightly proud of its river crossings, but down here in the south we seem uncharacteristically modest when it comes to London’s bridges, curious considering we have some of the most iconic.

Composers wax lyrical but seem to fail in stirring our souls: the classic London Bridge is falling down; The Pogues Misty Morning, Albert Bridge; or the unforgettable Tower Bridge by Spike Milligan.

The only contender for managing to get the essence of how Londoner’s love their bridges seem to be Ray Davies’s Waterloo Sunset. Now with the Millennium Bridge devoid of wobbles and used by thousands every day another bridge is on the cusp of being constructed.

With London becoming ever more densely packed a new means of getting across the River has become as much of a priority as CrossRail. Hungerford Bridges were built to replace the earlier single one populated at the time by miscreants, the Millennium Bridge is now a decade on from having its design faults rectified and is almost at capacity during the day. Now the Garden Bridge is set to become London’s favourite pedestrian river crossing with a purpose probably unique in the world.

The Victorians gave us many of today’s parks, now for obvious reasons no open spaces have recently been created in central London. The Garden Bridge (shall we nickname it Bushy Bridge?) plans to change that creating 2,500m² of planted green space. There will be 270 trees, 2,000 shrubs, hedging plants and climbers, more than 22,000 perennials, ferns and grasses and 64,000 bulbs. It is estimated the bridge will be used daily by 9,000 commuters crossing from Temple Station to the South Bank. The bridge will be open 18 hours a day and only closed 12 days a year for private functions for clients with very deep pockets.


Some have proposed that another ubiquitous bike lane is included across this tranquil haven. Surely this will defeat the purpose of providing a truly pedestrianised park which has been designed by Southwark-based horticulturist Dan Pearson a world class creator of gardens who was the winner of RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015 Best in Show Award.

The Garden Bridge has other benefits for Londoner’s. It will be a focal point attracting more tourists (cabbies should approve), it will be free to all with provision at each end for queuing. No cars, for once there will be a place in the capital were you can breathe fresh air. Security guards will patrol the place ensuring everyone’s safety and stop picnicking – or bikes.

It is proposed to close Temple Station during construction, what better excuse can there be to rename it Garden Bridge Station? But I’m concerned about the green cab shelter at Temple Place which has been under threat before.

In the 1960s developers knocked down four ancient streets running down to Temple Place to allow for a hotel to be built presumably so American tourists could see just the sort of roads they had destroyed to built the hotel. When the hotel reached completion the architects were amazed to find that just at the spot they’d planned to put their grand hotel entrance there was a green cabbie’s shelter. With typical corporate stupidity they tried to use their financial might to have the shelter removed by the authorities, but they were told that the shelter had been there since 1880 and was staying put. With the image of their rich American visitors being greeted by a ramshackle old shelter they were forced to beg for its removal. For a price the shelter was duly moved a few yards down the hill away from the hotel’s lobby.


The green shelter is still there, but the hotel has since closed – being redeveloped.

By the time the bridge is completed Boris Johnson will no longer by Mayor of London, thankfully the crossing’s nickname is unlikely to be the ‘Boris Bridge’.

The only negative point I can find is the view from Waterloo Bridge looking east will be obscured. Terry and Julie will have to look towards The Houses of Parliament on Friday night or Ray Davies might have to find another crossing when he writes the lyrics to his next iconic song.

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(4) Readers Comments

  1. By all means let’s have a Garden Bridge but why should £60 million of public money be used on such a trophy project? Also, the location should be reviewed – it is east of Tower Bridge where more river crossings are needed.

    • Unfortunately the bridge will obscure the view east from Waterloo Bridge towards St. Paul’s. And yes we definitely need a bridge across the river at Woolwich, but Ken Livingstone blocked it

  2. Sorry about the rich Americans. If anyone had asked them, they might not have asked for the destruction of historic areas like the greedy presumptuous buzzards who actually did the deed. Glad the cabbie shelter still exists. It’s actually the kind of thing rich and other Americans find interesting.

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