Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Walk Under The River

There are three accessible pedestrian routes under the River Thames. The Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels are both well known and well used, I've been through both of them on many occasions. The third one came as a bit of a surprise to me.

Work on the Rotherhithe Tunnel commenced in 1904 and it was opened by HRH  The Prince of Wales (later King George V) in 1908. Linking Limehouse  on the north bank with Rotherhithe on the south, it was designed to provide a means for pedestrians and horse drawn traffic to cross the river without the need to travel west to Tower Bridge or east to the Blackwall Tunnel on the other side of the Isle of Dogs. Obviously, horse traffic eventually gave way to the ubiquitous motor vehicle and it is still an important, and heavily used, route from north to south but I had no idea that it was still accessible to pedestrians. According to Wikipedia around twenty pedestrians still use the tunnel each day!

So, this morning, I joined two friends, Jane and Jen to check it out for ourselves. it was a remarkably stress free journey. The pavements (on both sides) are around four feet wide and the speed limit is 20mph so, all things considered, it was probably much safer than the average country lane. The lighting was a pretty good and there were signs, indicating how far you have travelled and how far you still had to go, at regular intervals. I have to admit that air quality was not exactly brilliant but was not as bad as you might expect.

After a walk of just under a mile and reaching a maximum depth below the river surface of  approx. 75ft we emerged into the sunshine and the (relatively) fresh air of the north bank. Overall, an interesting experience but probably not one I'd care to do on a daily basis.

It is a little known fact (?) that beer is the perfect antidote to a potential exhaust fume overdose and to that end we made our way to the Old Ship pub on the delightful York Square E14 (recommended, by the way) for a pint or three. A nice way to end a nice day in good company.

By the way, it was a good job that Jane had her breakdown before entering the tunnel as we didn't have a vehicle to return to!

More photographs to follow on Flickr soon.



  1. Never been to the Old Ship. Will have to pop in soon

  2. Just checked Google maps, and it turns out that I've been right next to the stairs to the tunnel on both sides of the river but didn't realise it. I wonder if it would have been a more stressful walk -- and if you would have needed more libation -- on a week day. Hope Jane recovered quickly from her breakdown.

  3. Tom. It's just a nice, small local. With friendly staff and a decent pint. If you time it right, you may get to enjoy the drag cabaret! Enjoy.

    MJ. We picked the Sunday because to traffic is lighter. I suspect that a weekday would put more stressful on our aging lungs (the aging reference is aimed at Jen and myself, of course.....Sorry Jen). Jane appears to have made a remarkable and rapid recovery!

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