Garden Bridge: Pooh sticks, balloons and making speeches banned on London's soon-to-be-built bridge

The £175m bridge, which is set to be opened in 2018, has a list of 28 prohibited activities

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You may admire the views of London and the River Thames. You may enjoy the “floating paradise garden”, as originally conceived by Ab Fab actress Joanna Lumley.

You may smell the roses, wander past the wisteria and picnic beside the primroses on London’s soon-to-be-built Garden Bridge. 

But you may not play Pooh Sticks there. Or release balloons. Or make a speech while playing Pooh Sticks and releasing balloons.

An artist’s impression showing  the proposed London Garden Bridge

Because all three activities – and 27 others – are banned under a “Prohibited Acts” list that has been issued by the Garden Bridge Trust, the charity working to raise funds for the bridge and have it opened by the summer of 2018.

The idea for the £175m bridge may have come from Ms Lumley’s desire to create a verdant idyll in the heart of London. But the hitherto innocent childhood pleasure of Pooh Sticks, dropping twigs from one side of a bridge and seeing whose floats out the other side first – as “invented” by Winnie-the-Pooh in the books by AA Milne – will be caught by item 14 on the prohibited acts list: “No person using the Garden Bridge shall drop from the bridge any item with the exception of devices intended for the purpose of saving lives.”

And although the Garden Bridge will also be the first in London to have its own trees and, therefore, a possible source of twigs, anyone collecting them for the purposes of playing Pooh Sticks elsewhere will probably fall foul of item 19: “No person using the Garden Bridge shall interfere with any plant or enter onto any flower bed or into any shrubbery.”

Nor will this “floating paradise” be filled with the sound of music – item 10: no-one shall “play or cause to be played a musical instrument”. You will, however, be able to get away with using headphones. There is an exception for them, and hearing aids, in item 11, which prohibits “any amplified noise equipment.” 

The bridge, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, has already proved controversial, with some branding it a “vanity project” of the London mayor Boris Johnson. Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan has said he will scrap the project, which is set to receive £60m of public money, if he wins next year’s election. A spokesman for the Garden Bridge Trust said the prohibited act list had “been developed to create a safe environment for all users and those using the River Thames, Victoria Embankment and the Queens Walk.”

Adding that the prohibition against releasing balloons prevented “non-biodegradable substances landing elsewhere and causing environmental harm” he said: “It is not uncommon for there to be conditions of entry into any public place to protect people’s safety.”

Prohibited Acts

  • Drop from the bridge any item with the exception of devices intended for the purpose of saving lives
  • Make a speech
  • Release balloons or animals
  • Use any kite, model aircraft or drone
  • Play any game or engage in any form of sport or exercise, except running or jogging across the bridge
  • Use a pedal cycle, roller skate, skateboard or other foot-propelled device, although pedal cycles may be pushed across the bridge
  • Interfere with navigational aids of passing vessels
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