Last Saturday we spontaneously decided to go walk along the Regent’s Canal in north London. The canal runs from the Paddington Area over to Camden Locks, and then down to Limehouse (on the eastern side of London).
The most enjoyable part of the walk was stumbling across the Canal Cavalcade, a festival in the Little Venice area near Paddington. There is a fairly large basin, and there were dozens of canal boats tied up. They were having a canal parade — with a best decorated contest — to see which boats had the best spirit. There were lots of people, food, and even a jazz band! (But honestly, the singer just didn’t cut it. You can’t sing jazz with a British accent, sorry.)
After we poked around the festival awhile, we decided to take the boat bus from Little Venice over to Camden. The boat bus costs £6.40 each, but it’s a nice little trip and provides an unusual vantage point. I would highly recommend the trip. We even saw a bridal party waiting for their private boat/reception party on the canal!
Once we arrived in Camden, however, the weather finally dumped on us. We dashed through the rain to the tube, and barely made it inside before getting soaked. So we’ll have to go back and explore Camden more thoroughly.
Here’s another slideshow with some pictures from our day.
Work began to build the canal in 1812, with the help of John Nash (the mastermind architect behind Regents Park). The final section was completed in 1820, which is a pretty fast pace for construction! Boats would be laden with goods, and horses would walk along the path next to the river, with ropes strung from them back to the boat, thus enabling the horse to pull the boat along the canal. This was more effective than using a cart or wagon, because the horses could pull a greater weight. Unfortunately it was not more efficent, because it was a pretty slow process. To this day, the walking path next to the canal is known as the tow path.
The canal was heavily used in the late 1800 and early 1900, but when heavy lorries (that’s trucks to you folks in the colonies) were developed, haulage on the canal fell drastically. By the 1960s it was not used for commercial freight.
Interestingly, the canal found a new purpose in 1979. Undrground cables were installed beneath the towpath, forming part of the National Grid. The 400vK cables are cooled by pumped canal water. The canal and towpath have also become prime recreation areas, especially with cyclists looking for an easy path across town. Although there are two tunnels on the route, pedestrians and cyclists can only use one of them. For the really long tunnel, you have to go up and over!
After this little excursion I was all excited and ready to leave our flat and move into a canal boat. We could travel all over England and still stay at home! And I’m sure that both the kitties would love being canal kitties, don’t you think?