From Broadway Market to Victoria Park.
Not only does London have a river Thames, it also has a marvelous thing called Regent’s Canal. Even though you think you already know London, you’re still missing out until you’ve walked along this canal. This is where the hidden local life happens.
Here, people sunbathe laying directly on the concrete (it’s a practice totally unheard of in other countries like where I came from, for example. We were told that laying on the concrete is bad for the kidneys and for future mothers in general); people jog and cycle (quite annoying to let them pass all the time, so I prefer to walk by the canal on weekdays rather than weekends. Somehow they are not keeping to the Code of Conduit, which says that pedestrians have priority over cyclists on the towpath); people fish (hmm…the canal water is quite dirty for my taste, but who am I to judge); people walk their dogs and kids; people eat their lunch here, and so on and so on. They’ll also steal your bicycles and cell phones after dark sometimes.
The canal’s banks are also perfect to showcase the city’s architectural variety. You can see converted warehouses, artist studios based in abandoned factories, neglected back gardens, newly-built blocks of flats, council houses, gazgolders and bridges. You can see people living on the boats too, with the boat gardens and BBQs. And lots of graffiti.
The canal is quite long. It links Paddington Basin and Limehouse Basin. First proposed by Thomas Homer in 1802, it was built during the early 19th century. Noted architect and town planner John Nash was a director of the company. Back in the day, it was used for shipping coal and building materials, mostly locally, although initially it was meant to be used for transshipping imports to the midlands. The canal fell into a long decline in 1929 due to the expansion of the rail roads.
A new purpose was found for the canal route in 1979, when the Central Electricity Generating Board installed underground cables which now form part of the National Grid, supplying electrical power to London. Pumped canal water is circulated as a coolant for the high-voltage cables.
I walked by it back and forth in all directions, but for a quick encounter, I would recommend to go to Broadway Market (one of the best London street markets) on Saturday, buy some provision such as organic apple juice, quiche or pancakes, and walk along the canal towards Victoria Park (about half an hour). Or, if you still feel energetic, continue right ’til the end, to the river Thames (an hour more).