Baker Street – Islington Walk – Via Grand Union Canal

“Winding your way down on Baker Street…” Gerry Rafferty, Baker Street.

The familiar lyrics rang in my head as we were headed on our walk along this famous street once again. We found ourselves passing by the very famous Sherlock Holmes museum, and I began to ponder if it was the very 221b we had walked by… The street was extremely busy and we had to fight our way through the crowds as we were headed towards Regents Park. We reached the park entrance, and soon discovered that this part of the park was much less orderly than where we had walked the previously, it was still nice to encounter another side of the park! It was far more relaxed in nature, under the trees the people were eating picnics and runners and walkers were taking advantage of the good weather. It was also nice to see that there were a number of people taking the boats out on the lake and enjoying the summer sunshine, it was very relaxing indeed 🙂 We strolled around the lake savouring the delights of the park and the sunshine, only for the path to take us into a small woodland area, which felt very enclosed, it was not for long as it was emerge once more into open grassland. It was here we were treated the lovely sight of some beautiful wooden sculptures, including a little girl and a fox.

Coming out from the park we were led out to the Outer Circle road, which surrounds the entire park. We cut across the road and followed the path which was to led us to the Grand Union Canal which we decided to join and stroll along for the rest of the day. Once we had started walking along the towpath, I was much amused to see that someone had put some sculptures of the Penguins of Madagascar, alongside some Rockhopper penguins, attempting to dive into the Canal. I presume that this was created by one of the London Zoo employees, as this stretch of the canal runs alongside Regents Park zoo. As we walked along we could just about peer inside it and see some of the animals that reside there. Walking much further along, beyond the zoo, the canal became surrounded by larger regency houses, many of which would have been built in the early C19th for the wealthy. Many of which wanted to look out on this canal, a reminder of when we walked near Little Venice. We took our time to walk along this part of the towpath, so we could really take in the sights and sounds, of the canal.

From 2014 – 26.07.2014 – Baker Street – Islington Walk

We soon came across two art installations, one other side of the canal, and I am still unsure if it Amy Winehouse with Angels? If so, I really unsure what a figure of someone looking like Moses was doing there! (I am sure someone can help me with this!). We also spotted wall spray art, which I was not sure if it was Graffiti or art! Beyond the art installations, I could not really believe my eyes, but there was a castle in front of me! Yes a castle on the grand union canal, maybe not the one we would expect from the ones I had found in the countryside of Britain, but still a castle! The Pirates of Camden, were not Pirates and Camden did not have a Castle … this whole building belongs to the “Pirate Club”, which was established in the 1960’s by Lord St David. The local youth kept asking him “Can we row your boat, Mister?” and all it took was for him to say yes once and he was unable to say no anymore! More and more boats were needed to meet the demand of the local children, so it was not long before it was necessary a permanent home and a boat club was to be set up. The club thrived and grew over the next few years, it even survived when tragedy struck and local vandals burnt down the clubhouse. It is good to know that it is alive and well today! I think we even spotted a Millennium beacon situated on top of the clubhouse which would have been lit not only at the turn of the Century but for the Queens Jubilee perhaps??

We walked past the castle and walked onto Camden main high road, so we could tackle the hustle and bustle of the high street, just so we could pick up some supplies for lunch. In order to return to the other side of the Canal, we fought our way through the crowds of Camden Market. It was so busy at Camden Lock, we decided not to stop at the there to eat, as all the spaces had gone! We therefore rambled onwards along the towpath, which was no longer dominated by Georgian houses or indeed castles. The canal’s landscape had been taken over by modern buildings or in places converted warehouses. Much further down the path, a Gothic building looked into view, a welcome change from the modern buildings that we had been encountering. It came closer as we approached St. Pancras Lock, it easier to see that it was a water tower. The tower would have been built for the mighty Steam Engines which served Kings Cross Station during C19th / early C20th. It’s Gothic structure was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and was originally part of the St Pancras Hotel and Station, but it had to be physically relocated when the link to the Channel Tunnel was built.

From 2014 – 26.07.2014 – Baker Street – Islington Walk

Opposite the gothic tower, was an imposing steel structure soaring into the sky. This was “Gas Holder No.8”, an Iron Gas Storage holder built in 1850s by the Imperial Gas, Light and Coke Company which was part of the largest gas works in London! This Victorian construction, has been Grade II listed was fully restored to its former glory, and sits in a new housing and landscaped development in Kings Cross. I am so glad that it is as I would rather be walking past that than a smelly Gas Works! As we continued around the corner, we soon realised how much the area was been renovated, people were enjoying a sit down by the canal watching the world go by, so nice to see in the hustle and bustle of London. I even spotted some lovely poetry that adorned one of the walls nearby, which I have discovered to be part of the Kings Cross Poetry Trail. I really wish we had time to enjoy this more, but we felt we wanted to continue our enjoyable walk onwards. The towpath was very much under renovation, and was diverted onto I would term a “floating” towpath on top of the canal! I found this very disconcerting to say the least!

The towpath rejoined solid ground soon enough, we carried straight onwards with our journey, only to find that it was not long before that the path came to an end. The path ended at a tunnel were as the canal just carried onwards into the darkness. This was the “Islington Tunnel”, which was constructed in the early C19th and considered a major feat of engineering on the Regents canal. When the tunnel originally opened boaters had to use their legs to guide there boat through, a few years later a steam chain tug was introduced, one of the earliest uses of steam power on the canals. Now boats go through this grade II listed tunnel under their own steam! As you may have guessed the path does not follow the tunnel at all, we had to follow the tunnel from above. The tunnel is signposted but, it was difficult to locate them as they were small and embedded in the pavement. Unfortunately it was due to this we did lose our way slightly and we had to guide ourselves through Islington to locate the next piece of the puzzle! After some legwork, we rediscovered the canal once more, but we decided not to stay on it too long as it was late in the afternoon, so we found a route off it and walked to Essex Road Station to finish our walk fro the day!

Please feel free to look at all the photos from the walk –

2014 – 26.07.2014 – Baker Street – Islington Walk

A map of the walk is as follows –

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