26 January 2013

Along the Regent's Canal

Saturday 26 January 2013 was a busy day that started with an exhibition at the British Library and ended with a ballet at Sadler's Wells. Between the two was an inspiring walk along the Regent's Canal with a short break at King's Place.

This is the story of the walk.

I find the British Library architecturally uninteresting and it is made even more so when compared to the, er, incomparable St Pancras next door which peers in to the courtyard of the BL with justifiable disdain.

The one quarter that manages to spark some interest is the north-east corner where the clock tower, window shades and the relentless brick combine to make something photo-worthy if not quite special.

The walk starts ugly with the passage north along Midland Road where the substantial presence of the station dominates uncomfortable.

Things soon get better as the road veers away from the rail and St Pancras Old Church and grounds fill in the gap between them. January is not the best time to go there as the trees are at their bleakest but the monument is still there and it draws you to it.

From their another short ugly walk along Camley Street takes you over the Regent's Canal and to the steps that take you down to the footpath on the north bank.

Heading east takes you under the railway lines and immediately after there is a small mooring that holds around thirty boats.

The still boats from two centuries ago are in marked contrast to the new trains that whizz above them on their way to and from Europe.

Camley Street Nature Park lies on the other side. It plays no other part in this story as it is closed on Saturdays, for reasons that completely escape me.

Just beyond the moorings is an even greater surprise, for those who do not know the area, a lock.

It is small and clearly not that busy but its main purpose today is as an object of historical industrial architecture, which it is rather good at. By now the trains and the other signs of modern London are obscured enough to be forgotten and the dreaming can begin.

A slope down and a bend to the left bring you to the new Kings Cross, the biggest building site in London.

Most of the site is being reclaimed from its previous use and new buildings are coming but in the area nearest the canal the old buildings have been retained and converted. These are now the new home of the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design.

Kings Place lies just the other side of the bridge that carries York Way over the canal.

There lies another marina and beyond that more converted warehouses that make the walk even more rewarding.

There are a couple more bridges before the canal disappears in to a tunnel that finally gives the passing boats peace from the joggers and lunchtime sandwich snackers. The bridges acknowledge the passing of the canal beneath with decorative metal work.

I have done this walk many times, mostly as a break from a working day in Kings Place, and still the magic of the canal remains. It is a sudden and deep immersion in to another world and long may it remain so.

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