I’m not a person that is usually bothered by heights. I’ve been at the top of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, walked across Tower Bridge, gone up in an air balloon (ok it was tethered, but it went high up!) and I happily went up the Empire State Building.
So what was it about the Monument situated at the junction of Monument Street and Fish Street Hill that got me slightly weak kneed? Well, I think I know the answer. The pillar itself is really rather narrow and the only way to get to the viewing platform at the top is to climb a 311 step spiral staircase. Bear in mind that when the Monument was built (1671-1677) the average size of an adult was smaller than today, hence the coziness of the experience.
For those of you who don’t know, a brief potted history of the Monument is that it was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666 and the rebuilding of the city. It was decided that the Monument was to be built very close to the origin of the fire, a baker shop in Pudding Lane. Christopher Wren, Surveyor General to King Charles II together with his colleague Dr Robert Hooke were responsible for the design of the structure. In time, it became known as the Monument; at 61 metres high (202 feet) it is the exact distance between it and the site in Pudding Lane where the fire originally started.
Visiting the Monument was probably one of the most straightforward experiences that I have had in terms of it is cash payment only; one way up, admire the view and then one way down. No exhibitions or galleries; no café and no shop to browse through after which actually didn’t bother me at all. It was quite refreshing to just queue up (we timed it well, very short queue) and then enjoy the experience for what it was; pure history without a modern convenience insight (ok apart from the little lights in the staircase and the wire enclosure at the top to stop us toppling over the edge).
Of course due to the size of the Monument access is restricted, with the ins and outs regulated to stop crowding on the narrow staircase and at the observation part at the top. There is something about the constant turning of walking up a spiral staircase – it doesn’t agree with me particularly; at various times during our ascent I found myself feebly asking the Hubby if we were there yet. My mind didn’t seem to enjoy the experience of looking up at the hundreds of steps still to go, or the sheer drop down but I am pleased to say I battled on until we reached (quite breathlessly) the top.
I had no idea that the observation deck would be so small. In fact it was narrower in some parts than others which made passing complete strangers rather interesting. A point to note is that any large bags/items are kept at the bottom of the Monument to help with saving space.
The view at the top was spectacular. We might not have chosen the best day weather wise to climb (I would not do this in heat though!) but it did not deter from the panoramic three hundred and sixty degree view over bustling of London. I loved the fact that for me, it was another birds eye view from a different angle and there is always something you spot that you haven’t seen before. The visitors up on the viewing platform with us were full of appreciation for the view and its history, with many a selfie being taken with iconic landmarks standing proudly in the background.
Although it was a spur of the moment decision to visit the Monument, I can say that it was fantastic to do and an experience that needs to be done. Yes there were lots of steps to climb but encouragingly there were a whole variety of ages, abilities and nationalities showing a great deal of determination to reach the top.
And to top it all off? Well, it was receiving the certificate of completion when getting to the bottom of course.
Where have you visited spontaneously?
- I have had to borrow a couple of photos as mine were not very good on the day! Links to original page have been included in image caption.