A section of the Thames riverside in the City of London that has been closed for 20 years reopened today removing a diversion that’s been in place since 2003, and in doing so has completed a long desire to open up the Thames path along the entire width of the City of London.
The closed section of riverside path is close to the Millenium Bridge and runs underneath a set of former warehouses that are now residential flats that had originally opened in 2003 following the refurbishment of the building above, but the path had to close just a few months after it opened.
It turned out that the path’s design, of a dark corridor under the building with some dark blind corners and the disconnected nature of the walkway, made it a magnet for anti-social behaviour, and following swift complaints, it was closed off by locking the gates on either side.
For the past 20 years, people have had their walk along the riverside diverted back up to the busy road to get around this blocked off path.
In 2011, the City looked again at how they could reopen the walkway as part of the City of London’s Riverside Walk enhancement strategy, but it’s taken until now to manage to complete the job.
Consultations took place at the time, and plans were agreed upon in May 2014, but were put on hold until a neighbouring hotel building site was cleared, but that took until the end of 2018. The plan to reopen the path resumed with designs being submitted and agreed on a year later.
Budgeted at somewhere in the range of £450,000-£650,000 in March 2020, the project was going to be funded by TfL, but funding was pulled in May 2020 due to the pandemic. To get it restarted, the City of London tapped its own developer supplied S106 funds in October 2020 to get the path opened.
They’ve been working on a number of changes to the corridor to remove the problems that caused it to be closed in 2003.
The large bulky brick blocks that punctuated the passage have been cut back so that people can’t loiter hidden behind them. The bricks that were removed were in turn reused to fill in some alcoves, with angled infills that matched an existing alcove. The newly painted ceiling and the angled infills also help to reflect light into the alley as it bounces off the Thames outside.
Additional lights inside the alley mirror the effect of the river reflecting off the ceiling, and the bronzed gold grills that surround the new lights help to enhance the effect.
To bring more daylight into the alley, a long wall has been lowered and with a raised ledge below it gives a lovely framed view across the Thames to the south side where the Globe Theatre and the Tate gaze back.
The view of the Globe is why the alley has today been officially named Globe View Walkway.
As a cleaned up brick corridor, it’s nice enough, but they uncovered something very unexpected during the refurbishment.
Standing right in the middle of the alley was a large brick column, and they knew from the flats above that inside the column was likely to be an old iron column holding up the roof. A couple of pilot holes were drilled in and confirmed this, so they decided to remove the brick cladding as that would open up more space in the alley.
And that’s when they found something that was not on the plans, a large metal joint. Possibly for holding up the floor, which used to be lower down when this was a warehouse, it’s an unexpected addition to the alley. It’s been painted in the City’s heritage red, the same colour that’s used on Blackfriars Bridge and the Holborn Viaduct.
The splash of red adds a pleasing punctuation point within the passage.
City of London member Brian Mooney who has been campaigning to open the route since 1998 said: “This finally completes the Thames Path in the City of London, allowing people to walk along an uninterrupted route from Temple Gardens to Tower Bridge, and giving the City an unbroken section of that magnificent 185-mile trail along the River Thames to London from its source in Gloucestershire.”
The project was completed by lead architects Rivington Street Studio, main contractor JB Riney and lighting designer FPOV.
There will be some historic panels added to the walls later this year, where the floor lighting has already been installed that will tell the history of the old fur warehouse above, and the views that can be seen through the newly enlarged windows in the alley.
This long closed walkway, along with some changes to the riverside path on either side had been a bottleneck in plans to let people walk the full length of the riverside within the City of London. But as of today, for the first time ever, it’s possible to walk from Temple to the Tower of London without having to divert away from the river.