After the Covent Garden busking challenge, day 3 of the treasure hunt leads Fern and Josh all over the place. They find themselves in the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, which runs under the River Thames between Cutty Sark Gardens and Island Gardens, on the Isle of Dogs. It is 1,217 feet in length and approx 50 feet deep. Its original purpose was to allow south London residents to get to work in the docks on the Isle of Dogs without having to rely on the ferries and was opened in 1902.
Twin glazed domes sit on either side of the river. Inside is a circular lift, which used to have wooden benches all the way round. I’m not sure if they’re still there, as the lifts were updated in the 90s and I’ve never been there while the lifts have been open in recent years. No lifts means you have to use the stairs. If my daughters and I counted right on our last visit, there are more on one side than there are on the other, but there are more than 300 steps on both sides. The tunnel itself reminds me of some of the tunnels that join various sections of the London Underground, with its uniform white glazed tiles.
Once on the south side of the Thames, Fern and Josh visit the Cutty Sark, a fabulous old tea clipper that has been a popular tourist attraction there for many years. You can walk on the deck and go below to see how the sailors lived. This was a favourite place for my grandmother to take my sister and I when we were small and my favourite, favourite bit was the display of old figureheads that almost completely filled one of the lower decks. There are the traditional type carvings, beautiful women or spirits to guide the ship safely home, but there are also more unusual ones – Florence Nightingale, Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and a fox hunter, complete in riding pinks.
While I was writing Saying Yes To The Millionaire, I was horrified to catch an article on the news which showed the beautiful old ship on fire! I was so saddened to think of all those wonderful artefacts – especially the figureheads – going up in flames. I later learned that, because the ship was undergoing renovation, most of the items of historical value had been removed and were elsewhere, but part of the hull and ship’s support system had been damaged. I decided to keep my scenes on the Cutty Sark in the book, because I think it’s a fantastic location, even though, in reality, Fern and Josh would probably not be able to visit the ship in it’s full glory until at least 2010. Although the police originally suspected arson, the cause of the fire has never been confirmed.