Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes – 06.10.2013

Our Autumn walk begun in Alperton, and was take us along part of the “Paddington Branch” of the Grand Union Canal. The Canal had been constructed at the beginning of the C19th, bringing prosperity to the area, and barge trips to visit the local Pleasure Boat Public House! As trade grew so did the unfortunate sanitation conditions in Alperton, because it suffered as a direct result of factory output such as rotten fish and oil *ew smelly!*. Canal usage declined over the years with the introduction of the railway, but it popularity has now been revived with holiday boats rather than trade ones. The Alperton Canal towpath did have one brief moment in fame on TV when it was used as the scene of the Eastenders episode in which Dirty Den Watts appeared to die when he was shot and fell into the canal.

We strolled along the canal, where we encountered our first bridge of the walk. This was “Manor Farm Road Bridge”, this whole road was titled after the largest arable farm that was the area. Right up until the C18th/early C19th the region was entirely rural and farming was its staple income. The name Alperton itself derives from “the farm of Eahlbeort”! We continued under the bridge and made our way along the towpath, which has recently been renovated, which made it rather nice to walk down. Whilst strolling on, we glanced across the canal and spotted a golf course, although nice did seem odd to be beside a Canal! I had potential visions of quite a few enthusiastic golfers losing golf balls into the canal, and being unable to fetch them (unless they had a diving suit LOL)

From 2013 – 06.10.2013 – Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes Walk

Just beyond the golf course, we noticed a rather large wooden “woodpecker”, I am a little disappointed that I am unable to find much anything about it. This impressive bird, seemed to part of some private canal barge moorings which ran for quite some way along the canal. As we wandered on a little further I saw a sign for Horsenden Hill, but we felt that we would visit that on another occasion. Despite not finding out about the bird above, I have a feeling that the area we spotted across the river may have been part of the Horsenden Hill Visitor Centre? Passing on the opportunity to walk the hill, we walked under two iron bridges, one of which has the tell tales signs of when the Canal was in use by canal boats pulled by horses. The Tow Rope marks from the horses shear strength would have been destroyed by a brick, therefore an iron corner was installed to ensure that the ropes did not fray. Eventually, the ropes literally ate into the iron, wearing a rope mark into it, these are still visible to this day!

Passing beneath the bridge, just to the left of us, I spotted some open ground. The land in question was part of the “Perivale Wood Local Nature Reserve”, just behind the grassy land, is a woodland, mainly made up of Oak. If we had time to explore the entire reserve, it is actually 27 acres (11 hectare) which could have taken some time to do! Ambling on, we came across a large wooden footbridge, I was not sure where it went, but it did look very picturesque. I was particularly struck when the light of the canal water reflected on the bridge, it did make everything look peaceful. Feeling quite calm we walked onwards until we came across another crossing over the canal. It was here we were treated to a rather lovely sight of a diving Cormorant! It must have been a rich place for fish as he definitely caught a few! After we spotted the bird of prey in Walton, I doubted if we would be treated to any other sights like this again!

From 2013 – 06.10.2013 – Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes Walk

Our walk had now taken us to Greenford, where in the early C19th, it had been considered a secluded place and a place to have a trip away from the city of London. However, like Alperton, by the mid C19th this all changed when William Perkins opened his Chemical Factory near the canal. This is where he invented a new dye known as “Mauveine”, named this due to it’s lavender colour. The canal was no longer used for pleasure trips, but for transporting industrial goods to and from the area. Further on down the canal, the towpath crosses its own bridge, which actually is the entrance to a very small marina. I am wondering if this was where the large factories in Greenford used to take deliveries of their goods from the canal? We continued to follow the path beyond the small marina along the canal,to take us to another bridge, which was decorated with lovely china mosaics designed by a local school. I am still a bit bemused as to the reference to the brass of Henry Rowdell which is in St Mary’s Church in Northolt, perhaps if someone could enlighten me?

We sauntered along this stretch of the canal, enjoying the varied scenery we encountered, we even found a spot to sit down and have our sandwiches and gaze over the canal for a short while. Once we had rested and started along the path once more, I spotted another place we could have sat down to eat, some nice wooden blocks to sit on. These 4 blocks had been lovingly carved with pictures of swans and of Greenfords industrial past. It’s almost a shame not many people see them! It was not before long we were treated to yet a another set of mosaics by some local students, I must admit they really do brighten up those dull bridges! Once we had walked underneath it was quite a nice surprise to see on the opposite side of the bank quite a number of canal barges moored in a large wharf.

From 2013 – 06.10.2013 – Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes Walk

This is “WillowTree Marina”, a large 5 acre Marina surrounded by leisure facilities, house local businesses. This was originally an industrial wharf for canal boats to transport locally made clay bricks far and wide, it was said that some of the bricks were used to build Buckingham Palace! The wharf had not only been used for bricks but to ship explosives during WWI and WWII, it was also used by the GPO as a communications centre! The Marina is also now part of the “Hillingdon trail” walk, which signs we had spotted en-route. I have encountered the Hillingdon trail before when I walked some of the Grand Union previously, it was nice to come across it again, perhaps one day I will walk all 20 miles of it!

Eventually the path was to take us above the canal and over a road to reach the other part of the canal tow path. For a wild moment, I thought we could go no further as our path was completely blocked, by a whole load of Swans no less! They seemed to own the tow path and no-one was going to get by! We had to take a detour by the little road behind the muddy path and hop over a fence further along to get back on route! No wonder the tow path renovations didn’t get any further the Swans obviously stopped them! The path past this point was unlike the first part, it was much narrower and muddy to walk.

It was not long before we reached a white brick bridge known as “Bulls Bridge”. It was here we had met up with the main branch of the Grand Union Canal. This branch of the Grand Union winds it way to Braunston in Birmingham, but from here I was not sure how far I would have to walk and I was not attempting all of that today! Just as we started to stroll on, we were overpowered by a strong smell of percolated coffee, which was rather nice whilst we walked along. This was all down to the rather large Nestle Factory which was on the other bank of the canal. Drifting along with the delicious smell of coffee we found a way off the canal to end our walk for the day, when we reached the Hayes.

To look at the photos from the walk please click on the photo below –

2013 – 06.10.2013 – Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes Walk



2 responses to “Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Hayes – 06.10.2013

  1. Pingback: Grand Union Canal – Alperton – Paddington Basin – 23.02.2014 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

  2. Pingback: High Barnet – Chingford – Via London Loop – 27.04.2014 « Karen's Sponsored Walks

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