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The Regents Canal flowing past Victoria Park
and onwards

The Regents Canal - Alongside Victoria Park

The Regents Canal flows alongside Victoria Park for a short part of it’s journey across London. When I was a child it was separated from the actual park completely by a tall iron fence. Now however there are gates allowing access to it which makes it an extension to the park itself. It is now a very pleasant place to be, unlike the rubbish tip of years ago. A great deal has been done to make use of both the waterway and the banks as a leisure facility for everyone. Boat, narrow boats, sailboards and canoes make use of the water while cyclists and walkers use the banks as a shortcut across the area or simply for a relaxing stroll or ride. Unfortunately on hot Summer days it gets very crowded and there are some very aggressive cyclists who choose to ignore the "Pedestrian priority" signs and love the sound of their own ding ding!. Why they have to use the canal path on a busy day rather than the road is beyond me.

The barge horses

The geography

I think the horse in the photo is on the Regents Canal, not sure. We used to watch them as kids pulling great barges full of cargo up and down the "cut", as we called it. The ropes eroded deep grooves in the brickwork of the bridges. This was overcome on some of the sharper bends where the rope pulled tighter by fixing a metal post to the structure. The smoother surface of the metal also stopped the fibres of the rope being worn away too quickly. It was a common site at the time but died out in a very short period.
There are many barges or narrow boats on the canal today but along with the small motor cruisers that are also quite numerous, they are for pleasure and accommodation rather than trade. You will find hundreds moored along most of the length of the canal since the rise in house prices. They have installed electricity supply boxes on the bank for their use.

The Regent's Canal forms a junction with the old Grand Junction Canal at Little Venice, a short distance north of Paddington Basin. After passing through the Maida Hill and Lisson Grove tunnels, the canal curves round the northern edge of Regent's Park and bisects London Zoo. It continues through Camden Town and King's Cross Central, formerly known as the Railway Lands. It performs a sharp bend at the Camley Street Natural Park, following the street known as Goods Way. Continuing eastwards beyond the Islington tunnel, it forms the southern end of Broadway Market in East London and then meets the Hertford Union Canal by Victoria Park. After that it turns south towards the Limehouse Basin where today it also meets the Limehouse Cut. At this point the canal ends and the River Thames begins.

Sticklebacks, bedsteads and the odd sawn off shotgun!

As kids we spent quite a bit of time "down the cut". Sometimes fishing, sometimes mucking about or just watching the barges being pulled fully laden. We were sometimes putting our lives at risk from disease or drowning, by swimming in the filthy water. Apart from the Sticklebacks there was plenty of other things to be found in the murky water. There was all manor of things thrown off the bridges and from gardens that led down to the banks. I now realise how the rivers of old London came to be filled in and disappear forever by endless rubbish being dumped over the centuries. There were no supermarket trolleys in those days but old bedsteads, bicycle frames and the odd weapon were not unusual finds with a home made grappling hook. I even heard about an angler pulling out a carrier bag containing an old sawn off shotgun. The canal had taken eight years work when finished in in 1820 and if the top layer of junk hadn’t been removed from time to time it would have been filled in again just as quickly! It has gradually been dredged thoroughly over recent years and is much cleaner now. The Canal Trust and its volunteers also make a major contribution to keeping the canals clean.The Lock Keeper is now a thing of the past. At one time they would live in the cottage by their lock and open and close the gates. Now the narrow boat users have to do it themselves.

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Going uphill and downhill by the use of locks

1.The lock gates at one end are open, allowing the narrow boat to enter. The gate at the other end of the lock is holding back the water. The open gate is then closed. As there is no water pressure this is quite simple.

2.Once the boat is inside the lock and the heavy gates are closed the lock can be filled with water from the high water end. You can see the ribs on the ground to assist the grip of feet while pushing the gates open and closed.

3.One set of gates acts like a dam holding the water back. The other set now closed to prevent any water escaping, the boat owner uses a key to wind up the sluice gates. You can see the water rushing in through the hatches

4.The lock is now filled and the barge is level with the higher part of the canal. The gates at the other end prevent the water from escaping  The boat has effectively been floated up the "stair".

5.The top gates are now opened and the narrow boat is untied and floats out of the lock about ten or twelve feet higher than it was when it entered the bottom gate.

6.Once the boat has cleared the lock to head upstream to the next one, the boats that have been waiting to go down the "step" are allowed into the lock which is now full of water.

7.The lock gates at the top are closed behind the barge, the sluice gates at the other end are opened and the whole process starts over again in reverse, in order to lower it down.

8. With the sluice gates at the other open, the water flows out until the level in the lock is the same as the lower canal level. The boat in the lock has been lowered.

9.The lock keepers cottage is still there but nobody mans the lock anymore. All the work is done by the boat crew and if they are amateur the job can take a lot longer.

Forest for hire

November 2017
A walk in 2015
To the canal Museum
To Docklands
Camden to Little Venice