The Millennium Dome – once the Great White Elephant of London and now renamed the O2 Arena; revamped to host overpriced stadium events and a branch of every high street food and drink chain imaginable – has clearly been wondering how to get people down to North Greenwich if they’re not going to an event. This isn’t an easy task because North Greenwich is essentially a building site which is a long way away. However, somebody’s had a plan, and that plan involves being tethered to a steel cable and walking up the side of it.
It’s a brilliant idea. And a really fun afternoon out. You book a time slot – they run a group up every 15 minutes from about 10am to 8.15pm this time of year – get put in your group, sign a form saying that if you fall off it’s your own fault, have a safety talk where a very overexcitable man chews the scenery for 10 minutes about how awesome it is, and then you get your gear on and head up a staircase to the start of the climb.
The walkway itself is suspended above the roof of the dome and is made of a tent-like material that gives a bit under your feet so it feels like you’re walking on the surface, which is a nice touch. A steel cable runs along the centre of the walkway and this is what you are tethered to with a huge gear thing which you have to drag with you, but which also locks and stops you from skidding off the edge. We were in a large party so it was a slow shuffle up the steepest section at the beginning, with lots of photos being taken that can be yours for £15 at the other end if you so wish, but a steady pace was picked up as we moved up to the platform in the centre.
Once you get to the circular viewing platform they untether you and you can take as many selfies as you wish. The guide told us of a bunch of women busy taking photos of themselves rather than the views and when asked why, the reply was that they could go on Google Earth and look at that any time 🙂 Don’t go up there and take selfies – it isn’t the most stunning view you’ll ever see admittedly, but on a clear day the O2 says you can see for 15 miles across Greenwich, Canary Warf and the Olympic Park. The website says the guide will tell you about stuff around you but ours didn’t, so I imagine it depends on the guide, and they’ll answer questions if you have any.
Finally you gingerly shuffle your way down the other side, which is a steeper section and requires more concentration, especially if it’s a bit wet.
Overall it was a great experience and not as arduous as I thought it might have been. A top tip is to get somebody with an O2 phone and book through the Priority Moments app as this gives you 15% off the full price of £26. There’s also an Up At The O2 app (free) though I haven’t used it, which gives you a labelled view of the skyline and info on the climb. It took about an hour and a half altogether, and there are also opportunities for a walk up at sunset. Getting there, it’s on the Jubilee line so easy enough to get to, or there’s a Thames Clipper pier on the river for a more scenic arrival.
There is a weight limit and a thigh-circumference limit as you have to wear a harness, but within these I’d recommend it to anybody who fancied doing something a bit different.The only issue we came across was that a woman had turned up for our slot with eight 14-year-olds who were having a birthday celebration and she’d called the helpdesk that morning to check she was okay being the only adult with them. Whoever it was had said yes that’s fine, but when she turned up at the arena, the guy behind the desk said there was an absolute rule that one adult could only look after two children under 16 because they are liable for their safety. He was very unhelpful to somebody who had clearly spent a lot of money, and who was faced with a failed birthday party and I felt that the situation could have been handled better as the assumption was that she was lying, rather than she’d been given the wrong information. We stepped in and took charge of two kids each so everybody did get to go up in the end, but clearly there’s a problem somewhere with regards to the information being handed out, but also with the way problems are dealt with on site. There’s also no point in taking your fancy camera along – you can take a phone or a small compact with you up there and that’s it.