Canal Dreams

I’m gadding about a bit at the moment – spent Tuesday night pretending to be an expert at the NewCycling AGM (I don’t think they rumbled me) and then yesterday I came down to that London where I had to get myself, bags and Brompton from Kings Cross to Wormwood Scrubs, as you do. The obvious answer would have been the tube, but I had plenty of time and the Brompton remains an awkward travelling companion in anything other than bike mode. A quick glance at the map (eek!), consultation with Google directions bicycle mode (double eek – since when do A roads count as bicycle friendly, Google map people?) and finally an appeal to Twitter (aha) revealed that I could get there almost entirely along the canal towpaths. Somehow in my imagination London has developed a semi-tropical climate in the years since I used to live there so the prospect of an afternoon gliding along in warm spring sunshine beckoned.

My train arrived a little late into Kings Cross, where they have done something very peculiar to the space-time fabric – possibly opening the portal at Platform 9 and 3/4 – but I found my way out heading north and quickly found the canal where a brand new plaza gives access to the tow path to pedestrians, very adventurous wheelchair users, and Danny Mackaskill

steps down to canal

What were they thinking?

Consultation with a passing cyclist revealed that yes, that was the way down for bikes too and after negotiating a mere million chicanes past the moored boats (fair enough, I suppose) and wheeled the bike through Camden Lock market, I was soon gliding along as I had hoped, albeit sans spring sunshine and through what felt very like south west Scotland rain.

Regents canal in the rain

It was still magical to pedal along in peace beneath the busy grind of London life, past gleaming mansions and the zoo, almost alone apart from some very fancy looking ducks. It was especially magical as I could hear the roar of the traffic on the roads I wasn’t having to negotiate. I nodded hello to the few oncoming yellow-jacketed cyclists I encountered who uniformly ignored me (obviously – how could they see me without my hi vis?) and the pedestrians, who didn’t, and got some very detailed instructions from a resident in one of the boats on how to make the interchange from Regents Canal to the Grand Union which I still managed to mess up by ending up on the private side rather than the hoi polloi’s public towpath side. Then it was back up another flight of steps with a reluctant Brompton in tow (Bromptons with fully laden baskets don’t really do wheeling ramps) and enough on-street cycling to remind me that – in the great scale of things – bus lanes really aren’t cycling infrastructure, although at least they don’t have flights of steps to negotiate.Regents Canal


And then it was home via the tube, with my now folded companion making itself as awkward as possible (stuck in the tube gate, getting in the way, becoming heavier and heavier on the apparently three-mile walk betwen the entrance to Willesden Junction and the platform) reminding me why on the whole, bike is best.


3 Responses to Canal Dreams

  1. velovoiceblogspot says:

    Glad you made it okay! The “interchange” bits — whether from street to canal or from one canal to another — are always stressful for me. I always feel like the directions were formulated by someone from a different planet. Or maybe it’s me that’s from a different planet. I don’t know. Anyway, sometimes I stick to the busy roads just to avoid the frustration. :/

  2. CJ says:

    I’m admiring your bravery. But well done for finding all of those tow paths. And surviving the bus lanes. I do not remember city cycling fondly.

  3. disgruntled says:

    @velovoice – I find my poor navigational skills make the busy roads even less attractive – at least with canals (interchanges aside) it’s hard to get lost
    @CJ – no bravery required really. I certainly wouldn’t have tackled it without the canal option

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