Saturday, November 17, 2007

Canal Walk: The Regents Canal

This week I have been down to London to visit my friend Katie and do some towpath trekking on The Regents Canal. After visiting the newly refurbished and very impressive St Pancras Station and platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross Station we walked to the canal near the London Canal Museum. The museum doesn’t open till 10am so being early we headed to the towpath. The Museum is off Wharfdale Road, we walked to the end and on to Caledonian Road which crosses the canal. You can gain access to the towpath from the bridge. We left the road and walked up to the Islington Tunnel and peered inside. The tunnel is 960 yards or 878metres long, the built by James Morgan. The opening to the tunnel is brick while inside the lining is of large blocks of stone. There is no towpath through the tunnel. We turned around to walk the short distance to Camden.
The area around Kings Cross is being redeveloped. The re-opened St Pancras Station has driven this regeneration. Many old buildings are being converted and many new buildings are being built. At one of the construction sites by the canal there were two barges being used to carry waste. They were unpowered and probably rely on the museums Bantum to be moved.
We carried on past the museum (now on the other side) and under York Way. To the left is the back of Kings Cross station and a gas holder. The canal is wide here and the towpath bends around. It is quite a sun trap and a homeless man had taken advantage of this and was sleeping on a bench. A little further on is a stop lock. The wooden gates are now rotten but the metal hinges are still there. This lock could have been to control boats for tolls or control water flow.
Next are St Pancras Locks. There were two locks here but one of them has been weir-ed leaving the other one in use. The lock gates are a bit different to those on other canals. The balance beams aren’t horizontal they are angled down to where they meet. There is a little lock cottage next to the lock. After the lock there is a basin which used to be a coal basin and is now a marina, St Pancras station was built on part of this basin. The EuroStar trains cross the canal here between Paris and London.
The towpath is concrete here with power cables running underneath. It is very popular with cyclists, and I guess these are the ones who give the others a bad name. They are fast and quiet despite the “Two Tings” campaign.
Royal College Street bridge and Camden Road bridge are both brick bridges that have been widened. There was a handsome heron at the next locks, again one lock was weir-ed and is obviously a good place for fishing. In the pound between these locks and the next is the former TV AM studios, which were originally part of a brewery.
Under the main high street in Camden and up to Hampstead Road Locks. Camden Market uses the old canal basin buildings. The trip boats moor here. Both the Hampstead Road locks are working. The balance beams pass over each other to save room. The market wasn’t open but some of the shops were and I got a free sample of chocolate cake while walking around the upper level of shops. It would have been nice if Liverpool had kept some of its canal buildings and had shops such as these at its terminus.

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