Wednesday, 6 August 2014

From Paddington to Limehouse

In the last week of July we decided to move out of Paddington basin and cruise to Limehouse basin by Canary Wharf.  This is the whole length of the Regents canal - nine miles and 12 locks.  On the first day we went through Regents Park and the zoo, Camden, Islington and Kings Cross.  We also had two tunnels to go through; Maida Vale tunnel which is quite short (272 yards) and Islington tunnel (960 yards).

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Camden was rammed full of tourists.  Many had their legs dangling over the sides of the canal and locks without realising the danger a heavy steel boat posed to their legs when I was trying to moor for locks.  I had to be quite forceful in a couple of instances to get people to move, especially a family of Germans.

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Whilst going through the top lock at Camden I was asked if I could take part in a TV documentary being made about the Regents canal.  Of course I agreed.  This was the fourth time I had been filmed through London; the first time was by a French tourist who was keen to record about life on the waterways.  By the time I got to the Camden filming my story had many embellishments including the fact that we had been living on the boat for five years rather than the previous five weeks!  Here is the girl who interviewed me and the scouter who was finding people to be interviewed.

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We went through seven locks and found a mooring alongside Victoria Park, or Vicky Park to the locals.  The Park is the oldest purpose built green space in London and, as the name suggests, was commissioned by Queen Victoria for the East Enders.  We stayed at Vicky Park for a week and made quite a few friends, especially as most boats had to double berth.  A lot of people were regular workers who found that living on a boat was cheaper than trying to buy or rent a flat in London.  Here are a few shots from that week.

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We were amazed how many people had only just bought a boat and had moved aboard with no previous experience.  For example there was Jo, a teacher in the East End, whose boat was as old as ours and she knew needed completely refitting.  Robin and Jen had a new boat which was on the luxurious side; well he’s a KPMG consultant ;)  He works in Canary Wharf and Jen to the west of London so they commute by bike in opposite directions each day.  When we met them at Vicky Park Rob was having the shorter journey.

This article appeared in the New York Times recently and we had met people from four of the boats mentioned. Living on a boat in London (NY Times).

Writing about commuting reminds me about the extraordinary number of cyclists on the towpaths in that part of London in both rush hours.  You have to be really careful stepping off the boat!

We found a real spit and sawdust pub in Bow and saw a gig by Dennis Stratton (ex Iron Maiden) and a mate of his - excellent end to a Sunday - and no entrance fee.

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We set out on the final leg to Limehouse on 6 August and the weather was still absolutely gorgeous.  It was very interesting going down through Mile End and other such areas.  At one point we realised we were running out of fresh chillies so I took a wander into the side streets of Mile End and got a handful of chillies for just 5p!

On the way down we had some good views of Canary Wharf and, of course, Barclays.

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Here we are cruising into and around Limehouse basin.

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And here are the 12 locks of the Regents canal:

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And, finally, an Emperor dragonfly that landed on my finger when we were in Old Ford.

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