27 July 2012
At last we have reached the final day of the Torch Relay and the last post of our Torch Relay blog. We hope you have enjoyed following the blog and have managed to visit some of the special places and spaces we have highlighted along the way.
On Day 70, Friday 27 July, the Torch starts at Hampton Court Palace before making its way along London’s river, the Thames, to Tower Bridge where it will arrive in the early afternoon. It then disappears from public view for a few hours and its next, and final, appearance will be at the Olympic Stadium itself for the Opening Ceremony where it will be used to light the Cauldron which will then burn throughout the Olympics until the closing ceremony on 12 August.
Hampton Court Palace is a highly appropriate starting point for this final day, representing as it does so much of British history on one site. It is both Tudor and Baroque in origins, and has associations with Henry VIII, Cardinal Wolsey, William and Mary, Queen Anne and many others. It is also famous for its fiendish maze, which has puzzled and delighted visitors to the Palace and its extensive grounds since it was established around 1700 and is the country’s oldest hedge maze – why not give it a try after you have waved off the Torch?
The Torch then sets sail for Tower Bridge, following much the same route as the Queen’s recent Jubilee Flotilla, but hopefully in better weather. A great way to enjoy the River and all of its attractions is the Thames Path, which takes you through semi-rural areas such as the flood plain around Richmond and on to the more urban environments from Battersea through Westminster to the City of London. Battersea is home to Battersea Park, one the lesser-known of London’s many wonderful urban parks but full of interesting attractions and facilities such as a children’s zoo, adventure playground, extensive sports facilities, ornamental gardens and wonderful views of the river itself. Another key feature of any river journey is London’s spectacular bridges, from the ornate Victorian splendour of Albert Bridge in the West and Tower Bridge in the East to the contemporary central London Jubilee and Millennium Bridges, both pedestrian only and hence ideal vantage points for watching the river traffic below, as well as enjoying great views of the riverside buildings.
London’s riverside has been shaped by many diverse influences. Government and politics are represented by the Houses of Parliament and St Stephen’s Tower, the clock-tower usually known as Big Ben which is in fact the name of the largest bell within it. And on the subject of bells, don’t forget to ring a bell of your choice as part of the Cultural Olympiad project at 8.12am on 27 July. Commerce and industry has also brought buildings to the river – whether from oil companies, shipping merchants or power stations – famously Battersea Power Station and the former Bankside one which now houses the Tate Modern art gallery. And of course culture has had a particular impact on London’s South Bank, with Tate Modern, the National Film and National Theatres, the Royal Festival and Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery. And finally an ideal vantage point to enjoy all of these buildings and the river itself is of course the London Eye, perhaps the most successful of all the Millennium projects, which is visited by more than 3.5million people every year.
Whatever you do on 27 July we hope you have a memorable final day of the Relay, and that you then settle back to enjoy the Opening Ceremony and the Olympics themselves.
Post by Lloyd Grossman, Chair of the Heritage Alliance
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