Short read: Couldn’t be more striking. Or appealing. The contrast, I mean. We bail on the noise and traffic of Islington’s Upper Street and hey presto, just like that we’re walking along a pretty, get-away-from-it-all, tree-lined canal towpath.
Long read: the sensory input is entirely pleasing. As are the thought bubbles the IWA guides loose in our minds. Which is by way of saying, the Regent’s Canal is its own world – a miniature landscape – and the joy of the canal walks is the way the guides “light up” that landscape. Point out particulars you wouldn’t notice on your own. Explain why they’re there and what they were for. Tow rope “scars”, for example. And why the towpath is on the side of the canal it’s on. And the reason for the periodic “indentations” in the canal wall, etc. And that’s not to mention the visible invisibles (good god, this is beginning to sound like Rumsfeld!).
Visible because the guides make us “see” them. For example, the route of an older waterway that we’ll cross. A much older waterway – and in its day an even more extraordinary one: the 400-year-old New River. The crisscrossing of waterways – and centuries. Prelude to that handsome pair of canal basins just ahead. And with canoeists in one and swans and coots in the other – Roger and Co. loose another fusillade of thought-bubbles: to get us back to the basins’ industrial heyday, when they were packed out with cargo-laden vessels, the commercial hub of the Regent’s Canal. And like an arrow shower the canal leads us on, threading its way through north London. A north London that only those who know – those who find the canal and take to it – get to see.
“Meeting” – like so many pop-up personalities – as we go, some of the former canal characters and customers. The contractor, for example, who did so well that he was the origin of Charles Dickens’s “Golden Dustman” in Our Mutual Friend. As the forensic people say, every contact leaves a trace. So I think we’ll catch a glimpse of him in his special Thames sailing barge. There’s more. There’s the heady old and new contrast of Kingsland Basin – the huge stables there that provided the “horse power” for the borough of Hackney. Horses, Hackney, hackney cabriolet, hacks – that’s a bit of Regent’s Canal past that’s stamped on our tongues. And it turns out that the Elizabethan waterway doesn’t get the staying power prize. That goes to the Roman road. Yes, for part of our route we’re following in the footsteps of Roman legionnaires.
Coda: ankle power, water power, horsepower, steam engine power, electric power, internal combustion engine power – the walk, er, runs the gamut. Because we catch the North London Railway – the canal’s 19th-century competitor – for our journey home, our journey back to the 21st century.
The Guides: The Regent’s Canal Walks are conducted in partnership with the Inland Waterways Association. The Canal Walks are always guided by a member of the Canal Walks team, each of whom is a member of the Inland Waterways Association. Each of the Canal guides is boat owner and has many years’ experience on the canals. The team of Canal Walks guides donate their fees to the IWA. So when you go on a Canal Walk you’re not just treating yourself to a marvellous guided walk that shows you a part of London most people don’t get to see – you’re also supporting a good cause!
REGENT’S CANAL Islington to Kingsland Road – THE PRACTICALS
The meeting point for The Regent’s Canal – Islington to Kingsland Road Walk is just outside the exit of Angel Tube Stop.
N.B. there’s a “pattern” to our series of Regent’s Canal Walks. As a rule they take place on the first and third Sundays of each month. Pretty much always in that 2.30 pm Sunday afternoon Tour du Jour slot (though there are a couple of exceptions that prove the rule – “Specials” that we run – “occasionals” during the Christmas-New Year’s Day season, for example).
LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS
If you can’t make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, The Regent's Canal – Islington to Kingsland Road it can always be booked as a private tour. If you go private you can have the The Regent's Canal – Islington to Kingsland Road walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We’ll tailor it to your requirements. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at [email protected] and we’ll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they’re good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing.
GIVE THE GIFT OF LONDON WALKS
A private London Walk makes a fab gift – be it a birthday or anniversary or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that’s special. Memories make us rich.
A wonderful walk with Charlie on Sunday along a part of Regent’s Canal I’d not known before. He told us about so many gems that I wouldn’t have noticed or would have wondered about and I especially liked seeing the old photos of the same spots in years gone by. Will definitely be looking out for more of Charlie’s walks and highly recommend this “special” if it is on again.
Dorothy MacDonald –
What an excellent walk that was on Sunday 19th even though I’ve walked it many times before. Charlie is so full of interesting and unexpected information it’s a privilege to join him.
I attended the walk led by the charismatic and charming Charlie on Sun 19 Feb. So many interesting observations and historical commentary – he was sure the group learned lots!
I would really recommend this walk as it unveiled a part of London I had never visited before, and will be sure to revisit in the future