Thames Barrier

The Thames Barrier exists to prevent London from serious flooding. It was completed around 1982.
The tide has a height of about 7m. The river Thames is tidal as far as Teddington Lock. That's an awful lot of water, flowing very quickly, in and out, twice a day.
Why flooding ? You have to think on the larger geographical scale. The English Channel between Dover and Calais is a bottleneck for flowing (tidal) water.
During exceptional tides (Spring, Autumn), this bottleneck means that water levels in the Thames and the North Sea rise higher than normal, and higher than acceptable.
This means that London, in 100 years time, with a bit of global warming will be like Venice.
We are trying to put off this day ...

This construction is an engineering marvel in it's own right, see here for details; but if you don't care about engineering and would like a nice day out, then carry on and come for an afternoon.
So what they've done for people who don't care about the marvels of underwater engineering is create a nice family day out. There's a reasonable cafe, with public toilets; this water fountain entertains the kids. And there's a nice park with grass to sit on and have a picnic while others go and look at some moveable metal in the far distance.
There's a landscaped garden to walk around as well.
The Thames Barrier is a nice afternoon out, but you won't see much of the Barrier itself. The river Thames is quite wide at this point (500+ metres), and you have to stand a way back; which means that a zoom is necessary on a camera to get a decent picture, and the human eye simply can't see that far to get detail.

The easiest way to get here is take the DLR to Pontoon Dock.

There's a cafe with facilities, and a park to sit in for a picnic and play ball games and frisbees with the kids. It's a nice afternoon out.

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