I was excited when I finally planned a visit to Greenwich with its rich heritage and well-known attractions. At the same time I was thinking that Cutty Sark, The Royal Observatory, the park, The Marital Museum and market are so well-known, that there may be many tourists and not too much to discover on my own. I turned to, so far, my best London guide to see what I can get in Greenwich. I found a little dot on the map pinpointing a foot tunnel under the river Thames , just next to the harbour. I had never heard of it but thought to give it a try.
As soon as I arrived to Greenwich by the river I tried to localise the tunnel - but couldn't find it. We walked with my family around all the must-see places and when our trip was coming to the end, I still had not gave up. With my rough map in hands I was still trying. It was telling me the tunnel was right there where I was but nothing seemed to look like the entrance to the tunnel under the Thames. Not even an old round building looking like a loo or sewage treatment plant. So I asked and this was exactly it. As we approached the building the plate clearly stated – The Foot Tunnel and described a short history. Let's get in then.
Stairs - not to heaven but to the tunnel; by Mike Peel, wikimedia
The tunnel is 1,215 feet (370.2 m) long and 50 feet (15.2 m) deep and lined with concrete. It is classed as a public highway and is part of the UK's National Cycle Route 1 linking Inverness and Dover, though the cyclists are required to dismount the bikes. As a public highway it is open 24 hours a day. The tunnel was designed by Sir Alexander Binnie for London County Council. Its purpose was to serve the working class living in Greenwich, who worked on the other side of the river. The tunnel was opened in the beginning of the 20th century and it still serves the financial workers of Canary Wharf! When it was built, it replaced ferry services, which used to operate on the same route but was much more expensive and not reliable. At the time, when the round domes at the both entrances were built, people only could use the stairs to access the tunnel but now there are also two lifts operating.
They take you down to begin your journey through history. Even if the walk through the tunnel is not the most pleasurable experience for your senses, especially the smell, it is a real journey into the history of the city. You can imagine half-sleepy workers flooding in the early morning, towards the Isle of Dogs and at the end of the day, coming back extremely tired. Every single day traversing the very same way. Isn't it thrilling to follow their steps?!
View into the tunnel. Source: Mark Ahsmann / Wikimedia Commons