I know it goes against what the commentariat is saying, but the Marble Arch Mound is rather fun to visit.

Undeniably, the mound itself is not what was advertised – the art isn’t here, the cafe isn’t here, the shop isn’t here — the plants are 2-months from being at their best. The budget has been blown out of the water and tickets are now free until the end of the month.

But after all the fuss, what’s it like to climb up the Mound?

I know it goes against the ApprovedNarrative™, but the fact is, I enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it.

It’s BLOODY GOOD FUN.

No, you’re not getting amazing views across half of London. That’s what you pay a lot of money to take a lift up the Shard, or slowly rotate around the Eye for.

Still twice the height of the Marble Arch itself, this is a more intimate view across the area, and that’s part of the appeal. It’s a chance to see a part of London from a position that’s unusual. The rarity is part of the appeal.

For me though, there’s something more to it — and as simple as it sounds, it’s a sense of achievement of climbing to the top and standing on an open-air platform. I’ve long rated the Monument in the City of London, and climbing up Church towers to be much more fun than popping in a lift to be whisked to the top at the press of the button.

There’s effort and in some cases not a small amount of height-phobia triggering in climbing all those stairs to the top.

Not many people routinely climb 5 floors of stairs, so there’s the added achievement of doing something a bit tiring, and then up top, the floor shakes a bit as you walk over it, which can be a bit of a challenge for some, but the views are modestly enjoyable.

There is a bit of fencing in the way to prevent idiots from being idiotic, but not so obtrusive as to block any photos, but it’s very much an open-air experience peering over the edges down to the ant-like figures below and looking over the treetops at the distance.

Sorry to the naysayers, but I had fun.

And listening to the chatter around me on the busy platform at the top, a lot of other people are having fun. Didn’t hear anyone complain about the view – just looking around, taking selfies, getting family photos and the like.

No one seemed bothered, or even that interested in the planting on the Mound.

I’ve said it before, I am not entirely convinced that the planting was even necessary or adds anything meaningful to the Mound, but when you’re up close, you can see that the planting is taking root at last, and had they planned it a damn sight better, and put in fully grown plants, then you can see that the Mound will be a riot of colours – eventually.

It’s likely that some of the pleasure of a visit today is affected by the fact that we didn’t have to pay for the tickets, and although you should book a timed entry ticket, the staff at ground level seem to be letting anyone in when there’s space. Maybe in part people are coming along to see if it’s as bad as it is supposed to be, and most people like a freebie, so the test will be when they reintroduce paid for tickets.

So, dispel the typical British cynicism for a moment and head over to get some free tickets, and take a climb up the Marble Arch Mound.

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6 comments
  1. Renata says:

    I went on a Monday and enjoyed my visit too. The staff let me in one hour before my timed ticked as it was quite empty and they were nice, chatty and offered to take a photo of me and my kids. I knew of all that is being said about it and although it seems like a waste of money overall, i think a high platform of any form would be nice anywhere (I also brave vertigo to go up church towers, always regret it until I reach the top). It could have been done differently, maybe with a more functional perspective which would have avoided all the “it’s ugly” comments, and I was ready to pay so the free ticket was a nice surprise and aesthetics aside it’s a nice experience.

  2. Julian says:

    Going against the ApprovedNarrative (TM), Ian? Actually having fun? I can see the eyeballs being rolled and hear the collective tutting as I write ….

  3. Paul says:

    Idiot.

  4. Robert Harris says:

    I took your advice and went up today (clear and sunny). I wouldn’t have gone not having seen your piece, so thank you.

    It offered what I would describe as low-key pleasure and a different view of familiar sights. Dr Johnson’s trope about the Giant’s Causeway came to mind (worth seeing but not worth going to see – quite wrong about the Causeway, in my view, which is well worth going to see, but applicable here).

    It wasn’t crowded but there were families there, who seemed to be enjoying it too; and some, I guess wouldn’t have gone if they’d had to fork out for a pricey ticket. So perhaps in the end it was all for the best (though I do accept that Westminster council taxpayers may take a different view).

  5. Mkk says:

    I think they’ve extended the free tickets indefinitely?

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