So lockdown is continuing and you have to stay local. Look no further. This route along the Regents Canal cuts through a number of West London neighbourhoods and is a green riverside walk in the heart of London. The route takes in historic cemeteries, hidden gardens, brutalist architecture and a little bit of Venice. Here is my top five list of places to visit along the Regents Canal.
All of this is a stones throw from numerous London Underground and Overground stations and you can easily join the canal from the following: Kensal Green, Queens Park, Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park, Warwick Avenue, Paddington and Maida Vale.
Grand Union Canal (Paddington Arm) and Regents Canal:
This route takes you along the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal and down to the Regents Canal. The Regents Canal deserves a post as it connects West, North and East London. The Grand Union Canal connects Birmingham to London and was fully opened in 1805. It provided a safer and faster mode of transport and trade, connecting the two industrial cities. Eventually the canals would be overtaken by the railways. However, today, this once industrial piece of infrastructure now provides London with a well-needed corridor for both wildlife and Londoners.
1. Kensal Green Cemetery:
This cemetery is one of the Magnificent 7 cemeteries and some bodies used to arrive by narrow boat. It was completed in 1833 and is home to some notable people: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Andrew Duncan (a circus stunt man who is buried in an eccentric tomb) and Kelso Cochrane. Cochrane was a victim of a racist attack in Ladbroke Grove in 1959. His funeral was partly organised by Claudia Jones who would go onto campaign for justice and organise Notting Hill Carnival. People lined Ladbroke Grove for the funeral procession which passed through up the hill to Kensal Green Cemetery. For more information about the Magnificent 7 check out this article. https://www.treadoutoftime.com/post/the-magnificent-7
2. Meanwhile Gardens:
Hidden in the shadow of Trellick Tower is the Meanwhile Gardens. It was Jamie McCollough's idea, to transform a section of derelict land in, what was then a working class area, to a communal garden. This was in 1976 and he gathered what resources he could to make the project work and brought the community together to create something wonderful. Today it is a beautiful nature garden and community space. The garden is used by local schools for nature projects and by the charity Mind to help local people with mental health difficulties. The Playhut is a purpose-built, eco-friendly community centre for young children. There is even a skate bowl which I remember coming down to as a teenager. The garden also provides a rehearsal space for the award winning steel band, The Metronomes Steel Orchestra. Check them out here https://metronomes.org.uk/
Unfortunately, it is under threat from Kensington and Chelsea Council. The Factory Building on site does not have a lease, and the council see it as prime real estate for luxury flats. Support the campaign to save the Meanwhile garden at https://grow.meanwhile-gardens.org.uk/
3. Trellick Tower:
Trellick Tower is a brutalist monument that towers over West London. It was designed by architect Erno Goldfinger and was completed in 1972 just as brutalist architecture was falling out of favour. It was built on foundations of utopian dreams of communities in the sky. However, these dreams and ideals did not play out in reality and soon the tower became known as 'terror tower' with crime rampant. Residents lived in fear with some even asking family members to help escort them home. However, by the 80s the fortunes of the block changed and it became a grade ii listed building in 1998, making it a desirable place to live. The surrounding area has undergone rapid gentrification and residents of the tower have complained that some of the new wealthier residents care little about community and were more concerned about their flat as an investment. Nonetheless, a high proportion of Trellick Tower's flats remain occupied by council tenants.
4. Little Venice
Little Venice needs little introduction. This is a picturesque tourist hot spot. It is where the Grand Union Canal joins the Regents Canal. Once upon a time it was part of the industrial waterways and the canal boats would travel down to the warehouses in Camden and Kings Cross. The origins of the name are debated. Nonetheless, the name stuck and was seen as a great marketing opportunity for estate agents. The architecture of the area is in the Regency Style and was included in the architect John Nash’s grand plan for the Prince Regent.
5. Clifton Nursery:
Just off the canal is Clifton Nursery. This is London’s oldest garden center and is located in a courtyard behind the ornate houses that look onto the canal. It is a lovely space to wander around. My favourite part is the greenhouse where you can browse the selection of house plants. It started life in 1851 when the houses surrounding were built and before the end of the Victorian age it’s greenhouses had become London’s second largest palm house. First place, of course, being awarded to Kew.
Thanks for reading this post. I hope you have fun exploring the Grand Union Canal. Please share this article with anyone who you think might find it interesting. Hopefully, you will be able to join me on a tour soon. In the meantime have fun exploring local London and tread out of time.