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Guided by Canal Guides


Short read: The prettiest of our Regent's Canal Walks.

Guest Appearance read: "The Regent's Canal is a hairline fracture along London's x-axis; a thin fissure in a valley of brick, glass and stone. It's a landscape you descend into where turbid waters pool rather than flow. An obstinate geographical fact, the canal-scape has recently been reimagined as a footpath, cycleway and running track, as nature reserve, boat park and estate agent's wet cream. Most of us are drawn to water and, in a city, even a shallow concrete channel, a mere moat, can have irresistible appeal. We have learned to call the canal 'the Cut.' It's a name that expresses its slim shape, its depth, its certain tang. It also invokes the past. This industrial gash, this wet wound, was sliced into the earth by hand. It may have more in common with a pond than a river, but the water's character is mobile. Sometimes the Cut is stretched out smooth and tight, a high-sheen sheet of smoked glass; other times it is sharply crumpled; others gently ribbed and ruffed. It's moulded into shade and shape by the weather and the creatures and boats that move through it. It is a chameleon, a waterway with what Ted Hughes might call a 'picture-skin,' one that absorbs and reflects back all that is around and above it. The landscape surprises...it's such a shape-shifter. A Jekyll and Hyde. A fixed line that is grim in places, inviting in others, slipping from hostile to benign, from romantic to weird, and back. All cities need something like it, something old and imperfect, littered but alive, an attractor of strange fowl and folk. The Cut is another volatile place then..."  from Adrift by Helen Babbs

Long read:  It begins at Little Venice, harbour and home to waterfolk and landlubbers alike. There's prestigious – and catch-in-the-throat attractive – real estate on and off the water. On the water because many of the "narrow boats" have been converted into very desirable houseboats. It's been said, with very little exaggeration, that this is quite possibly the most beautiful residential neighbourhood in the world. The scene is almost more Dutch than Venetian. Uniquely, the canal here is an extra ingredient in a London street. The buildings flanking the street vary from elegant semi-detached stuccoed villas and terraced houses to Edwardian mansion flats. They're very fine in their own right. Add to them the green of the mature trees forming a canopy to the canal and the water itself and the palette of brightly coloured boats (in exquisite counterpoint to the creamy stucco of the houses) and the delightful bridges that bookend the ensemble – well, it makes for a very special place. And that's just for starters. From there the canal runs through a tunnel under the Edgware Road and on to St. John's Wood, where it emerges to stunning views of Primrose Hill Regent's Park and the London Zoo. And always with the canal walks – because you're in an automobile-free-zone – everything slows right down and you're back in the 1820s. Back in the 1820s seeing a London you'd never otherwise see. It's back-door London. Grand houses that back onto the canal. In some cases they have their own little pier with their boat tied up to it. All very much in marked – and delightful – contrast to the "public face" of these houses – which of course is the front, the view you get from the street. That's a view anybody can get any time. It's the lazy, easy option. We go for richer pickings – we see their "private face". And of course, at the end of the walk we're right into Camden Market. We end at the Lock with all of its Sunday afternoon huzzah and colour and panache and buzz. Anything else? Yes. It's worth bearing in mind that it's not just what you see – it's how you see it. Because our Regent's Canal Walks are guided by members of the Inland Waterways Association – people who know the canals the way a Master Mariner knows a stretch of water he's plied for years, people who have a great deal of expertise about them – you'll get to see tiny little details that casual towpath walkers miss. Tiny little details that open up an age and an era, that explain the workings of the canals. 


The meeting point for The Regent's Canal – Little Venice to Camden walk is just outside the exit of Warwick AvenueTube.

The Regent's Canal – Little Venice to Camden walk takes place at 2.30 pm on Sunday, September 1.

The Regent's CanalLittle Venice to Camden walk is one of a series of Regent's Canal and other Inland Waterways walks that London Walks conducts in partnership with the IWA (Inland Waterways Association). There are now getting on for a dozen different canal and Inland Waterways walks. The canal walks' regular slot is the 2.30 pm Tour du Jour offering on the first and third Sunday of every month. And there are usually a handful of "guest appearance" canal walks that run as "Specials" on selected dates in any given Summer or Winter London Walks programme.