Monday, 26 September 2016

Up at the O2

ONE of the best ways to really see London is to do so from a height. It is here that you get to see the extraordinary size of this great city not to mention the landmarks, parks and other buildings that make up the skyline. 
To do so there are of course South London attractions such as the London Eye and the Shard, both of which afford fabulous views.
However, if you have seen and done both of those and want to try something a bit different and have a bit of adventure thrown into the mix, and see London from a different perspective, why not climb your way to the top of the 02 in Greenwich?
After scaling the roof of what was once called The Dome, you are afforded a 360 degree view stretching for miles and even on a cloudy day there is nothing quite like it.
The Up At The 02 experience is an exhilarating and at times quite bouncy walkway which is 380 metres long and suspended 52 metres above ground level. It is also two metres above the surface of the 02 tent canvas and has a maximum gradient of 28 degrees on the up climb and 30 degrees on the descent.
I’ve heard a lot about the walk from friends who have done it and raved about it so, as I live not too far away, I thought I should try it out. And so last week I persuaded my husband Martin to join me on the expedition.
We arrived at 10am for our briefing with about a dozen others. The briefing is the most important part of the two hours because the guide takes visitors through the all important safety procedures.
We were all given a gilet - complete with a pocket for our smartphones or cameras - as well as a pair of sturdy boots with extra grip and a harness. We were not allowed to take anything else with us except our phones and were told these were to be put safely in the pocket until we got to the top. 
We were also advised to keep a reasonable distance from the person in front and behind as we were going up - to avoid the domino effect if we fell over or tripped. Fortunately on our visit we all managed to stay upright!
Once the briefing was done we were checked over to make sure we were properly suited and booted, the harness secure and our phones safely stored and then we were led to the base of the climb.
With a gradient of 28 degrees the first bit of the climb is actually quite steep and looking up from the bottom it did look a bit daunting.
After the obligatory official picture our harnesses were attached to a wire that runs from the platform at the bottom to the viewing platform at the top and then back down the other side via a trolley type clip. Our guide Martin, showed us how to make the pulley run along the wire and how to stop it.
Once we were all attached safely and securely we were able to begin our ascent. The flooring was surprisingly bouncy - though we were under strict instructions not to unleash our inner child and use it as a trampoline! But it was quite an odd sensation to begin with and was almost like being at sea, bobbing up and down on the waves.
The initial part of the climb was steep - and quite breezy - and we had to keep waiting at certain points along the way up for others to catch up. It was easier than it looked though and while we were waiting it gave us a chance to look down and see the 02 complex below us.
It wasn’t long before we were all at the top, unhooked from the wire and were able to go and take in the view - and to take some selfies.
And what a vista it was. The city spread was out below us with the sunlight glinting on the windows of the buildings in all directions and with the river Thames snaking its way round the peninsula.
Our guide, Martin, said every time he comes up to the top the view changes and we could see why. There is so much construction and development going on around the 02 complex with housing, hotels and offices being built. Sadly it won’t be long before many of these are so tall they obscure some of the views of other notable landmarks across the river and further down and up stream.
However, on that day, despite the cloud, we could see for miles - including the tower blocks that make up Canary Wharf, the historic landmarks in Greenwich and even as far as City Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and the striking red Obelisk at the Olympic Park. On a good day you can see 15 miles in all directions.
To get our bearings all the way round the circular viewing platform are maps and boards featuring notable buildings with key information about them.
Not only was it fascinating to see the city from a different perspective it was pretty awesome being on top of what was really a tent!
We had about 15 minutes to take in the impressive views, take some pictures and find out more about the area around us before we had to get hooked up again to begin our descent to terra firma.
It felt even steeper going down but with small steps and holding on tight to the wire and the rail we all made it safely down to the bottom.
It was a great experience, enjoyable and fun, and perfect for all the family to get involved in and have a go at - although you have to be at least 10 years old to take part and reasonably fit.
However, a word to the wise, I would recommend going sooner rather than later given the incredible amount of construction and development taking place to make sure you see this great city in all its glory.

Up At The 02 takes place at the 02 throughout the year. Adults cost £14.70 and children cost £7.35. 
Visit or call the box office on 0208 463 2680 or email for full listings, times and prices.

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