“It’s created a really special opportunity for those who come” – Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Tower of London
Mrs E and I were watching BBC Breakfast on Friday (17th July), and saw an interview with the Governor of the Tower of London, Andrew Jackson, in which he discussed the financial impact of Covid 19 on the Tower. Along with all other similar businesses, the losses due to having to close the Tower have been devastating, and even though the Tower has now reopened, things are a long way from being ‘back to normal’. The Governor explained that on a regular summers day around 15,000 visitors would be expected, but currently the daily visitor figures are in the hundreds.
Whilst these numbers clearly underline the challenges that remain, for those that do chose to visit right now, the situation presents what Mr Jackson referred to as ‘a really special opportunity’ – the opportunity to explore the tower without the usual crowds, and it was an opportunity that we were excited to take up. I jumped straight on to their website, and booked tickets for the very next day (pre-booking is essential).
As neither of us have ventured very far from home or made any use of public transport since lockdown began on 23rd March, we were both a little apprehensive as we boarded the train to London for our day out; but as as soon as we took our seats, it was clear that this was going to be very different to previous visits to London, with just a handful of fellow passengers on the train.
As our Tower of London tickets were booked for the afternoon, we decided to head to Camden Lock and Market once we had arrived at London Bridge. As with the train journey, I just couldn’t get over how few people were around as we descended on the escalator down to the Northern Line. Usually I would be expecting to board a crowded train in the vain hope that there might be a spare seat or two, but on this occasion the entire carriage was almost empty.
Returning to ground level and walking down Camden High Street, it was great to see the unique shop fronts that feature here – very different to Oxford Street! Plenty to see as you approach Camden Lock.
Once at the lock, there is the opportunity to discover the market area, with a wide range of stalls and eateries to experience. As it was a bit too early for lunch, we stopped at the wonderful ‘Camden Tea Company’ shop and had excellent tea and snacks as we took in the sights of the market.
After tea, the sun decided to make a welcome appearance (and stayed for the rest of the day!) so we wandered down to the lock itself, then took a walk along the towpath of the Regents Canal towards Regents Park until we reached the wonderful view of the Feng Shang Princess Floating Restaurant.
Along the towpath we passed a busker, and as he finished his song he saw us and commented “ah the tourists are back” – I had my camera around my neck, so clearly we looked like the part – the irony was that he had a Spanish accent, tourists indeed! 🙂
From the towpath, we made our way to Regents Park, passing the zoo, and headed through the park bound for Regents Park underground station. Of course not all good plans work out, and in our case, Regents Park station was closed, so we had to walk on to nearby Great Portland Street from where the Circle Line would take us to Tower Bridge, perfect!
Off to the Tower
I had only been inside the Tower of London once before, back when I was about 10, so it’s been quite a while! We arrived at our appointed time, and were directed into the grounds of the tower by the friendly staff, through the obligatory bag search and sanitisation point – immediately it was apparent that numbers were small, it almost felt like a private viewing.
We spent the next 2 hours following the one way pathway that had been set up to accommodate social distancing requirements, but we had plenty of time to stop at points of interest, to enjoy the history of this amazing place, and to take photos without the crowds that would usually encroach into the shots. So many iconic images are contained here such as the Bloody Tower and the White Tower, the Armoury, the famous ravens, Traitors Gate, the Yeoman Warders (Beefeaters), and of course the magnificent Crown Jewels.
The oldest part is the White Tower, which dates back more than 920 years, and aside from the Crown Jewels, this was probably the most impressive part of the tour. This was the one area that we had to queue for just a few minutes, due to social distancing restrictions, but there are so many wonderful artefacts and history on display, it’s so worth it. Among the displays was Henry VIII’s armour, this was a sight to behold, as he clearly thought a great deal of his manhood!
One of the last stops on the route is to see the cages, and catch a glimpse of the Tower’s famous Ravens. According to a decree of King Charles II, should less than 6 of these magnificent birds be kept, then the White Tower will crumble, and England will be plunged into chaos – no pressure then!
These are some of my favourite shots from within the grounds and buildings of the Tower.
As we left the Tower, and slowly made our way back home, we reflected on a magical day of site-seeing; this is such a unique moment in time to visit the Tower, and of course other similar sites; having enjoyed this so much we are now thinking of further visits to Kensington Palace and Hampton Court in the coming weeks.
Post Script – Update on The Yeoman Warders
Today I heard that sad news that some of the Tower’s Yeoman Warders are facing redundancy for the first time in 500 years due to the devastating fall in revenues – I truly hope that it is not too long before the crowds return, and their positions can be restored.