Friday 25 August 2023

London Canal Museum

Today's Canals : Paddington Arm, Regents Canal

We had to leave our Paddington pontoon by 12 midday but the space at the London Canal Museum was not available until 4 (or 4.15 or 4.30 or later depending on which bit of the museums info you took!)

As a result we left leaving until 11:30 and fitted in a diversion to the boater facilities at the far side of Brownings Pool. But first we had to go right to the end of the basin where there is sufficient room to turn the boat around without endangering anything else moored alongside, especially the GoBoats.

We then were ready to head back to the junction. Here are several more of the large boats permanently moored as drinking or eating places.

At Brownings Pool we turned left (but later will later onto the Regents Canal to the right)

At the narrows there was already a boat just starting to take on water. That was not a priority but disposals were so we hung about in the narrows long enough to empty elsans and rubbish bins. However by the time we had done that the other boat was moving off so we went back to Plan A and filled up with water. (By then we had discovered that the information about the museum mooring was often conflicting and it may or may not have water for moorers! And Christine had put on a load of washing)

This gave us time to take some more pictures from on the top of the bridge - firstly the former Toll Office now a local office for CaRT staff.

And a more panoramic view of the Pool.

Eventually the tank was full and we could begin today's cruise properly - and the sun came out as we passed under the bridge into the Pool.

As we emerged from Maida Vale Tunnel, one of the several trip boats arrived and gave us just enough room to pass - the exit is on a distinct bend into the mooring basin beyond.

We noticed this electrical equipment on the far side - we later discovered that it is a electricity distribution substation, said to be one of the most complex operated on the National Grid. It is the main supply point for the borough of Westminster as well as that of Kensington and Chelsea. No sweat there if it ever breaks down!

The next section along the northern edge of Regents Park has some rather splendid properties. If you think this one must have expensive gardeners to keep the lawns so immaculate, fear not, it is artificial. Owning a vast mansion does not stop being naff!

The Snowdon Aviary, part of London Zoo, was originally built in 1965 and was unusual at the time as being 'walk through' for visitors. Last year it was re-purposed as home to the zoo's collection of colobus monkeys - but we could did not see any.

Camden Market is alongside three locks - sometimes known as Camden Lock but really none have this name - the top one is called Hampstead Road Lock.

When we have passed through here in the past it was this lock that attracted most of the onlookers, spilling out from the variety of street food vendors now occupying much of the market. (As soon as the camera came out, many felt the need to wave at it!)

To our surprise there were three volunteers on duty today, covering all three locks which speeded up our descent considerably.

The success of the venue has led to expansion down the flight and there are plenty of gongoozlers at each one.

Below the locks there has been plenty of re-development but we suspect that the architect here had more of the Titanic than narrowboat on his mind when drawing up the sketches of it.

When we reached our final lock of the day at St Pancras we were again pleased to see three lock keepers, They were amused when we said that we need to go slowly through the lock as we were early for our mooring at the museum!

This has been a really imaginative and innovative treatment of a former gas works site - unlike that at Kensal Green. The work began around 8 years or more ago when the structures of three gas holders were taken down and transported to a specialist in the north of the country. Once they were again fit for purpose they were re-assembled back where they had been before, One now has a light and airy open garden in the middle whilst the others provide a setting for two blocks of apartments. The design of these well reflects the origins of the structures and has a strong sense of architectural integrity.

With still the better part of an hour before we could arrive at our overnight mooring, we cheekily paused on the less-used lock landing (to a boat arriving below the lock the other side looks more the place to go). Immediately there is the entrance to Coal Drops Yard. In the mid 19C, as the railway network began to expand nationally, a new line was built from what is now Kings Cross to Peterborough, Doncaster and York. This allowed the coat from the Nottingham, coalfield and others further north to be transported down to London at what was then unimaginably cheap prices. As the Bridgewater Canal did for manchester a little earlier, so this fuelled a rapid expansion of economic activity in the capital.

The Coal Drops were built on three levels. At the top, wagons were shunted in and dropped their loads onto the next level below where they were sorted and graded. From there they were again dropped down to ground level to be loaded onto horse drawn carts for local distribution.

One of the developers of the Coal Drops was Samuel Plimsoll who later, as a politician, was instrumental in legislating on the safe loading of ships and today, world wide, the Plimsoll Line is used to mark the depth to which a ship can be loaded.

Eventually, by the turn of the 20C, the site was ripe for redevelopment, all of its industrial and transport activities now consigned to history. The conversion into a retail site, with a large number of small businesses and market stalls has really retained much of the feel of the past and sympathetically transformed it.

Time eventually to move on and find our overnight spot. Just below the last lock is a small nature reserve with these intriguing spaces alongside the canal.

We turned into Battlebridge Basin and, at the far end, there was just enough room for us to tie up outside the museum. After a bit of effort we eventually found the code for the gate and water but two of the volunteers at the museum were especially welcoming.. Christine later went for a wander around the local streets and shops and nearly ended up catching a train at Kings Cross Station, but finally made it back in time for dinner.

Hopefully we will be able to take some pictures of the basin in the morning!

4.1 Miles - 4 Locks

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