I don’t entirely like heights. But I like lofty views of my surroundings. It’s a conflict of emotions I’ve had to endure for…well, ever since an incident at Cheddar Gorge when my age was measured in single digits. Fortunately, my desire to enjoy the latter is more powerful than my fear of the former. I’ve clambered atop, or at least on, many high spots in my life, including a few structures that have once claimed the title of the tallest in the world. The pyramids at Giza (I was told off and ordered down), the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpar, The Willis Tower (nee Sears) all spring to mind.
In London, I’ve been up to the highest gantry above the dome of St Pauls and to the top of the nearby Monument. A couple of years ago I visited the viewing gallery at the top of the Shard. They all have unique views of varying quality. But I have a new favourite. High enough to provide a grand vista. Not so high as to turn the city into a tilt shift style toy town. It’s a building you may have heard of, but for different reasons. It can magically melt expensive cars that dare park in the wrong place.
Know colloquially as the Walkie Talkie Tower, but more formally as 20 Fenchurch Street, this is one of London’s latest breed of skyscraper, soaring nearly 40 storeys into the capital’s skyline. It blossoms outwards as it goes, cleverly increasing its square footage of office space as it goes. Its magical car smelting properties have been tamed with webbed netting on the south face of the building. One hopes that they will eventually implement a more aesthetic, permanent solution.
Like most modern buildings in ancient surroundings, the tower has its detractors. I am not one of them. I like the blend of old and new. Or more properly put, new, old, older and oldest. This building is in the newest category, and it has a most modern feature which is the reason for this post. It has a sky garden. Frankly, this is a little bit of an exaggeration. It is a large open space at the very top of the tower, with a choice of posh dining and drinking options and two strips or terraced bushes at either side.
Green fingered citizens of London might be disappointed by what they find up there, butI didn’t come for it’s horticultural delights. I came for the views. And what views they are. It’s not just that you’re at the perfect height. Location, location location! The Walkie Talkie has the location. On one side, you overlook Tower Bridge (old), the Tower of London (older) and the Roman Wall (oldest).
On the other side you have a view along the River Thames, with Parliament and the London Eye clearly visible. And right across the river to your front, the towering Shard. There are a few things to note about these views though. Trying to photograph them at night through rain spattered windows is not conducive to satisfying results. There is an outdoor terrace, but it closes at 6pm, which is a shame. Perhaps it will remain open later in the summer. And finally, whilst entry to the Sky Garden is free, you have to book your tickets. And they get booked up quite far in advance.
I have more photos of our jaunt up to the Sky Garden, naturally. Click here and you will be whisked over to see them on Flickr, as per usual.