The first time I heard about the Thames Barriers was at school in Germany. My English textbook introduced us to the sights of London and the list included London’s flood defences amongst Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace and the Greenwich Meridian.
Several years ago my workplace organised a boat trip on the Thames which took us from Tower Bridge past Greenwich all the way to the barriers. I was very excited to finally see them and really liked the look of the large steel gates in the water. They looked majestic and very calm but I didn’t really understand how they actually work.
Recently my mum spent some time in London. During her previous visits she has seen all the usual sights which means we usually do something I haven’t done before. She suggested to go to the Thames Barrier visitor centre as she was interested to see one of the largest movable flood barriers in the world. I asked some people if they had been there beore and those who were said that it was interesting but that you didn’t get a great view of the actual structure from the shore. So I decided to take my mum on a Thames Clipper ferry all the way from the Embankment to Woolwich which passes through the barriers. It was a beautiful sunny evening perfect for taking some pictures.
Two days later we went to the visitor centre and learned a lot about London’s need for a flood defence system, the fascinating engineering process and how the ten giant steel gates work.
Although the actual visitor centre is tiny, it is packed with interesting facts. There is a video of the construction process and a very good model showing how the gates operate during a flood warning. I can highly recommend it although I would suggest not to rely on the cafe. The food on offer appeared to be from the days of the school canteen before Jamie Oliver got involved!