This last weekend saw a festival celebrating 200 years of the Regent’s Canal in London. I had some work on show in the Mile End Art Pavilion (in the vicinity of the eastern reaches of the waterway), and it struck me it would be interesting to walk the canal from West London to East London.
Urban wanderings are of course a passion of mine, and I like nothing better than to connect points on maps through unusual or unfrequented routes. These wanderings invariably pass through the edgelands which are such a rich source of the familiar-as-unfamiliar, and most canals are nothing but edgelands.
So I did it, and quite delightfully surreal it was. The oddest (but perhaps least surprising) aspect was just how deserted this tranche of central London could be in the middle of the day. Apart from Camden Lock, I tramped alone, occasionally overtaken by a mad cyclist and overtaking lovesick teens.
At times, I felt I was in the middle of the countryside. At other times, I felt I was intruding into other people’s back gardens (which effectively I was, as I picked my way through semi-cultivated banks of hollyhocks and buddleia flanked by mini Steptoe’s yards).
Then there were the hidden private mansions near Regents Park, with gardens falling to the edges of the water. Not so private or hidden these days, though, thanks to Google maps. Whenever I wondered what I was looking at, technology was on hand to give me a proper detailed nosy view from above.
I eventually emerged just past Kings Cross, with the rest of my planned walk enticingly remaining open for another visit another day.