Paddington Arm and the Regent’s Canal

Timing was crucial on Wednesday: arrive at the London Canal Museum between 3.45 pm and 4 o’clock was the instruction. This was to avoid the only-in-August Wednesday boat trips and to book in at the Museum before closure at 4.30pm.

At 10 am it was farewell to Gasometer View.  CS30-01 Restocked from the Kensal Green Sainsbury’s the cruise could begin in earnest. Destinations: Little Venice, Paddington and then the Museum.

The green duckweed-clogged water  continued. The canal is lined now with buildings, sometimes old works buildings, sometimes terraces of housing, sometimes buildings transformed into modern apartments.

There was BoudiccaCS30-01a  seen before, for sale she was then, near Kingswood Junction a few years ago.

How folk love to exercise their green fingers, whether on a small balcony  CS30-02  or on top of a boat.  CS30-03  The canal becomes an urban ribbon, boats of all kinds and sizes moored on both sides, often double berthed. Above streams the Westway,  CS30-04  carrying road traffic on the A40(M). There’s an extraordinary moment when just past the Little Venice Services you enter the Little Venice Pool.  CS30-05  There in the centre is Browning’s Island (so named after the Victorian poet Robert Browning). Around it are gracious Regency houses. Bearing right the canal leads onto the end of the Paddington Arm. It’s a popular mooring spot, with easy access to Paddington rail and tube stations  CS30-06   (and to St Mary’s Hospital for those who door-watch during the time of royal births…) CS30-08   The wind round tall buildings can accelerate – and so it did on Wednesday afternoon. There are still a few low standing historic buildings remaining but amidst the jungle of Paddington high rise towers  CS30-07  turning the boat round came as the first in a series of challenges.

Rain may stop play in a cricket match but it cannot stop a cruise if there is nowhere to tie up. Return down the Paddington Arm, into Little Venice Pool again, past the Island, CS30-09   a right turn onto the Regent’s Canal and through the Maida Vale Tunnel. Now the canal glides past elegant white houses,  CS30-10  past pristine gardens, past strict No Mooring signs. Then comes London Zoo, its waterbus landing stage on one side, the Lord Snowdon designed aviary on the other.  CS30-11

The rain was driving now, the Captain juggling umbrella and tiller. “Look how I caught it!” he exclaimed at one point, proud that he had recaptured it while it took off,  airborne in Camden.  There’s a sharp left turn at Cumberland Basin (in a squall, with a current of water pulling the boat to the right) and there not far ahead, just past the cow on a balcony, CS30-12   lie the Camden Locks. CS30-13

Perhaps with so much rain there’d be no gongoozlers was a secret thought… but no, there were plenty of spectators, there was a boat rising in the right hand lock and a novice crew trying to descend in the left hand lock. “We don’t think we’re doing it right,” one crew member confessed. Thereafter came Boatwif’s challenge – control the boat down through the top lock, dance about for a long time below while waiting for the second (single lock only) to become available, then do a long reverse to move out of the departing trip boat’s way. And the rain continued.

There were fewer spectators at the third (bottom) lock, just a gang of cider-swilling youths…

Just one more lock at St Pancras where here the gasometer   CS30-14  is the centre piece of modern residential accommodation. Not much further on came Battlebridge Basin, site of the London Canal Museum.  CS30-16  Again strong winds swirled round the tall buildings making boat manoeuvres the final challenge of the day.

It was all worthwhile. Straight from her lab, bearing her homemade speciality Portuguese custard tarts,  CS30-31  came the Biologist.  CS30-15  It was a fine and fun-filled night.

Just 8 locks, 5 miles and another tunnel separate the Canal Museum at King’s Cross from Limehouse and the tidal Thames. However, it was on leaving the overnight mooring on Thursday morning that there was another Monkton Moment* (the 19th this trip). A voice from the stern of a residential boat addressed the Captain. “Come from Pembrokeshire then do you? I’m from Milford.”

Islington Tunnel is 960 yards long. To proceed through a tunnel boaters are required to switch on a bright tunnel light, both to see by and to be seen. Well into the tunnel, though far ahead, a tiny spark flickered, low down. What was it? What was in the water? Eyes strained to work out the shape and cause of the obstacle. “Are you a tug?” Boatwif called out. No reply, just a dark mass slowly getting bigger. The Captain crept onwards and then it became apparent: it was a boat, under way, crawling through the blackness. On the stern deck a young woman clutched a tiller with one hand and the faint torchlight from a mobile phone in the other. What madness makes that glimmer of light seem safe and sufficient for travelling through a long tunnel…

Out of the tunnel  CS30-17   the view was of apartments, trees and boats.

The canal continues its route eastwards, 8 locks in total to the Thames. Hackney is on the left bank, Bethnall Green on the right. At Old Ford Lock there was talk of Tower Hamlets and then Mile End. There are tower blocks, railway bridges  CS30-18   and fast speeding bicycles along the towpath. These are places previously unvisited, known of only through media reports…

Just after Old Ford Lock came a moment of recognition, “telly recognition” that is. Remember the moment when Timothy West bounced onto the Hertford Canal  CS30-19  and cheerily pronounced narrow-boating a contact spot…? Later in the day there was another such moment. From the back of Limehouse Basin is a channel, the Limehouse Cut. CS30-34

A sign gives timings to walk or to cycle to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.  CS30-35   Was this the route then taken by David Beckham with the Olympic Torch on the night of the Olympic Opening Ceremony?

Limehouse – sleek apartments,   CS30-29    tall-masted yachts,  CS30-28   ocean-going vessels, broad-beamed Dutch barges, narrow boats and red DLR trains   CS30-27  crossing the brick viaduct arches.

In its past this was Regent’s Canal Dock where coal, timber, fruit and ice were unloaded at the wharves that lined the waterside. There’s a sign directing pedestrians to the nearby Ragged School Museum. Scan the skyline and you recognise the recent Canary Wharf building  CS30-26   – but information is sought on this roof figure… CS30-30

Just beyond the tidal lock that connects Limehouse to the Thames is Narrow Street. There is little vehicular traffic but a steady stream of cyclists – and a blade skater sighted gliding down the centre of the road. The Grapes pub  CS30-22   is in this street, reputedly owned now by Ian McKellan and used in his fiction by Charles Dickens. In this street too is a very large Herring Gull, CS30-23   fortunately unlikely to steal your sandwich…

You can promenade close to the river, watching the traffic, looking east towards Greenwich,  CS30-33   west towards the Shard  CS30-25   and Westminster. As darkness came still boats plied the river   CS30-32 – and the Cleddau crew wished for calm waters in the morning…




Stats since last post: 11 miles, 12 locks

Monkton Moments* to date: 19

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)


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2 Responses

  1. I am envious of your trip in and through London. We baulked at it when we were heading for the Thames in June, in part because of time constraints, but mainly because of the dreadful green weed that was for all the world like wet sheep’s wool – terribly hard to get off the prop and rudder and ubiquitous as we approached the entrance to the Paddington Arm. Is it still on the GU at present or is it a seasonal thing? We are keen to go into London next season when we get back from NZ again, but having to stop and clear the prop and be bowhauled for 30 minutes through the worst of it was a bit of a pain, to say the least! Cheers, Marilyn

  2. Captain says:

    There is lots of “Duckweed” throughout the London Ring but that is no problem as it is so small it just gets washed through the prop. On the southern GU in the Brentford and Hayes areas there were clumps of “Pennywort” which we avoided as it will collect around the prop. I fitted a cutter on the prop shaft many years ago and it is excellent at chopping up weed. A quick burst of reverse is usually sufficient. The down side is that if you encounter a shopping trolley it can jam very tightly between the cutting disk and the shaft. Ken

    The terminus of the Paddington Arm was clear of the green weed – we did spot a device not far from Paddington Station which appeared to be pumping oxygen into the water, apparently to good effect. I hope you manage a London trip next year – we’ll watch your blog in hopeful anticipation. Now we’ve done it all the advice people gave us makes so much more sense! We’ll be happy to offer said advice to yourselves if you go ahead with your trip next year.
    Sue /Boatwif

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