Regent’s Canal – London
One of the best things about living in Kings Cross – apart from the central location – was the area’s proximity to Regent’s Canal. And thanks to our flat’s incredible location on the back of Battlebridge Basin the distance between our place and the Grand Union Towpath was no more than a few minutes walk.
Often I would find myself out on the path, leisurely walking up to Camden. A walk which would take no more than 30 minutes. On a sunny day (Yes! London does see the sun), I would happily while away the minutes strolling along the waterway that flows behind St Pancras Station, passing colourful Long Boats as they steadily navigated their way through the manually operated locks.
Apart from occasionally having to move out of the way for bike traffic and ducking under low lying bridges, the stroll to Camden is pleasant and generally uninterrupted. The walk for the most part is scenic, yet in some sections it’s somewhat bare and not particularly pretty. However in saying that, just being so close to water outweighs the sparseness l think.
Actually, Regent’s Canal and the urban landscape that surrounds it has seen a huge amount of redevelopment in the past few years, and it continues to do so. The once graffiti covered bridges, gleam with freshly coated paint and benches now line the waterway. Sadly the canal is still prone to careless rubbish dumpling, despite the regeneration movement. Certainly the odd Tesco carrier bag can be seen floating about.
Yet despite the rubbish, which is a reflection of some mindless folk rather that the canal itself, the walk along the former towpath is an easy and enjoyable way to get to Camden. So if you do get the chance or have the time I would definitely recommend it, especially as it means avoiding the hoards of people getting off the Tube at Camden Town.
If the noise from the gossiping youngsters sitting on the waters edge isn’t a big enough signal to tell you you’ve reached Camden, there are plenty of signposts to tell you you’ve arrived at your destination and to exit via the ramp.
Also, Regent’s Canal does not just stop at Camden nor does it start at Kings Cross. Both are mere points along the 13.8 kilometres stretch of waterway. If you’re feeling energetic, adventurous or both, from Camden simply continue west along the path and you will eventually reach Paddington Basin passing through Regent’s Park and Little Venice. Where as if you continue east on the path from Kings Cross you’ll end up walking towards Hackney Wick and further afield Limehouse Basin.
Exploring on Foot – London
Whist living in London, often I would venture out, with no particular destination in mind and aimlessly walk around town. Leaving our flat in West Hampstead (North London) in the morning, sometimes I would walk for miles to areas across town like London Bridge (South London). And in doing so I was able to take in an incredible amount and a wonderful array of sights along the way: Abbey Road, Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park, Oxford Street, Soho, Trafalgar Square, The River Thames just to name a few.
On these walks, time and again, I would also find myself discovering new areas, hidden gardens, concealed passageways, historic streets and interesting sights. Each new discovery revealed an exciting, new side of London that I never knew existed, despite my thinking that I knew the city so well.
These new frames of London, made me realise that I had barely scratched the city’s surface, making me that much more eager to get out explore and look a little harder at my surrounds. Even the simple act of turning down a different street than I was used to would be an adventure, offering up a whole new world of sights and sounds.
Whether you’re new in town or just visiting London for a few days, I strongly suggest that you do the same. Put your oyster card away and instead take to the pavement. London is such a walkable city. Yes, the area that the city covers is extensive but I found that there is so much to see and it’s often missed by taking the Tube.
Don’t get me wrong the Tube is awesome. It is an incredibly fast and efficient way to get from A to B, but experiencing a city is not just about hitting up all the major tourist sites and attractions quickly, it’s also about getting a real feel and sense of character of the place you’re in. I happen to believe you can get this from walking the streets and looking out for the less obvious signs of cultural identity (both past and present), which tell a story just as compelling as the more obvious and well known ones do.
Similarly for me, it’s not all about the final destination but rather the things you find along the way. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote ‘it’s about the journey and not the destination’. And what I mean by that in reference to London is that the history of London is written in the streets. The period architecture, the cobble stoned streets, the street names themselves, collectively offer a glimpse of yesteryear. Along with monuments, plaques, and physical battle scars they show a city that has both seen and felt the effects of the deathly plague, the devastation of the Great Fire, the destruction of both world wars and the rule of the monarchy.
Being constantly in awe of my surrounds on occasion I would go on little London photo shoots, by myself, with Nick or with friends (Dannii) who shared the same passion for London as I did. Snap happy we would walk around London for hours. It helps that London is such a photographic city. Everywhere you turn there is a scene to capture, a moment to record, a part of history both past and present to remember and look back on.
I’d be very happy to spend the rest of my days walking the streets of London with eyes wide open and be amazed by how much history there is in this city.
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