Did you know that Pudding Lane turns into a 'secret' aerial walkway? And it leads to a magnificent Thames view.
Generations of Londoners have stood before the Monument and thought "I'll climb these stairs for a view". But perhaps not this set of stairs...
The unremarkable flight rises just to the south-east of the giant column. Would you walk up them? They look like they might lead to corporate offices, or Somewhere You Should Not Be.
They're hidden behind a hedge, for pity's sake. Hence, they're generally ignored.
In fact, the steps are open to anyone, and they herald the most direct and rewarding route to the Thames. Ascend! You won't regret it.
Curiously, the highwalk seems to be classified as part of Pudding Lane, even though it's a couple of storeys up from road level. A street sign up here confirms the name, famous as the site where the Great Fire of London began in 1666.
The walkway leads to an information board and plaque, which explain the site's Roman history — revealed during excavations for the offices. We learn that, 2000 years ago, the river would have lapped right up to Pudding Lane, over 100 metres further north than the Thames we know today. The Romans built a substantial quay here, which was used to offload imports of wine and olive oil.
If you've got your eyes open, you'll note that the site's history goes back long before the Romans. The Portland stone walls here are speckled with fossils, the echoes of marine snails and bivalves that died 150 million years ago. Aptly, they lead us on to the river.
After spanning Lower Thames Street, the raised walkway leads out onto a wide rooftop space. Here, you can expect excellent views of St Magnus the Martyr church (above). This church is a fascinating place to visit in its own right. Old London Bridge passed right underneath its porch. Stones from the old bridge, along with putative Roman timbers can be seen in the churchyard, while a model of Old London Bridge lurks within.
Once you've finished ogling St Magnus, carry on along the walkway and you'll soon spill out onto a substantial roof terrace overlooking the Thames. The views here are excellent, with Tower Bridge to the left, the Shard straight ahead, and London Bridge to the right. We came to this balcony on 5 July 2012 to watch the laser-flourishing inauguration of Britain's tallest building.
Unless an event of similar magnitude is unfolding, you're unlikely to find many other people up on the balcony. It's one of those places that hides in plain sight, right above the busy Thames Path, yet almost never noticed. This despite a rather prominent sign down below:
So, there we have it. We've followed most direct route to the Thames from the Monument, taking in Jurassic seas, Roman boats, a Wren church and a little-known viewpoint. Definitely a short cut worth knowing.