My pictorial series of blog posts on my new London Canal Private Walking Tour continues eastwards along Regents Canal. Part one was about Canals in general and then we started off in the Paddington Basin and then on Monday were at Little Venice.
Given that we have just left Little Venice then it is now surprise that for first mile or so we are passing through a rather swanky neighbourhood which might loosely be known as Maida Vale.
There is a scheme in Britain that if you make an extremely positive contribution to life then you get awarded a blue plaque on the wall of your home. It doesn’t matter if you are an engineer, writer, scientist, musician or even a politician! Sadly no-one gets to see their own blue plaque as it isn’t awarded until 20 years after your death so I am counting on one of my younger readers to link a photo of mine to my blog one day 🙂
Some areas such as Bloomsbury have more blue plaques than you’d know what to do with whilst others have barely any. I guess it depends on what your recognition is for and those in the public eye often have money and money tends to flock to certain places. Such is the case here and as you walk along past the boats and fines houses you will see all manner of blue plates.
The Poet Laureate is an official position created by the government and the poet honoured by such a title is then tasked to write on certain grandiose occasions such as Royal Weddings, historic anniversaries and great public events or openings. John Masefield is also well known for his works including one my favourite, Sea Fever.
Other figures include the extremely popular comic actor Arthur Lowe from the long running television series Dads Army.
Another historic figure is that go Guy Gibson whose blue plaque above gives and indication that he won a Victoria Cross on the heroic Dambusters Raid with those infamous bouncing bombs. It was one of, if not the most, impossible aerial mission of the entire Second World War where bombers were tasked to fly down deep rocky valleys surrounded by defensive guns with the aim of breaking the dams and so hindering the electricity production in the German industrial heartlands. In fact it was recently deduced that the epic Star Wars finale is a shot for shot re-creation of that incredibly famous raid.
You can see two videos below, the first with Dambusters synced with the Star Wars Audio and the second with side by side comparison shots.
Sadly Guy didn’t survive the war but is here commemorated for posterity at his former home.
For about a third of a mile or a few hundred metres, the canal actually goes underground, perhaps the rich residents at the time didn’t want to see the once industrial boats chugging by their houses. Showing how much things have changed, this restaurant seems to have been deliberately built to make the best of the canal.
One of the things about London and indeed most British cities is that nice neighbourhoods sit happily along less affluent places. Gated Communities isn’t really in our culture and so there are parts of the canal that definitely don’t need much imagination to go back a century or two.
Here we can see a Chilterns train passing overhead and the second bridge immediately behind (and below) is for the Metropolitan Line of London Underground, a line I have ridden on thousands of times but never seen it from this position.
On a nicer and warmer day that wasn’t in February then were would be more than the odd errant teenage cyclist riding along here. The wide towpaths were originally for the horses to pull the boats along before the introduction of engines.
Above a small canal boat or longboat goes merrily on its way. The speed of the boats are limited to walking speed so as not to damage the habitats found in the canal banks in less concrete areas of the route.
Coming up from the canal for a moment midway between Baker Street and St Johns Wood on an otherwise innocuous roundabout is this excellent statue of Saint George slaying the dragon.
Just 30 seconds away is the corner of Lords Cricket Ground. The spiritual home of Cricket with Marylebone Cricket Club being about the same age as the United States, it must surely be the oldest professional sporting club in the world. These days Lords is still busy and also hosts Middlesex County Cricket matches as well as England games which regularly draw 30,000 fans for 5 day matches.
I’ve just got my County Cricket Season ticket and am looking forward to my first 4-day country game in early April!
Just around the corner and sitting almost next to Regents Canal is London Central Mosque, for a long time one of the largest mosques in Britain and in keeping with its surroundings, certainly one of the most grandiose.
Plans for the mosque were put in place by Winston Churchill during WW2, mainly due to the importance that was placed on India (and now also Pakistan and Bangladesh) in the war and the Empire in general. However it was completed for several decades.
Perhaps a little ironically for both sides, the mosque is next door neighbours to the home of the American Ambassador.
As one might expect, the American Ambassador lives in quite a nice part of town and it is here that we reach the fringes of Regents Park, once a favoured hunting ground of King Henry VIII who believe it to be a good horse ride away from Whitehall.
If a one bedroom flat/apartment can cost in the tens of millions of pounds in a relatively banal or even run-down part of London, can you even guess what the dozen or so of houses around this part might cost?
I hope you enjoyed this contrasting leg of the walk which in truth is only a mile or so in length but it gives a good idea of some of the incredibly diverse things you can see on the way as well as proving the canals remain a great route through London, then as now.
We’ll be back here again with a blog post that will literally go off with a bang!