‘London Shoes’ doesn’t normally visit the more popular tourist attractions and landmarks of the big ‘Smoke’ – however, it made an exception this week, and ventured out to visit 2 locations, both under the same theme of ‘up on the roof’.
One of these locations has been around for the past 4 years, and is already a top attraction – the other has only been on-the-scene for a couple of months, but will no doubt soon become more popular, especially throughout the coming summer months.
So – this week’s ‘Shoes’ blog is all about my visit to the popular “Sky Garden” – and then, a couple of 100 yards further – to visit the newly opened Fen Court’s-“Garden at 120” – both of which are situated in the historic Fenchurch Street area of the City.
The “Sky Garden” itself sits on top of the instantly recognisable building at no.20 Fenchurch Street – a building more commonly known as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ because its design has the appearance of a communications handset.
The ‘Sky Garden’ building was opened in Jan 2013, at a cost of £200M, and with its 38 storeys, it is the 6th tallest building in London.
Its top 3 floors are dedicated to the ‘Sky Garden’ – and an interesting fact about this building is that it is the only location owned by the ‘Canary Wharf Group’, outside of the Isle of Dogs.
When it was completed it was advertised as the ‘building with more on top’ because its upper floors were bigger and wider that those below it – giving it its ‘walkie-talkie’ appearance.
However – shortly after the building had opened, a well publicised incident occurred which caused the building to acquire the new nickname the “Walkie Scorchie-Fryscaper”!!!
Basically, what happened was that for 2 hours of every day at the height of summer, the sun’s rays were reflecting off a number of the buildings concave windows and travelling down to the streets below. The light being reflected was 6 times stronger than direct sunlight and the heat radiated was so intense that it caused serious scorch damage to cars parked in the streets surrounding the building, plus it also completely frazzled a large doormat of one of the nearby shops.
To prevent further damage, the short term solution was to erect temporary screening at street level to deflect the sun’s rays away from the vehicles parked in the street.
To solve the problem long-term, specialists were flown in from California, who had experience of dealing with similar issues caused by buildings in the Las Vegas desert – these specialists installed special non-reflective film to all the buildings windows that were impacted by the sun at a certain time of day – and to date, that has done the trick.
The ‘Sky Garden’ itself, on the top 3 floors of the ‘Walkie-Talkie’, was formally opened to the public in 2015, and its magnificent 360’ uninterrupted panoramic views of the City of London (and way beyond) has made it one of London’s most popular tourist attractions.
Technically, the ‘Sky Garden’ is not really a ‘public’ garden as it’s not open to the public all the time, and its closes down quite a lot for ‘private’ functions – however its views are uniquely spectacular, as you can clearly see such City landmarks as St. Paul’s Cathedral – The Shard – the Tower of London – the Thames – some London Bridges – Westminster Cathedral – Houses of Parliament. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Alexandra Palace to the north west – the Crystal Palace aerial to the south – Wembley Stadium to the west – and Canary Wharf and beyond, to the east.
The other good thing about the ‘Sky Garden’ is that entry is absolutely ‘free’!!!
The only downside is that you have to book a reservation on-line in advance of a visit, and these reservations can only be booked at certain times of the month.
However, once you’ve been lucky enough to book a reservation for the date and time slot that you want, then once you have gained access to the Sky Garden, you can stay there for as long as you like – and, as well as the magnificent views from the top, there are also plenty of bars and restaurants up there to keep you watered and fed.
Well worth a visit for a couple of hours, to see the ‘Smoke’ from a position that you’ve probably never seen it before.
So – having spent an enjoyable time taking in all the spectacular views from up in the ‘Sky Garden’ – London Shoes wandered a few yards further down to 120 Fenchurch Street situated at ‘Fen Court’, to check out one of London’s newest roof-garden attractions, known formally as “The Garden at 120”.
“The Garden at 120” only opened in February this year – and sits on top of a new 15 storey office block.
The Garden is roughly the size of 8 tennis courts – and has an ornamental stream running through the middle of it.
With it being only 15 storeys high, the views from this Garden are obviously at a lot lower level that those from the Sky Garden – but in a way, that’s good thing, as you can get a more closer and detailed view the buildings and landmarks in front of you.
The ‘Garden’ area is tastefully laid out with palms, fruit trees and other plants – plus plenty of wisteria, which will look really colourful by the time summer is here.
With its neatly designed paved walkways and comfortable seating areas, the ‘Garden’ can comfortably accommodate up to 200 people – and one of the staff on duty up there, told me that work is already in progress to provide the Garden with a bar and restaurant.
Like the Sky Garden, ‘The Garden at 120’ is completely free to get in to, and you can stay up there for as long as you like. More importantly, you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of booking a reservation on-line and printing off tickets etc – you just rock-up and go in.
In my personal opinion, although at a lower-level view-wise, I found ‘The Garden at 120’ to be far more pleasant, comfortable and relaxing than the more popular and spectacular ‘Sky Garden’ – as I feel it has a much more chilled ‘vibe’ about it – but that’s probably because it had only been open a couple of weeks, and not heavily promoted, so probably not many people know of its existence yet.
One thing I did hear from a member of ‘The Garden at 120’ staff, was that the roof garden part of the building is only ‘on-trial’ at the moment, and therefore its long-term existence is not necessarily assured – so if you fancy a trip up there for a couple of hours, then it might be advisable to visit the excellent ‘The Garden at 120’ sooner rather than later. You certainly won’t be disappointed.
So – having spent a good few hours doing a ‘Drifters’ (they had the 1963 hit record ‘Up on the Roof’) – it was time to sink a couple of ‘cheeky’ beers before heading back home.
Now – from high up on roof of the ‘Sky Garden’ & also a bit lower down from the roof of ‘The Garden at 120’ – I could see this little pub in Fenchurch Street, and so I thought that now I was at ground-level, I would seek it out and pop in there to check it out.
The pub in question turned out to be the “East India Arms” – and I’m really pleased I sought it out as it’s a really interesting little boozer with tons of history behind it.
Historic records show that there has been a pub on its site as far back as 1645, when it was called ‘The Magpie Ale House’.
The present pub building was built way back in 1829 and was named the ‘East India Arms’ as it was bang next door to the HQ of the globally renowned ‘East India Company’ that dealt with the majority of Britain’s trade with the eastern world.
The pub has no formal connection with the East India Company, but it was no doubt frequented on a daily basis by the Company’s employees – and today a plaque is displayed on the its exterior walls, commemorating its close proximity to this famous Company.
This 4 storey pub building is typical of Georgian architectural design of the late 1700’s early 1800’s, and the bar of the ‘East India Arms’ is very small and narrow –no room for any tables & chairs – just stools, and shelving to place your flagon of ale on. Many of these old fixtures and fittings still exist inside the pub today, making it one of the oldest buildings in the historic Fenchurch Street district of London.
It’s the ideal pub to nip into for a quick snifter during a lunch break – and again at the end of the day for a quick ‘cheeky’ one before making the commute back home – which is exactly what I did.
Hope you found this piece interesting and that you enjoy the accompanying photos.
See blow some more photos taken from the “Sky Garden” & the “Garden at 120”