Walking By Water Part IV: Islington to Hackney

Posted on February 29th, 2016


Both tunnels on the canal go underneath Council Estates. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence. The canal wants to hide from the Big Bad Locals. The canal heads right under the estate, right under the Sainsburys car park that’s probably seen as a development opportunity by someone, right under the N1 Centre, Islington’s hub of mainstream commerce. I know this part of the journey all too well. I’m coming back onto my patch.

The entry back onto the canal at Colebrooke Row is hidden in the bushes, a mysterious gateway into a garden state. It leads to a precipitous drop, a downhill slope of a ramp (a safety hazard in the moist depths of autumn). It’s so green at this part of the canal right now – the opposite side acts as a mini-park with seating to enjoy the view is sprinkled with blooming trees, and the water itself is rife with duckweed, a veritable ooze, a radioactive sludge. You’d probably dissolve if you fell in, but you might develop superpowers, so swings and roundabouts. (more…)

Walking By Water Part III: Camden to Islington

Posted on February 10th, 2016


Pick your poison at Camden Lock. The canal path is subsumed into the local environs, and the wanderer has a choice of route. On the one hand you can turn into Camden Market, which at lunchtime is a semi-permeable mesh of people and smells, a heaving mass. On the other hand you can cross the narrow footbridge over to the recent commercial development, its Holiday Inns, Starbucks and Wetherspoons seemingly at odds with what people think Camden is about, yet judging by the footfall clearly not rejected by visitors. In wet weather, it’s no choice at all – that footbridge is a slippery deathtrap – but it’s bone-dry for now.

I go through the Market. I’m actually a little hungry at this point but too overwhelmed (both by the options available and the number of people) to make a decision. Unfortunately, lunchtime is the worst time to go to a food market. Still, the smells, various meats being cooked with various spices, are intoxicating. My nose is salivating. One stall is selling artisanal cheese toasties, which might be the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard but I’m so tempted to give in to stupidity. In the end I don’t. I head upstairs with the intention of making another pit-stop but find that the Gents is currently being cleaned. You can’t even piss in Camden anymore. (more…)

Walking By Water Part II: Little Venice to Camden

Posted on February 4th, 2016


When you part ways with the canal at the Maida Tunnel, you’re dumped away from the water and back out into the city. It’s only a brief interlude back into the built-up world, and it’s incredible again how once you cross the elegant facade of Edgware Road, you’re quickly taken back into the perfunctory brick rectangles that are swept behind it.

A sickly yellow Regents Canal sign peeks through an alleyway into a council estate, indicating the way back to water. With the large metal fences and barb wire toppings, suddenly the canal feels a lot less romantic and a lot more menacing. There’s still no actual access to the canal again yet as the footpath follows up top whilst the canal itself creates a ravine through the estate. It seems notable that the estate is refused access to the canal, the prestige waterfront, although the college opposite seems to have a private garden overlooking the canal. I remember someone once talking about how poor the access points on the canal were, and how poorly thought out the access from the estate onto the main streets seemed to be here. “It’s almost as if the the Westminster Councillors who live nearby didn’t want people from the estate mixing with them”. Indeed. (more…)