The Sky Garden spans the top three floors of the new 20, Fenchurch Street building, perhaps more commonly know as the Walkie-Talkie because of its shape. Standing 160 metres it is the fifth-tallest building in the City of London and I have to say I have always liked it.
The Sky Garden is open to the public and free of charge. You have to book a time slot via the website and ensure that you bring photo identification. Standing at the base of the building I have to say I felt excited and was looking forward greatly to experiencing the views.
The staff were friendly and relaxed. Showing my ticket (on my iPhone) and my driving licence I then placed a small backpack and other metal items into a tray which went through security. Passing through another body scanner and getting the all clear I proceeded to the lift to the 34th floor.
The lift is swift to say the least and it didn't take long to get to the top, my ears popping as a result. The first view was a huge expanse of window with the most amazing view. The Shard dominated and the views obtained were stunning.
I wasted little time in getting to the outside balcony which offered some truly excellent views of the south side of the Thames. Large sheets of glass made photography difficult because of reflections but if the camera was held square to whatever you wanted to take, glare was not too bad.
Luckily I brought a polarising filter with me and this helped for some shots but was a tad hit and miss.
The Sky Garden wasn't too busy and I was pleased that one was permitted to stay up there for over and hour.
I am not really a fan of the panorama function on my camera but found it was actually pretty good and I was very pleased with the results.
When the Shard first opened to the paying public (you have to pay for the view there) I was decidedly underwhelmed. I am not really a fan of it and have likened it to one of those ghastly overpriced crystals cut into the shapes of little animals. I also hated the theme park atmosphere - photos, music. The Sky Garden and 20 Fenchurch Street are for me at least better in every regard.
Climbing the stairs you could view the other side and Tower 42, 122 Leadenhall Street and 30 St Mary Axe.
The great thing about the Sky Garden is that you can amble around at your leisure. Everyone was doing the same and it was lovely to just stop and look at whatever caught your attention.
I was really lucky as far as timing was concerned as on my second circuit the outside viewing platform had to be closed due to high winds, although I couldn't really detect them.
The plants in the Sky Garden are well tended and every so often fine jets of water were sprayed on them from above to keep them happy.
After spending about 40 minutes I decided to head back down. I really enjoyed the visit and think I might go again but perhaps when the sun is going down. No sooner had I stepped outside and tried to take the picture below, I was blown about by very strong gusts of wind - hence why the outside platform was closed.
Walking back I decided to take a few more photographs of 20 Fenchurch Street as I went.
I have to say that the Sky Garden is a really good place to visit. The views are wondrous and I enjoyed it a great deal more than the Shard experience. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a place to visit. I just hope that access to the Sky Garden always remains free for the general public to access as it is a pretty special location.