Paddington to Hackney
Time to go east again, this time turning onto the Regents Canal and then onto the Hertford Union, which offers a short cut to the River Lee.
Camden, Regents Canal
I have to say that today was a day of huge contrasts, and at all times the towpath has been buzzing with activity. No sooner had we left Little Venice than we were into the Maida Hill Tunnel which in turn launches you into the edge of Regents Park.
Approach to Maida Hill Tunnel
The start of the park is lined with huge houses, either home to the super rich or, more likely, Embassies. Then the canal runs in something of a shallow tree lined cutting, cutting off any views across the park. The bit you can see is the Zoologial Gardens and the aviary which straddle the canal. This is a well tended length of canal, completely free of moored boats.
Blow up Bridge, Regents Canal
Posh houses on the edge of Regents Park
Then it was sharp left at Cumberland Basin with its multi story floating Chinese restaurant and you are at the top of the three Camden Locks. Perversely THE Camden Lock sen in all the photos is actually adjacent to Hampstead Road Lock, and progress is helped with a lock keeper and overseen by a multitude who line the bridges to watch boats pass up and down.
Then its a bit more remote till you reach St Pancras, with its basin full of boats overlooked by a park built inside the frame of an old gas holder and two other similar structures containing cylinders of flats. Innovative and bold. Then you are into Battlebridge Basin with an eclectic bunch of boats, including a floating bookshop and on into the 960 yard Islington Tunnel which takes you pretty much beneath Pentonville Jail. The tunnel has no ventilation shafts and most unusually it was hotter and muggier inside than out.
Then it was relentlessly down and east as we pushed further and further into the East End. We were warned that mooring becomes more dense on the Regents Canal, and so it was. It was boats nose to stern wherever mooring was permitted, and often two abreast. There were spaces here and there but they were the exception. Given the number of boats it was no surprise that water points and elsan facilities were common, appearing every two of three miles.
Pirate Castle, glimpsed to many times as I pulled into Euston
All these boats offer interest and as we travel pretty slowly with the butty they didn't slow us up to an appreciable extent. I did have a bit of a surprise when I came round a corner and there was Jim's old boatmoored on the offside. It could do with a bit of TLC but it was unmistakably Starcross. This brings me to another observation - its a bit like the united nations of boats down here, bearing locations from all over the country and few owners appear to have any desire to repaint them, so they just fade and grow tatty as the owners used them as floating caravans. Some will, no doubt, be experienced boaters but the ones we met along the way had little understanding about how the mechanics of their boats work, the history of the canals or in some cases how locks are best operated. I guess this isn't entirely unexpected, but you do need to make some allowances and not assume too much.
Victoria park came and an unexpected bonus as we approached Hackney, a large and popular public open space with the canal forming a two mile boundary to the west and south. Naturally, the moorings by the park are popular and I decided to see if I could find something along the Hertford Union Canal, before the three locks which drop it down to the River Lee. I did spot one half chance where I could have moored Wand'ring Bark, if I moved one boat 15 feet, but I was too late to make the manouver. With the first lock coming up fast I was getting a bit nervous and then, to my immense relief, a 60ft gap appeared maybe 400 yards before the lock gates. Not quite big enough for both boats but that's one benefit of being articulated - we can unhitch the butty and moor it alongside.
And so we have stopped, quality residential flats to one side and a park with shady trees on the other. In fact, I think its the quietest mooring we have encountered since we were up on the River Wey a week ago. As for the water quality, its gin clear and has been that way most of the day. Certainly all that choking weed on the Paddington Arm is long behind us.
So tomorrow moring we set out up the River Lee, but before that there is the small matter of three batches of Lemon and Lavender Marmalade to be made.