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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Tube

Greeted to bright sunshine this morning. More clouds moved in as the day progressed. The wind was a little nippy, though.

First stop this morning was Tower Bridge which is a combined bascule and suspension bridge built in 1886–1894. A bascule bridge (sometimes referred to as a drawbridge) is a moveable bridge with a counterweight that continuously balances a span, or "leaf", throughout its upward swing to provide clearance for boat traffic. It may be single or double leafed.

The name comes from the French term for balance scale, which employs the same principle. Bascule bridges are the most common type of movable span because they open quickly and require relatively little energy to operate, while providing the possibility for unlimited vertical clearance for marine traffic.

The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. Tower Bridge is one of five London bridges now owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the Trust's bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets.

The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. Before its restoration in the 2010s, the bridge's color scheme dated from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Its colors were subsequently restored to blue and white.

The bridge is 800 feet (240 meters) in length with two towers each 213 feet (65 meters) high, built on piers. The central span of 200 feet (61 meters) between the towers is split into two equal bascules or leaves, which can be raised to an angle of 86 degrees to allow river traffic to pass. The bascules, weighing over 1,000 tons each, are counterbalanced to minimise the force required and allow raising in five minutes.

The two side-spans are suspension bridges, each 270 feet (82 m) long, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge's upper walkways. The pedestrian walkways are 143 feet (44 m) above the river at high tide.

The main bridge deck carries two lanes of road traffic between two low-level pedestrian walkways across both suspension spans and the opening bascule section of the bridge, with the walkways separated from the roadway by fences. The roadway passes through each of the two towers, whereas the low-level walkways pass around the outside of the towers.

Tower Bridge is still a busy crossing of the Thames: it is crossed by over 40,000 people (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) every day. The bridge is on the London Inner Ring Road, and is on the eastern boundary of the London congestion charge zone. (Drivers do not incur a charge by crossing the bridge.)

To maintain the integrity of the structure, the City of London Corporation has imposed a 20-mile-per-hour (32 km/h) speed restriction, and an 18-ton weight limit on vehicles using the bridge. A camera system measures the speed of traffic crossing the bridge, using a number plate recognition system to send fixed penalty charges to speeding drivers.

The bascules are raised around 1000 times a year. River traffic is now much reduced, but it still takes priority over road traffic. Today, 24 hours' notice is required before opening the bridge, and opening times are published in advance on the bridge's website. There is no charge for vessels. They raised the bridge on March 22 and the board said the next time scheduled is June 2nd. Hopefully someone will reserve a time before that.

When needing to be raised for the passage of a vessel the bascules are only raised to an angle sufficient for the vessel to safely pass under the bridge, except in the case of a vessel with the Monarch on board in which case they are raised fully no matter the size of the vessel.

Here is a funny story about the bascules being raised. In May 1997, the motorcade of President Bill Clinton was divided by the opening of the bridge. The Thames sailing barge Gladys, on her way to a gathering at St Katherine Docks, arrived on schedule and the bridge was opened for her. Returning from a Thames-side lunch at Le Pont de la Tour restaurant with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Clinton was less punctual and arrived just as the bridge was rising. The bridge opening split the motorcade in two, much to the consternation of security staff. A spokesman for Tower Bridge is quoted as saying: "We tried to contact the American Embassy, but they wouldn't answer the phone."

Tower of London

The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the square mile of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952 although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard the Lionhearted, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.

The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times, and controlling it has been important to controlling the country. The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. From the early 14th century until the reign of Charles II, a procession would be led from the Tower to Westminster Abbey on the coronation of a monarch. In the absence of the monarch, the Constable of the Tower is in charge of the castle. This was a powerful and trusted position in the medieval period. In the late 15th century, the castle was the prison of the Princes in the Tower. Under the Tudors, the Tower became used less as a royal residence, and despite attempts to refortify and repair the castle, its defences lagged behind developments to deal with artillery.

The peak period of the castle's use as a prison was the 16th and 17th centuries, when many figures who had fallen into disgrace, such as Elizabeth I before she became queen, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth Throckmorton, were held within its walls. This use has led to the phrase "sent to the Tower". Despite its enduring reputation as a place of torture and death, popularised by 16th-century religious propagandists and 19th-century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower before the World Wars of the 20th century. Executions were more commonly held on the notorious Tower Hill to the north of the castle, with 112 occurring there over a 400-year period. In the latter half of the 19th century, institutions such as the Royal Mint moved out of the castle to other locations, leaving many buildings empty. Anthony Salvin and John Taylor took the opportunity to restore the Tower to what was felt to be its medieval appearance, clearing out many of the vacant post-medieval structures. In the First and Second World Wars, the Tower was again used as a prison and witnessed the executions of 12 men for espionage. After the Second World War, damage caused during the Blitz was repaired, and the castle reopened to the public. Today, the Tower of London is one of the country's most popular tourist attractions. Under the ceremonial charge of the Constable of the Tower, it is cared for by the charity Historic Royal Palaces.

The White Tower is one of the most famous castle keeps in the world. It was built, to awe, subdue and terrify Londoners and to deter foreign invaders. It’s an iconic symbol of London and Britain.

Along with the rest of the Tower complex, the White Tower is one of the most important historic buildings in the world. It is an example of Norman Architecture. Inside is a unique Romanesque Chapel, the beautiful 11th-century Chapel of St. John the Evangelist.

There is a legend of the ravens whom are associated with the Tower of London. Legend says that the kingdom and the Tower will fall if the six resident ravens ever leave the fortress. It was Charles II, according to the stories, who first insisted that the ravens of the Tower should be protected.

This was against the wishes of his astronomer, John Flamsteed, who complained that the ravens impeded the business of his observatory in the White Tower.

Despite their having one wing trimmed, some ravens do in fact go absent without leave and others have had to be sacked. Raven George was dismissed for eating television aerials, and Raven Grog was last seen outside an East End pub.

There are seven ravens at the Tower today (the required six plus one spare!). Their lodgings are to be found next to the Wakefield Tower.

These magnificent birds, large members of the genus Corvus, the crow family, respond only to the Raven Master and should not be approached too closely by anyone else.

The ravens preside over four different territories within the Tower precincts.

The ravens eat 170g of raw meat a day, plus bird biscuits soaked in blood. You are warned the ravens can bite if they feel their territory is threatened.

The London Tube

The London Underground (also known simply as the Underground or by its nickname The Tube) is a public rapid transit system serving Greater London and some parts of the adjacent counties of Buckinghamshire, Essex and Hertfordshire.

If you can read and follow a map, then you too can ride The Tube.

The system's first tunnels were built just below the surface, using the cut-and- cover method; later, smaller, roughly circular tunnels – which gave rise to its nickname, the Tube – were dug through at a deeper level. The system has 270 stations and 250 miles (400 km) of track. Despite its name, only 45% of the system is actually underground in tunnels, with much of the network in the outer sections of London being on the surface. In addition, the Underground does not cover most southern parts of Greater London, with less than 10% of the stations located south of the River Thames.

Here are some interesting facts.

There is only one Tube station which does not have any letters of the word 'mackerel' in it: St John's Wood. The average speed on the Underground is 20.5 miles per hour including station stops.The busiest Tube station is Waterloo, which was used by around 95 million passengers in 2015. In 2014 Oxford Circus took top spot, in 2009 it was Victoria, and in 2005 it was King's CrossOn the Metropolitan line, trains can reach over 60mph. The shortest distance between two adjacent stations on the underground network is only 260 meters. The tube journey between Leicester Square and Covent Garden on the Piccadilly Line takes only about 20 seconds, but costs £4.90 (cash fare). Yet it still remains one of the most popular journeys with tourists.

Many tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, but the Central Line was even converted into a fighter aircraft factory that stretched for over two miles, with its own railway system. Its existence remained an official secret until the 1980's. Angel has the Underground's longest escalator at 60 meters/197ft, with a vertical rise of 27.5meters The shortest escalator is Stratford, with a vertical rise of 4.1meters . Only 45 per cent of the Underground is actually in tunnels.

Wildlife observed on the Tube network includes woodpeckers, deer, sparrowhawk, bats, grass snakes, great crested newts, slow worms.

Slow worms are (burrowing) lizards, spending much of the time hiding underneath objects. The skin of slow worms is smooth with scales that do not overlap one another. Like many other lizards, slow worms autotomize , meaning that they have the ability to shed their tails to escape predators. While the tail regrows, it does not reach its original length. They are common in gardens and can be encouraged to enter and help remove pest insects by placing black plastic or a piece of tin on the ground. On warm days, one or more slow worms will often be found underneath these heat collectors. One of the biggest causes of mortality in slow worms in suburban areas is the domestic cat, against which it has no defense.

Over 47 million liters of water are pumped from the Tube each day, enough to fill a standard swimming pool (25 meters x 10 meters) every quarter of an hour. The London Underground trains were originally steam powered. The Underground name first appeared on stations in 1908. London Underground has been known as the Tube since 1890 due to the shape of the tunnels. The Tube's logo is known as “the roundel” (a red circle crossed by a horizontal blue bar). The station with the most escalators is Waterloo with 23. Tube trains travelled 76.4 million kilometers last year. The total length of the London Underground network is 250 miles. In 1926, suicide pits were installed beneath tracks due to a rise in the numbers of passengers throwing themselves in front of trains. A macabre statistic is that the most popular tube suicide time is around 11am. The eastern extension of the Jubilee line is the only Underground line to feature glass screens to deter "jumpers". In 1924, the first baby was born on the Underground, on a train at Elephant & Castle on the Bakerloo line.

The American talk show host Jerry Springer was born at East Finchley during the Second World War: his mother had taken shelter in the station from an air raid. My mother would have found that quite interesting. She would watch his show from time to time.

Builders working on the Bakerloo Line are reported to have suffered from the bends while tunneling under the Thames. The inaugural journey of the first Central line train in 1900 had the Prince of Wales and Mark Twain on board. The tunnels beneath the City curve significantly because they follow its medieval street plan. The Central line introduced the first flat fare when it opened at the turn of the 20th century. The tuppence fare lasted until the end of June 1907 when a threepenny fare was introduced for longer journeys.

Harry Beck produced the well known Tube map diagram while working as an engineering draughtsman at the London Underground Signals Office. He was reportedly paid 10 guineas (£10.50) for his efforts. Harry Beck’s map was considered too big a departure from the norm, but the public liked it and it became official in 1933.

Busking (I talked about that on Sunday) has been licensed on the Tube since 2003. Sting and Paul McCartney are both rumored to have busked on the Underground in disguise.

An estimated half million mice live in the Underground system. Thankfully, I have not seen one!!!!!! If I did, you would hear the scream all the way to the US. One of the levels in Tomb Raider 3 is set in the disused Aldwych tube station, featuring scenes of Lara Croft killing rats.

1961 marked the end of steam and electric hauling of passenger trains on the London Underground.

In the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the Hogwarts headmaster has a scar that resembles a map of the London Underground on his knee. I need to check that out!

There are only two tube station names that contain all five vowels: Mansion House, and South Ealing.

In January 2005, in an attempt to alleviate a problem with loitering young people, the London Underground announced it would play classical music at problem stations. That wouldn't work, they would just put in their ear buds.

The Underground has the oldest section of underground railway in the world, which opened in 1863. The first Tube tunnel was opened in 1880, running from the Tower of London to Bermondsey.

The Underground was first used for air raid shelters in September 1940. During the Second World War, part of the Piccadilly line (Holborn - Aldwych branch), was closed and British Museum treasures were stored in the empty spaces. During the war, special supply trains ran, providing seven tons of food and 2,400 gallons of tea and cocoa every night to people staying in the Tube. The Underground helped over 200,000 children escape to the countryside during the Second World War. During the war, some stations (now mostly disused) were converted into government offices: a station called Down Street was used for meetings of the Railway Executive Committee, as well as for the War Cabinet before the Cabinet War Rooms were built.There is a mosquito named after the Tube – the London Underground mosquito, which was found in the London Underground. It was notable for its assault of Londoners sleeping in the Underground during the Blitz. There were eight deep-level shelters built under the London Underground in the Second World War. One of them in Stockwell is decorated as a war memorial. After the war, the deep level shelter at Clapham South housed immigrants from the West Indies.

The Central Line used to be nicknamed as the 'Twopenny Tube' for its flat fare.

The Tube carried one billion passengers in a year for the first time in 2007. I certainly believe that!! There are times when it is standing room only.

Every week, Underground escalators travel the equivalent distance of going twice around the world. According to TFL, London Underground trains travel a total of 1,735 times around the world (or 90 trips to the moon and back) each year.

The average distance travelled by each Tube train annually stands at around 114,500 miles.

The Underground runs 24 hours a day at New Year's, during special events (such as for the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics), and on selected lines at the weekend. According to a 2002 study air quality on the Underground was 73 times worse than at street level, with 20 minutes on the Northern Line having "the same effect as smoking a cigarette".

Of the stations that have stairs, Hampstead Station has the most steps (320 in total). My feet can attest to that!!!

Filming on location in the Underground costs £500 per hour (plus VAT which stands for Value Added Tax. It is like our sales tax) unless you have a crew of less than five. The London Underground Film Office handles over 200 requests a month. In Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature film The Lodger (1926) featured the director making a cameo on the Tube.

On August 3 2012, during the Olympic Games, the London Underground had its most hectic day ever, carrying 4.4 million passengers – but that record was beaten on Friday December 4 2015, when 4.82 million people used it.

As Princess Elizabeth, the Queen travelled on the Underground for the first time in May 1939, when she was 13 years old, with her governess Marion Crawford and Princess Margaret.

This evening, we joined David Stevenson and his wife Kerry for drinks and dinner. About 12 years ago, Michael worked at the same company as David. They still keep in touch. Michael had promised David a drink for his last birthday.

We ate at The Port House, a traditional Spanish Tapas Bar. The food was delicious!!! David and Kerry frequent this restaurant quite often. The candlelit restaurant and bar are quite cozy with its stripped wood floors and bare brick walls. Great food and wonderful conversation to end a fantastic vacation.

Remember that I have to receive your email by 8 AM London time to be entered into the raffle.

Enjoy today's pictures of the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and the flowers in the Embankment Garden.

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