While I was in London recently, a friend and I decided to do some ‘firsts’ – see and do things in London we had never done before. One of mine was to go under the River Thames. I had been over it on the Emirates Airline and on it, on a boat, but never under it. Neither had my friend. As I had done something similar in Antwerp, it seemed odd that I hadn’t done the same in London. So, it was time to rectify that by going underground through the Greenwich foot tunnel.
It’s probably not the usual place you’re told to visit, but why not be a bit different from the norm, eh? You might not have much of a view, but it’s a cheap, quick, and easy way to get from one side to the other and you can experience what it was like for commuters working on or near the Isle of Dogs at the beginning of the 20th century. That’s who it was originally built for. Until then, they had had to put up with an unreliable ferry service.
There are two lifts at either end of the tunnel. The lift was out of service on the southern side when we were there, so we had to walk down the stairs to access the tunnel. It wasn’t as deep as I thought it would be, having used the tunnel in Antwerp. I thought they would be at the same depth, but I was wrong. The cast-iron tunnel in London is, in fact, just over 15 metres deep. That’s less than half the depth of the foot tunnel in Antwerp, which is over 30 metres deep. I wonder if that’s why the Greenwich foot tunnel was damaged during a bombing raid in World War II. If it were as deep as the tunnel in Antwerp, would it have been damaged? I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts.
We started our journey from the Cutty Sark in Greenwich to Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs. Funnily enough, Island Gardens was on my friend’s list of places to visit, so we killed two birds with one stone that day by walking through the Greenwich foot tunnel. It is part of the UK’s National Cycle Route from Inverness to Dover, so cyclists use it too. As it’s a foot tunnel, cyclists are supposed to dismount. Just to warn you in advance, some do, some don’t.
When you get to the other side, assuming you begin at the Cutty Sark, take a look at the other side. It’s a great photo opportunity with all the beautiful buildings that grace the riverside such as the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
When you’re there, you have a few options: Firstly, you could return to Greenwich via the tunnel or take the DLR (tube). Secondly, you could do what the locals do and enjoy the wide, open, green spaces around. Lastly, you could continue your walk, as we did, past Mudchute Park and Farm and South Quays and end up at Canary Wharf where you can take the tube to your next destination. If you end up there during rush hour, you’ll have to dodge all the office workers who are making a mad dash for the pub or train home.
You don’t have to worry about trying to figure out where the tunnel entrances are or any of the places mentioned because I have marked it all on the map. As you can see, it’s all pretty much in a straight line from the Cutty Sark to Canary Wharf.
To get to either entrance of the Greenwich foot tunnel, using the Tube, get off at the Cutty Sark or Island Gardens stop, both of which are on the DLR. You can find out more about how to get around London from the Transport for London website. On both sides of the river, you should see a small dome-shaped building, which are the entrances to the foot tunnel.
Have your say
Having walked under two rivers now using foot tunnels to go from one side of a river to the next, I’m interested in others around the world. Do you know of any other foot tunnels that link one side of a river to the next? If so, tell me more because I’m really interested.