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London’s Historic Bridges

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As a city divided by the river that flows through it, London is a city of bridges. Connecting the banks of the Thames and allowing people and goods to flow from north to south has been a lifeline in the city for hundreds of years, and the development of new bridges has been the cause for much celebration through the years as they opened another link between one bank and another.

Each of London’s bridges has its own unique character and history of its role in the development of the city down the ages. From the very first crossing to the most modern, each has its own story to tell.

 

The first Thames crossing

It should come as no surprise from its name that the first bridge to cross the Thames is London Bridge. It’s believed that the first bridge stood on the site of the existing bridge in 50AD, erected by the Romans as a pontoon bridge to give rapid access across the then village-like London to the important Kentish ports.

Not the most glamorous of the bridges in London, this bridge has been refurbished through the years and has been rebuilt four times during its lifetime. The most recent renovation in the 1970s brought a simple design to the site and since its completion London Bridge has played a key role in a number of important celebrations in the city including on Remembrance Day 2004, marking 90 years since the First World War.

 

Is it a bridge? Or a gate?

Probably the most interesting of the London bridges is Tower Bridge, which has become an iconic symbol of the city and has become the star of stage and screen in many films and TV shows.

london tower bridge

London’s iconic Tower Bridge at dusk

The bridge has the most dramatic architecture and has two great towers that give the bridge its name, and which give stability to the mighty structure. Between the two towers is what is known as a bascule bridge. In simple terms, the bridge splits in the middle and the two sides can be hauled open by massive operating machinery housed inside the towers. Through the years, this has enabled the passage of large ships up and down the Thames. Although this is a relatively rare occurrence these days, particularly since the road over the bridge carries a significant amount of traffic, but on ceremonial occasions as part of river pageants such as that held for the Queen’s golden jubilee in 2012.

 

The thoroughly modern bridge

The most modern addition to the bridges across the Thames is Millennium Bridge, opened to mark the beginning of the 21st century. A purely pedestrian crossing, the Millennium Bridge was the subject of criticism and controversy when it first opened in 2000. The participants in the charity walk that christened the bridge on its official opening found the bridge bounced disconcertingly beneath them as they crossed the water, leading to its closure for two years to enable engineering work to stabilise the structure.

millennium bridge st paul cathedral

Millennium Bridge, with St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance

Reopened in 2002, the Millennium Bridge provides a pedestrian link to Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern gallery and is considerably less wobbly since the installation of movement dampers were installed at either end of its length.

 

Conclusion

The history of London can be told through its bridges and there are plenty of stories the many crossings along the central London stretch of the Thames can tell about the growth and development of the city. Whether you immerse yourself in their stories or just enjoy the view, there’s no doubt that London’s bridges add something to the capital’s unique character.

Source: Wikipedia 1 & 2

All you need to know about the Wimbledon Tennis Championships

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Even if you’re not a tennis fan, or even a great lover of sports, it’s unlikely that you’ve never heard of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

As one of the most sought after and long-standing tennis Grand Slam competitions in the world today, winning at Wimbledon is the dream of every racket-wielding sportsman or woman. Athletes from all over the world are pitted against each other, all at the peak of their physical and mental game. As incredible as it is to play, it is also an amazing event to watch.

Here is everything that you need to know about the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

Wimbledon

Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis in action at Wimbledon

 

Then & Now

The Wimbledon Championship originated from The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, a private club founded all the way back in 1868. After only a few years, the popularity of the club’s early tennis competitions brought in hundreds of paying viewers. The lawns at their ground first heralded today’s ‘Centre Court’; this is the showpiece where the main court is surrounded by the other courts. Before 1922, the champion from the previous year’s tournament only had to play in the final against whoever achieved enough victories to reach their challenge!

In 1937, history was made when the Championship was seen on British Television for the first time.

Ever since the grainy pictures first appeared, the sport has boomed, and global fame has now made Wimbledon a world-wide sensation. With new renovation and improvement to the courts, thousands of people can now watch under retractable roofs on Centre Court. No more rain stopping play for so long! Even the British Royal Family has their special box at Centre Court, and are in regular attendance at the games.

A view of the centre court at Wimbledon

A view of the centre court at Wimbledon

And of course, it wouldn’t be right to omit to mention the continued tradition of British strawberries and cream before moving on; the summer fruit dish goes hand in hand with Wimbledon fever, and is enjoyed by people watching at the grounds and via television around the globe.

 

Two Wonderful Weeks

The tournament currently begins between 20-26th of June, on a Monday. From then, 13 days of incredible sportsmanship and prowess is displayed, and skills are tested right up to the second weekend when the finals are held. There are many events held at Wimbledon over these two weeks. They range in age, gender, physical and mental ability, but the five main events attract the most viewers and prize money. 128 players compete in the singles tournaments to make it to the Gentlemen’s or Ladies final. There are then 64 teams in each of the Gentlemen’s, Ladies and Mixed Doubles competitions for a chance at the silverware.

In both of the Gentlemen’s games, the sets are played to the best of five whilst all others are played to the best of three. If scores are tied 6-6 in any game except the fifth or third, respectively, the tie-break games are played, and players can only achieve victory with a two point lead! Unfortunately, if you lose more than a couple of points, you’re eliminated. That’s what makes a Grand Slam so cruel, and yet so rewarding for those who come through the gauntlet!

 

Players and Prizes

So how do you enter the Wimbledon Grand Slam as a competing athlete? Well, players are ‘seeded’ or entered into the competition based on their international ranking. This is basically how well they have played against other ranked players, and their position moves based on wins and losses. Each year though, the committee will select a wild card player to allow in, even though they don’t qualify by rank, just to make things interesting! Back in 2001, a wild card player actually won the Gentlemen’s Singles Championship.

Sporting fame and your name in the history books isn’t the only incentive for entering. From the first round losers receiving a modest £14,500, the prize money roughly doubles at each climb in position to reach a whopping £1,150,000 for the winner, and half that for the losing finalist!

 

A Part of the Magic

If your imagination has been captured, and your excitement is building for this year’s incredible event, then you may want to get yourself a ticket. Since the demand is incredibly high, most centre and show court tickets are available from the start of the year via a public ballot.

Debenture tickets are available for fans who invest in the club, and these can be bought and sold between fans and the public too. However, since the seats are good, and most people don’t get a chance to buy them, they tend to reach a very expensive price. If you didn’t get access via the public ballot and want to get a Centre Court Debenture seat from 2011-2015, be prepared to pay in the tens of thousands. That being said, Wimbledon is still the only Grand Slam in the world where fans who haven’t got tickets can still queue up and get a great seat on a main court. This has led to many queuing overnight and has become a part of the excitement that is the Wimbledon experience. Don’t forget your sleeping bag!

 

Conclusion

With amazing attendance, breath-taking performances and sporting triumphs that will go down in history, the Wimbledon Tennis Championship really could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Whether you’re playing, watching from home, or you’re lucky enough to be watching from the edge of your court-side seat, now you know everything you need to know about what is arguably the world’s greatest Grand Slam.

Image Credits: Carine06 and ReeSaunders

A trip around the Circle Line Sights

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As one of the oldest lines on the London Underground, the Circle Line links east and west in the centre of the city and gives access to a number of sights that are well worth seeing. Popular at weekends with stag and hen parties, you will often see almost as much colour on the Tube as you’ll see off it, with brightly costumed men and women making their way around the line with a pub at each station.

While some of the stops are not worth the fare, there are plenty of things to be seen on the line that make a beep on your Oyster card very worthwhile.

 

Embankment

Getting out of the Tube station at Embankment will bring you face-to-face within the London Eye on the opposite side of the Thames. It’s a spectacular sight, and one that shouldn’t be missed on any trip to London.

Once you’ve seen your fill of the Eye, take a walk along the Embankment towards our next stop on the tour – Westminster. Along the way, you’ll pass the Battle of Britain Monument that commemorates the servicemen who took part in the battle during World War II. The monument was opened in 2005 and features a number of panels of high-relief bronze sculpture depicting airmen scrambling to their aircraft during the battle. The monument also lists the names of all the airmen who took part in the Battle on the Allied side.

 

Westminster

At the top of Embankment, you can’t miss one of the sights that is instantly evocative of London. Queen Elizabeth Clock Tower, better known as Big Ben, stands on the corner and marks the start of the Palace of Westminster.

In addition to the Palace, containing the Houses of Parliament and Lords, Westminster has its abbey, which was the venue for the marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge William and Catherine in 2011. Outside the abbey and in front of the Houses of Parliament is a small green where you can usually see protesters with placards trying to attract the eye of passing MPs.

 

Paddington

Jump back onto the Tube at Westminster and out again at Paddington Station. While there isn’t all that much to see outside the station, as a commuter hub with just a few restaurants and bars to serve weary travellers, inside there is a lovely bronze statue that’s worth a look.

Paddington Station with its most famous resident, Paddington Bear

Paddington Station with its most famous resident, Paddington Bear

Most Brits will be familiar with Paddington Bear, the character from the Michael Bond books who later made it into his own televised cartoon. As the unofficial patron of Paddington Station, the bear has a bronze statue where he sits on his suitcase and waits with travellers pausing before their train.

 

Baker Street

As a key interchange on the Circle Line for commuters to switch to the Jubilee, Bakerloo, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines, Baker Street is a workhorse on the Tube system. However, that isn’t the main reason why Baker Street is famous.

“Winding your way down to Baker Street”, Home of the famous Sherlock Holmes

“Winding your way down to Baker Street”, Home of the famous Sherlock Holmes

The most well-known inhabitant of Baker Street was the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Having seen many incarnations in books, films and on television, Holmes has been a staple in drama across the world. Although 221b Baker Street didn’t exist at the time Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing his novels and short stories, it has now been created and is the home of the Official Sherlock Holmes Museum.

 

Conclusion

The Circle Line has a great many attractions along its length that are worth a visit on your trip to London. Take a step into some of Britain’s military, parliamentary and military history with some of the stops on the way.

Image Credits: Zoe Goodacre and Zoe Goodacre

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