The Thames isn’t London’s only waterway. The city also contains an extensive canal network from a bygone industrial age. The most central stretch, known as the Regent’s canal, is both the most pleasant and historic – the perfect place for a Sunday stroll.
If you’re feeling ambitious, you could walk the whole thing from Little Venice through to Limehouse, a distance of some eight miles. But for a more leisurely trek, we’ll only go as far as Camden.
Here’s a little map I prepared to help you.
We start at the delightful Little Venice (reached by a short walk from Warwick Avenue Tube). If you need something to line your stomach before setting off, you could do a lot worse than visiting one of the many local pubs and restaurants, any of which should serve you well.
Heading east, the canal soon veers into a tunnel where we can’t follow. However, the route is clearly marked above ground, taking us along Aberdeen Place. At the end of this quiet street, pause to consider the dilapidated pub building. ‘Crocker’s Folly’ is so-named after an intriguing local legend. The pub’s original owner, Frank Crocker, is said to have built here after hearing that a mainline station was about to be constructed nearby, with all the lucrative footfall this would entail. When the plans fell through and Marylebone Station was actually built half a mile away, Crocker took his own life in despair. It’s all nonsense, but still sad to see such a handsome building falling into disrepair.
Follow the sign straight ahead, and back down to the canal towpath. Before long, you’ll pass through the ‘upside-down house’, so-called because it’s bedroom is downstairs and entrance upstairs by the road way. After passing an extensive mooring of attractive house boats, and walking beneath a rail bridge, you’ll emerge into the fringes of Regent’s Park. The canal curves round the northern edge of the park in a peaceful half-mile stretch before coming to London Zoo.
Look out for ‘blow-up bridge’ (pictured). In 1874, a gunpowder barge passing beneath it exploded, destroying the bridge, killing three crew and causing animals to escape from the nearby zoo. Be sure to read the plaque for a further surprise about the bridge’s reconstruction.
After reaching the end of the zoo, the canal turns sharply north and under a bridge. We’re now passing through the refined airs of Primrose Hill, home to many a film star and member of parliament. The area even has a higher class of graffiti and you may notice a couple of pieces by famous street artist Banksy on the opposite, erm, bank.
And so on to Camden Lock. The tow path will become instantly busy as you pass into this, one of the UK’s major tourist destinations. The walk ends here, but be sure to check out the extensive cobbled market area. If you’re after more canal fun, you can catch a pleasure boat from Camden Lock back up towards the zoo, where a ‘secret’ jetty serves as an alternative entrance to the zoo that hardly anyone knows about. You’ll never need to queue.