Regent’s Canal Walk

It was the last Friday in July and  hadn’t done much during the day and so I decided to go for a walk. Many years ago I bought two books about walking in London, I grabbed one entitled ‘Walking London,’ looked through it and decided to go on the Regent’s Canal walk. This involved catching the tube to Warwick Avenue and walking along the canal to Islington. I looked up the station and realised I would have to catch the Bakerloo line from Harrow Weald.
I was wearing shorts, T-shirt, socks and plimsolls and headed off to the bus stop where I saw a friend of mine seated on the bench, I sat next to him and said, “Hi Brian.”
“I’ve just had a drink with Mick.” He replied.
We chatted for a while and eventually I caught the bus to Harrow Weald tube station where I began my journey.
Arriving at Warwick Avenue tube station I emerged once again into daylight and referred to my book, which mentioned a church. I looked about me and the church; I discovered is a modern one with a very pointed steeple. I followed the route which passed the Warwick Castle pub and being a sunny evening there were quite a few people both inside and outside quaffing beer.
Oddly enough I wandered along the pavement not the canal towpath; this was because further along the book informed me that the towpath is closed to the public. This part of the canal is known as Little Venice, which was built at the junction of Regent’s Canal and the Paddington branch of the Grand Union Canal.
I came across a quaint looking house which I presumed was at one time the canal gate keeper’s house oddly enough I recalled being there on a previous day with the RSM, it was one of his days out and something to do with a canal boat festival. Further along I walked up a slope where many years ago horses were unharnessed and walked up whilst the canal bargees would have to move the boat along by using their feet along the walls and roof of the canal tunnel. Arriving at the junction of Edgware Road there was a delightful restaurant, from the bus on the Edgware Road, it looks nothing, but approaching it from the canal it has the back open and looked like an ideal place to eat on a summers day. I looked at the menu and it didn’t appear to be too expensive, but I shall leave that for another day.
Crossing over the Edgware Road I entered Aberdeen Place at the end of which, prior to descending down steps onto the canal towpath I saw a magnificent looking pub called Crockers Folly, it used to be called the Crown Tavern and was rebuilt at around 1900, it was renamed Crockers Folly after an early landlord called Frank Crocker. It closed in 2004 but has now been restored to its Victorian splendour with the upper floors converted to residential use and reopened on 25th October 2014, still retaining the former name of the Crockers Folly though now it is largely a Lebanese restaurant and cocktail bar.
I was at last walking on the canal towpath where the canal had emerged from a tunnel I would add here that Regent’s Canal is approximately 180 years old. The canal water was covered in some green stuff, sorry no idea what it is, but some ducks were eating it.
At Lisson Grove I had to walk up to the road and go onto a path which was on the opposite side of the canal and high above it. Previously I’d only seen canal boats moored alongside the towpath but at this point they were moored next to each other with their bows being tied to the towpath and their sterns pointing towards the opposite side of the canal. Along this part it looked as if factories may have at one time been there but they have probably now been converted into living accommodation.
At another bridge I crossed back to the other side of the canal as there are houses backing onto the other bank. I was almost on familiar ground as I’ve previously walked from Park Road along the canal towpath past London Zoo and on to Camden Town.
Several of the bridges I walked under were railway bridges but as the canal forked left there is a Chinese restaurant moored in what can only be described as a cul-de-sac, because at one time the canal was going to go through Regent’s Park but that route was stopped.
One of the bridges I walked under carries the River Tyburn, one of London’s many hidden rivers and emerges near to Vauxhall Bridge. Further along was Macclesfield Bridge also known as Blow-up Bridge, this is because in October 1874 a barge laden with gunpowder blew up under the bridge. When the bridge was rebuilt the iron columns were turned round hence from the towpath deep grooves can be seen, these were caused by constant rubbing of taut ropes. There is a plaque on the side explaining this but unfortunately like most things today it has been vandalised by paint being sprayed over it, but at least what happened to the bridge can still be read.
Going past the London Zoo aviary some birds were pecking at the ground whilst others where perched above standing on one leg with their heads under their wings, presumably they were asleep.
Further along houses back onto the canal and some even have boats moored at the bottom of their garden.
The canal then took a sharp left turn this was because once again the initial route of the canal was changed. There is a bridge that is built in the style of a medieval castle which is known as Pirate Castle and on the opposite bank is a youth club known as the Pirate Club.
Farther along, the towpath is raised over a subterranean basin which was part of the Gilbey’s Gin warehouse. (Where incidentally my grandfather worked.)
I then veered off the towpath and looked around the market stalls which were closing down, but on the far side was a small shop making gin. I entered the shop and told the young man in attendance about Gilbey’s Gin and my grandfather.
He replied, “Yes we are making the gin as a tribute to Gilbey’s, would you like to try some?”
I had a very small sample and from my limited experience of gin, it seemed fine, but I declined to purchase a bottle.
I then continued my canal walk by crossing via an old iron bridge and also there can be once again be seen grooves which were caused many years ago by tow ropes. On the other side of the canal I passed a small house which now houses a coffee shop and discovered that this had once been the lock keepers house.
I then had to cross over the road bridge and walk back down to the towpath where two young black guys were stood, one said to me, “How you going?”
“Yeh fine thanks.”
I was now about halfway on my walk and on familiar territory. Walking under the road along the familiar towpath there were a few people dotted about the locks, some were sat down eating, others were just standing around chatting. On the other side of the road bridge, there was a pub and café but here there was nothing, just the locks.
The water in the locks was now getting lower and I was about to enter a tunnel so I looked back and the sun was glowing yellow about to disappear behind clouds which had a yellow mauve tinge to them.
Emerging on the other side of the bridge there was a metal door which from the writing on it was some sort of night club but it was closed. Above it were people seated and I then noticed that it was a pub. Further along there were more canal boats moored and on top of one were two guys playing chess and drinking beer
I carried on and went under a few bridges, past them on the other side was a really posh looking pub or was it a cafe, but either way it looked very expensive and beyond it was another bay where once again boats were moored.
Coming towards me on the canal was a huge canal boat it was almost as wide as the canal. I wondered where it was going to? I also noticed a woman on board one of the boats which I hasten to add was moored, as she was scrubbing a wooden table. Ah yes forget the life aboard for me, I think I’ll stay in an hotel.
There was on the other side of the canal a delightful building which had once again been the lock keepers house but who uses it now? I have no idea about.
I think by now I’d reached a posher area as there were people sat out enjoying the weather but there was a green baize placed upon the steps for them to sit upon. On the left was what had once been a gasometer but all that remains of it now are the metal poles.
I could see the end of my walk was in sight as the towpath ended and the canal disappeared into a tunnel. I have to admit that as I’d walked along the canal the properties had changed, first of all there were some very posh houses, then more houses at Camden followed by flats and hotels at Camden Town, then more flats, most of which had a balcony to sit upon and watch the life on the canal.
I now walked up a sloping path, found my route through a housing estate and as it was getting dark, I walked briskly through it. I emerged into Islington but some of the landmarks in the book are no longer there, I found my way to Chapel Market which is open from Tuesday to Sunday, at that late hour when I arrived it was closed.
Walking down the street there were a few restaurants one of which had a man spinning what I can only presume was a pizza. Oh well its one form of entertainment I will pass on. Finally I emerged into the Islington I knew but had to end my walk as the rest of the route looks as if it has been built upon by a shopping mall, plus it was nine o’clock and dark. It was not a problem as I’ve ventured along to Islington many times. Mind you my book did state that if I so wished I would be able to continue my canal walk to the River Thames. I thought I’d leave that for another day.
I walked down to the bus stop but could not ascertain where my bus stop was and so I went down to the tube and whilst looking at the posters on the wall, I noticed that one was a constantly changing advert. I looked up and above it was a projector and further along the platform I saw another one projecting the adverts. Eventually I boarded the tube and wondered, if I should go to Camden Town and get a bite to eat, or go home?

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