Sunday 27 December 2020

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 4: Regent's Canal

Featured waterways: Wapping Ornamental Canal, Shadwell Basin, Thames Path, Limehouse Basin, Regent's Canal 

Distance ridden: 53km 

Cumulative distance: 277km

Distance left: 223km

Terrain: Tarmac

Weather: Sunny and breezy (after earlier torrential rain), 3 degC

Nutrition: Water

Route on Strava:

The weather had been pretty scary in the morning, with torrential rain and very low temperatures. So I decided to defer my ride to later on, as the forecast was for an improvement in conditions during the afternoon.

Due to the late start, this was going to have to be a short ride, and also a day to avoid riding off-road given that the trails would be very muddy. So today's ride was urban, going through the middle of London. The cycleway along the Thames is a well-used route, but I decided to cycle along another cycleway through London - the Regent's Canal. 

This is one route where you see real London life, as opposed to the Thames cycleway which goes past lots of tourist attractions. 

Shadwell Basin

Before reaching the Regent's Canal I rode along the Wapping Ornamental Canal, which until a couple of days ago, I had never heard of. It was actually suggested to me by a cycling friend, Abi Armstrong. So I headed down past St Katharine's Dock and took that route. It was quite a find. There was nothing particularly ornamental about it, but it looked pretty and the buildings reminded me of posh dockers' houses from the time when that was a big thing in London. Eventually I reached Shadwell Basin. The first thing that came to my mind about that place was how this would be a great place for open water swimming - another activity that has become popular of late. Sadly, there are lots of signs up forbidding people to jump in. Apparently the water's not lovely. 

From here I followed a few signs to get to Mile End Park, via the Thames Path and Limehouse Basin, to reach the start of the Regent's Canal.

Initially, the path wasn't so busy. But from Victoria Park onwards there was a much greater flow of people along this waterway. Along the Regent's Canal you see ordinary London life - both in terms of those based on the water, and those along the path and adjoining parks.

You pass offices, the backs of people's flats, as well as various sections of artistic facades, also known as graffiti. In some areas, notably around Islington and St Pancras, people had set up little makeshift bars where folks had gathered to enjoy a few Christmas beers. Some were also lounging on benches, or on grassy stretches. Quite a lot of barges are moored along here, with people getting on with their everyday life. One person's barge had so much smoke emerging from it, it made me wonder if the occupant had burnt their dinner as well as a few logs.

Regent's Canal

Along the stretch near Haggerston, I noted a lone canoeist who appeared to be enjoying an afternoon "stroll" with his dog trotting alongside on the towpath! That was quite a sight, though I think I was the only person to find it amusing. I think it was just normal life for folks in East London!

This canal was quite technical to ride as it was twisted around blind corners and dipped under various low bridges. A bell would definitely be useful on this stretch. There were also a couple of steep inclines at the different locks. At Islington, where the path reaches the Islington tunnel I was forced to leave the canal to get onto street level. At that point I crossed Upper Street, the main road through Angel, to reach the back end of King's Cross and rejoin the canal. 

Camden Lock

I had originally planned on riding as far as Regent's Park, but the canal path was becoming hard work to negotiate at this time of the afternoon, with many people walking along it, and the pace was slow-going. So when the path made a natural pause in the trendy Camden Lock, I saw it as my cue to leave the canal completely and head home via the traffic-light C6 quiet cycle route, and the segregated CS6 Cycleway.

I had enjoyed my stint along the Regent's Canal, though I think it is best appreciated first thing in the morning by bike, rather than on a sunny afternoon during the Christmas holidays.

Related posts

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 1

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 2

Festive 500, London Waterways - Day 3

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