Today has challenged a lot of stereotypes of London weather as, instead of grey skies, rain and dreariness, we set off to ride the eastern end of the Regents Canal in sunshine and twenty something degrees. Before heading off we decide to check out Shoreditch Grind which is just on the opposite side of the Old Street roundabout. They serve excellent coffee!
It’s then onto the tube and down to Bank, to change to the DLR. Two stops later and we’re at Limehouse and the Limehouse Basin; where the Regents Canal is linked to the Thames.
It doesn’t look like many narrow boats have been coming and going through the connecting lock though, as a green slime floats on top of the water, showing little sign of disturbance.
There’s a rack of Boris bikes just to the right of that overpass you can see and we go through the routine of inserting our cards, getting the release code and liberating our trusty bikes which are free to use for the first thirty minutes. It becomes a fun challenge to ride for just under thirty minutes before finding a rack to dock the bike and then look around for a distraction; like a cafe or pub, before liberating another bike to continue on.
The canal is proving a fascinating juxtaposition of the old and the new; as the East End of London transmogrifies and the cockneys from Hackney watch the familiar blend with the unusual.
We became aware of the canal when researching our trip and noticing a couple of stretches of water near where we were planning to book an apartment in Hoxton. A bit of googling and it became clear that this was a part of London that it would be fun to explore.
The beautiful sunshine today created lovely reflections in the water and perfect conditions for the joggers and walkers out along the towpath.
Compared with the upper arm of the canal above Islington, this reach provides an elongated pool through parks and refurbished warehouses; new developments and towering reminders of the past.
I can’t help hearing the lyrics of ‘Dirty Old Town’ by Ewan Maccoll in my head as we cycle past the massive frames of the gasworks.
I met my love,
By the gas works wall.
Dreamed a dream,
By the old canal.
Apparently Maccoll was writing about Salford, but it’s easy to imagine how this part of London must also have worn the soot and dust of the industrial era.
Our first thirty minutes is just about up, so we check the City Bikes app and dock our bikes just beside the canal. We find that we’ve just happened upon a lovely little street of cafes and shops of the Broadway Market, where shop windows still advertise jellied eels.
At the far end of the street is the Cat and Mutton
and, in between, lots of quirky shops and cafes.
, at the other end of the street has a vast selection of beers and is a pleasant stop before crossing the road to enjoy an excellent lunch of home made falafels and kofta as we watch scores of people riding by on bikes, with the whole family
It’s then back on the bikes and on to Islington, past more canal side housing developments and moored narrowboats, locks and lovely urban landscapes, with each bend and bridge a gateway to a fresh look.
As we reach Islington, we dock the bikes and walk a hundred metres or so along Danbury Street to the Earl of Essex
which boasts over eighteen craft beers on their board, with everything from a Weird Beard to a Sumatra Breakfast
; beer infused with coffee from the Allpress
roastery in nearby Shoreditch.
A quiet pint to end the ride and a chat with the bartender who lives on a narrow boat which he moors alongside the canal is a lovely way to end the journey, before grabbing a couple of bikes to take us the short distance back to Old Street roundabout.
You can see a collection of images from along the way
by clicking the link in this shared note. We can fully recommend putting a canal cycle on your ‘to do’ list when planning a trip to London. It’s a fascinating link between past, present, and what the future can look like when we blend our heritage with imagination and respect.
Back to our apartment for a rest before another night time adventure.