From the bustling markets of Camden Lock to the gentile environs of Little Venice, walking the Regent’s Canal in London is an amazing snapshot of the life and history of the city.
It’s named after the Prince Regent – later George IV – who was the driving force behind so much London architecture. It was built at great cost during the mid-19th century as an important commercial transport route. It allowed barges to travel directly from industrial Birmingham all the way through to the London Docklands.
Nowadays it is pure recreation. Camden market provides the best quick eating on the walk, as well as wonderful industrial revolution architecture, including wrought iron bridges and old warehouses.
The canal towpath takes you along the backside of London’s most ostentatious and expensive addresses, passing through Primrose Hill, around the northern edge of Regent’s Park and along the bottom of St John’s Wood.
The calls of monkeys and hyenas can be heard as the canal path passes through the edge of London Zoo, particularly beside the fantastic aviary designed by Lord Snowdon.
Then you have to climb up to street level to avoid the 250-metre-long Maida Hill Tunnel that runs under the Edgeware Road. Macclesfield Bridge is ‘fondly’ known as Blow Up Bridge after a barge carrying gunpowder exploded here in 1874 (see the photo at top).
Soon it’s back to the residential gardens and then to residences of another type – canal boats. At the private Blomfield Road Moorings you’ll find potted petunias, decorative watering cans and even vegetable gardens on and around these lovely old narrow boats (another survivor from Britain’s Industrial age).
At last Little Venice, apparently called so by the poet Robert Browning who once lived here (in a house). The pool or basin here at the junction of the Regent’s Canal with the Paddington is the bohemian London setting for cafes, art galleries and a puppet theatre.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you walked the Regent’s Canal in London?