On Easter Monday, between squally showers, Nora and I joined some friends for a walk along the Grand Union Canal in West London. Beginning in the surprising Georgian streets around The Butts in Brentford, we walked past the spot I had discovered a few weeks ago at Boston Manor for about four miles along the towpath to Hanwell, joining up the two ends of the walk with a quick bus ride back to the car.
On a bright bank holiday, the towpath was busy with runners, cyclists and walkers, and the canal and locks were full of waterborne traffic. Nothing like the odd atmosphere when we were last there.
The walk was inspired by Margaret Sharp’s Travelcard Walks and is well worth a look if you’re in West London.
There’s a marvellous flight of five or six locks at Hanwell. Such an engineering achievement!
The water’s stillness is remarkable. Even when it is disturbed, it quickly returns to its mirrorlike calm. Yet the canal divide and merges with the River Brent in a couple of spots and there’s quite a current flowing downstream.
There are bridges of all kinds over the canal. Footbridges like this Hanoverian iron one and others that carry underground and mainline trains, as well as major roads feeding into London, such as the A4 and M4.
The bluebells weren’t fully out but were starting to put in their glorious annual appearance in woody glades here and there.
Birds are everywhere along the canal filling the air with their calls. Here, an urban cormorant dries its wings on the apex of a wharf roof.
People live on the many well-kept barges that line the Grand Union Canal. There are also a fair number of travelling narrowboats going through the locks.
The canalside has ramps built into it. This was so that when a horse towing a barge fell into the water, as they inevitably occasionally did, it could clamber out again. Falling into the water was called ‘taking a look’. I was keen that Nora shouldn’t do more than actually look, so where it was busy she was kept on her lead.
I rather wished that we had been able to go for a drink at this pub with it’s jaunty sign, but we’d started the walk with fish and chips at a pub in Brentford, so by the time we reached here we felt it was time to return home for tea.