Running the length of Regents Canal, you would very quickly complete 16km plus. But today is not that day, and tomorrow does not look good either. Starting at Little Venice and leading to the Docklands, the canal offers a snapshot of London’s backyards – immaculate, soaring town houses and their riverside gardens, high rise flats, Camden Lock Market, down trodden estates, bickering family outings, angry cyclists, rough sleepers and freshly awoken revellers.
For now, a piece by piece approach is definitely in order. Today’s section? Camden Town to the Islington Tunnel.
By tube: Camden Road - there's also the 46, 247, 214 and 253 which stop a minute from the canal. Start / finish: Camden Lock / Royal College Street Length: 2.5km Yes: flat - barely brushing the heady heights of 33m above sea level, limited pedestrians, no traffic, no crossing roads, no navigating* No: cyclists, deserted (and slightly risky) at night*when you reach Islington Tunnel - one of the longest covered Canal tunnels in Europe - you need to leave the Canal and make you way through Islington to rejoin it on the other side.
The slightly swaying canal surface does nothing for my Soho-induced hangover. The best way to approach this stretch of river is to avoid the bustle of Camden Lock and opt for the Royal College Street entrance (conveniently next to a bus stop and the overground station). The ramp down gently eases you in.
From then on it’s simply a case of dodging cyclists and dog walkers. Weekends are busiest, whereas during the week the canal side empties out. The greenery is impressive. Overhanging willows breakup the industrial developments. Despite being less photogenic than other stretches of the canal, it has a lot to offer. There are no gleaming spires and limited town houses, but there are community gardens and the rejuvenated King’s Cross breathes fresh air and space into what could be a claustrophobic jog.
The canal reaches its limits at the Islington Tunnel, marking a neat half way point for those who started in Little Venice. More on navigating Islington’s streets next time.
Safe, well travelled yet not too busy – this is a great balance between underpopulated and rape-alley scenarios and over used tracts. For commuting home from the City it’s also a brilliant option. It bypasses the traffic and illogical streets, streamlining your run home.