Monday, April 06, 2009

Canal Walk: The Regents Canal: Camden to Little Venice

This weekend I was down in London to see some friends and while there finish off the Regents Canal. I got up early Sunday morning and had a full English breakfast to fuel my trek. From Euston Station it is fairly simple to get to the canal at Camden Lock. I walked up Eversholt Street, along side the station, which turns into Camden High Street. The weather was perfect, it wasn't yet nine am but it was warm enough to just wear a t-shirt.
I had a quick look around the old canal wharf buildings while the market workers were setting up their stalls. The canal market looks almost ready to reopen following its destruction by fire. After negotiating a passage through a throng of German school children by the lock I crossed the simple but pretty metal bridge which takes the towpath from the lock side across the canal to the towpath on the far side beyond the arm which serves the wharf buildings and market. There is now a doorway from the market to the towpath to save you walking all the way around.
There is an archway taking the towpath over another arm, once known as the Dead Dog Hole. The stonework is scored by rope marks.
The canal passes under road and rail, the railway to Euston Station crosses the canal after the Pirate Castle. It was quiet on the canal, no barges on the move and just a few dog walkers and cyclists. Soon after Camden the canal reaches Regents Park and London Zoo. On one side is the famous Aviary and on the other side were a pack of Painted African Hunting Dogs. They were running along the fence of their compound at the edge of the canal. It was odd to see something from a Safari on the side of an English canal. The dogs and birds are all you can see of the zoo from the towpath.
As the canal circles the Regents Park it passes some huge houses in the Greek and Roman classical style. Some of them do look like they would suit a Premiership footballer in Cheshire.
The canal passes under some more railway bridges. One had some poor unfortunate living underneath it.
At Maida Hill there are some moorings, almost all narrow boats, before the canal enters a tunnel. There is no towpath so walkers have to go over the top. It seems logical to go up the steps right next to the tunnel's portal but the gate at the top was locked so I came back down and walked back to the next bridge. There you can leave the towpath and go up to the top and follow the canal cutting looking down to where you have just been. A boat was just entering the tunnel as I passed by the locked gate that had stopped me minutes before. Its fairly easy to follow the route of the tunnel, its a straight tunnel and the road above is also straight. You pass Crockers Folly, a pub said to have been built in anticipation of a railway terminus being built opposite it. Unfortunatley the station was built further away and legend has it the landlord jumped to his death from the window of his large "gin palace".
There is a cafe overhanging the other entrance of the tunnel. You cannot rejoin the towpath straight away due to private moorings. A short distance along Bloomfield Road there is a gap in the railings and you can get back to the waters edge just in time to pass under bridge number 1 of the Regents Canal. Next to the bridge is the former toll office.
Through the bridge the canal opens up into the triangular basin known as Brownings Pool. Named after the poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) who lived nearby. From the Regents Canal, on the left is Paddington Basin and Paddington Station; ahead is the Grand Union Canal and the rest of the countries canal network. There are public toilets in gardens by Brownings Pool.
You can follow the canal along to Paddington Basin, once a busy inland port. Leave the canal and you are at Paddington Station. A short walk away is Hyde Park.

Photos from the walk and the other walks on the Regents Canal can be found here:
http://www.towpathtreks.co.uk/Other/regents_canal.html

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