Up | Down

 

Build me a houseboat in heaven

~ ~
Pardon the imminent cliche, but Spring has officially sprung and there's no better way to celebrate the sprung spring in London than to go on a series of spring walks around town.

This week, I headed off to see how my beloved Regents Canal (the stretch from Wenlock Basin to Islington via the City Road Lock) was doing - and although I was a bit disappointed, it was worth sharing the experience anyway.

[click on pictures to enlarge]
Regents Canal - City Road to Islington


As usual, you can't escape a tiny smattering of history on this blog. But the history of the canal has got so many interesting bits, I couldn't possibly do justice to it in one blog post. So, will suffice to inform those who do not know - the canal stretches from the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal in the north-west to the Limehouse basin and the Thames in the east. It was built in the early 1900's and was used primarily for the transport of goods. The City Road basin later became the most popular channel for goods transportation. And here's a small bit of history in a picture:


Regents Canal - City Road to Islington


End of history lesson.

My own first encounter with Regents Canal was in 2006, when as a postgraduate student of city design, I was led to it after a shin-mutilating walk around London by my guide. Hidden behind the concrete monstrosities of the City and terraced housing for the most part, the sight of the canal that was almost straight out of the Enid Blytons I grew up reading, pleasantly surprised my aches away. This week, visiting the same spot after ages, I was shocked to see the spurt in construction activity around the Wenlock Basin. They've very nearly managed to kill the charm of the place. But that's not what this post is about. This is about the charm that still remains - the tunnels, for example.


Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington
The City Road Lock



Starting from Wenlock Basin, I was pleased to see that my old friend, the man under the bridge, was still around. I have been scared for him since I heard about the Towpath Tidy. They'll hit this patch on Saturday and I hope he stays. Though I did notice that he's now been joined by two friends on the new support column on the left:


Regents Canal - City Road to Islington
Familiar? You might have seen him here earlier.


The towpaths are very popular for walkers, runners and cyclists. So popular, that there is actually a code of conduct for walkers and cyclists - the best one being the 'two ring' rule. Cyclists are supposed to ring their bell twice as they approach a pedestrian and pedestrians, in turn are expected to be listening for the two-rings. Cute!



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Moving on towards City Road basin, I was saddened by the loss of towpath width as they build some new luxury flats (seriously, who's buying them anymore?) overlooking the canal. Gone are the benches and the trees facing the Royle Building - in their place stands ugly scaffolding. Pah! But I was determined to focus on the good bits - the (understandably annoyed) ducks and most of all, the quirky houseboats that are moored along the way.



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



I find houseboats immensely fascinating - a psychological leftover from my Enid Blytons, I guess. Her pre-teen characters were always having scones and marmalade in the middle of exciting pre-teen adventures sitting in houseboats (or getting kidnapped by the baddies and held in them). Although my own pre-teen self had never seen a houseboat, I had vividly imagined them and was delighted to be finally acquainted with my childhood fantasy in London. I still haven't been inside one (hint hint - for anyone reading this who happens to live in one) but I delight in studying them - some are pretty, almost dainty, very house-proud; some rough and reckless; others staid, simple and practical. The outside of a houseboat, I think, can be very telling of its inhabitants, much like gardens or backyards.



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington



Regents Canal - City Road to Islington


The houseboat study and the spring sun did much to lift my mood. It reminds me of a song by Townes Van Zandt called "Heavenly Houseboat Blues". The perfect accompaniment to this walk. I couldn't find the original, but here's a quirky cover by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell for you to listen to, while going through the houseboat pictures again (try it!). Someone build me a houseboat!


UPDATE: If you find London's canals an inspiration for tapping your creativity (like I do), you might want to join the Slowdown London Festival's Canal Write program on the 2nd of May. Check it out!






7 comments so far:

Bonnie said...

This one is an absolutedelight to read ans enjoy the city virtually.... you have managed to get the essence of your lovely city out really well.

SloganMurugan said...

Awesome colours. There's so much to explore in your city. And thanks for taking us around.

Celine said...

I have just read your interview on the londonist website so I am just discovering your blog...I love the pictures!!

ra said...

These are lovely photos-I love walking by the canal and the houseboats, and was really happy to see some familar places here!

Flaneurbanite said...

Bonnie: Thanks! Do keep visiting, your feedback is much appreciated:)

SloMo: Thank you. There is indeed a lot - and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface yet!

Celine: Thank you so much! Do keep visiting and giving me your feedback:)

ra: Thank you:) The canal was one of my first loves in the city, and taking a long walk down it just makes my day:)

Lea Dolan said...

I discovered this same location and am working on a book about it for a class. I am so in love with this canal and cannot stop walking the length. I loved your pictures and naarative

Flaneurbanite said...

Lea: Thank you! Do feel free to email me (using the link on the top right hand corner of the page) if you need any help about this stretch :) Good luck!

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comments. I really cherish your feedback and discussion!