By Howard Spring
Another one of my favourite walks is the one that takes me to Shoreditch Park. And to Victoria Park. And to Camden Town. And to Regent’s Park. And to Haggerston Park. Actually, it could take me to a lot of wonderful places. But best of all, it is just a wonderful place all on its own!
I’m talking about Regent’s Canal. It goes all the way from Little Venice in the west to Docklands and out to the Thames in the east. And if I walked the whole thing it would be 8.6 miles. I am pretty sure I would have all the energy in the world to do that, in case you are wondering.
Regent’s Canal is quite old. They first started building it in 1812, but it was four years of hard work before the first section opened in 1816. It used to carry lots of things, like wood, and coal, and really, really heavy things. But after a while everyone started using the railways and the roads, and so the Canal started to get neglected by the 1960s.
In fact, trains were getting so popular that they even wanted to turn the Canal into a railway. They tried many times but kept running out of money. Thank goodness! Actually, I am starting to learn that it is often a relief when people who think they know better run out of money. Unless that person is in charge of buying the ribbies.
Today the Canal helps everyone in London get their electricity, because they put cables in a trough under the towpath and the water keeps it cool. But you can’t have a plug in a bathroom, so I am not sure about electricity in a canal. But so far so good.
There has also been a musical written about Regent’s Canal. It is called Regent’s Canal, a Folk Opera. It was produced to celebrate the 200th anniversary of when they started digging to build the Canal. I can understand having a musical to celebrate digging. Digging is great.
Speaking of digging, the Canal also has tunnels. The water actually goes underground! And the boats too!
And the Canal has lots of things called Locks. This is where the boat goes in, and then the water lifts it up, and then the boat goes out the other end. Or the boat goes in, and water goes out and the boat gets lower, and then the boat goes out the other end. So this means that boats can go up and down hills! Amazing! I love watching this.
The Canal is full of life. I’ve seen swan, and geese, and coots, and moor hens, and sea gulls, and herons. And probably a lot more if I look carefully.
And the Canal has lots of interesting things all along the way, like art galleries, and studios, and cafes, and pubs, and theatres, and a canoe club. That famous photo of David Bowie was taken at Holborn Studios, on Regent’s Canal!
And the Canal is also home to a lot of people and dogs and cats who live on long, skinny boats. They are actually quite helpfully known as canal boats or narrow boats. Which is exactly what they are.
I have met a lot of dogs walking along the canal. And I have met lots of nice people too and got some cuddles. But sometimes the towpath (that’s the path beside the canal that we walk on) gets very crowded. Some Saturdays you can hardly move for people, dogs, cyclists, joggers. And walking along there in rush hour on a week day can get a bit hairy. In fact, we usually avoid it at that time. I have heard of dogs, people, bicycles, in fact all kinds of things, falling into the Canal after some jostling for space. Luckily that has not happened to me. Not yet anyway. Most of the time I am so excited about getting to where I have never been, or maybe where I have been, but want to be there again, that I simply don’t notice. But I love water. So Human is usually making sure that I am not going to make a dash for it and jump in when no-one is paying attention.
Canals are now so important to London life, that there is even a London Canal Museum. And there are Canal Festivals. And the Canal has friends too, who want to keep helping it to stay safe from ugly developers and even uglier developments.
Everyone can be a friend of the Canal! Because the Canal has friends for everyone!