Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Shard

At 309.6 meters high, The Shard dwarfs other London high-rises, and seems to curiously move around the London sky-line – never quite being where you expect it when viewed from afar.

The Shard

When it’s officially open to the public on Feb 1st, access to the viewing platforms on the 69th and 72nd floors will cost £25 per person, but for a short soft-opening / shakedown / preview time, free tickets were available to residents of Southwark. I got to visit today with one of said residents.

The entrance for the viewing platform is located on Joiner Street, away from the main entrances to the shops and offices sections of the building. The displays and ticket scanners in the reception area were misbehaving when we arrived, but look promising for the public opening. There is airport-style metal detectors and x-rays to negotiate before you get access to the lifts to the top.

The journey to the top is by two lifts, each rising 30+ floors in a little over 20 seconds, a peak speed of 6 m/s. There is no sudden lurch of acceleration either going up or down, these are very well engineered machines. From the second lift there is a small flight of stairs to climb to the enclosed viewing platform (the disabled lift was out of action), and a further set of stairs takes you to the open air platform.
The view from The Shard - The open viewing platform

Everything is below you. Even the tall buildings are below you. Helicopters are below you. Airplanes and several more floors of the building are the only things above you. Tower-42 and the Gherkin on the north side of the Thames are the only building that even look high from The Shard, but you can quite clearly see the tops of their roofs.

The view from The Shard - everything is below us.

The glass windows will take a lot of cleaning, everywhere you look people are reaching out to touch the glass before stepping closer to the edge – to reassure themselves there is something between them and oblivion. Even with filters and some careful positioning it’s hard to avoid window reflections on photographs.

The view from The Shard

The gift shops are well stocked with fridge magnets, tea-towels and stuffed foxes. Prices are not low, £3 for a small magnet, £8 for a box of Tea and £15+ for a fox, considering you’ve already spent £25 to get here.

Foxes

The views really are amazing, but not £25 of amazing. If the price included a drink, or snack or something else then I’d feel the price was justified, I think perhaps £10 would be a more visitor-friendly admission charge.

Worth a visit – see if you can get a cheap deal. Here’s the rest of my Shard photos.

Valance House Museum

Yesterday I visited Valance House Museum for the fist time since it reopened in June 2010 following an extensive 2 year refurbishment. I’d been a frequent visitor before the closure, especially when I was trying to track down the whereabouts of the whale bones that give Whalebone Lane its name.
image

The museum is greatly improved since I was last there, the displays are more cohesive and themed, it is no longer a rather disparate collection of rooms. It’s a shame the Fanshawe family portraits are no longer displayed on the main staircase, and the Chemists’ Shop is now just a small collection of bottles and pill packets.

The gains definite out weigh the losses, The Dagenham Idol has returned to its proper home, the fishing history of Barking is explored and the early history of the Dagenham is investigated in separate galleries.

The whale bones now have a permanent home, in a glass case on the ground floor, bringing to an end my sporadic search for them. They look rather worse of wear, and could be pretty easily mistaken for some well worm-eaten wood.

A new annex building houses the gift-shop and cafe (two Teas and a slice of Cake for £2.60 – not bad at all) and the local history archives.

I spent an interesting couple of hours, it was well worth a visit. I’ll be going back soon.

Diamond Geezer visited last year. He enjoyed it too.