Regent’s Canal offers a lovely walk and canalside living, easily reached from Angel tube. Sometimes it feels like a secret waterway with just you and the wildfowl, but on sunny weekends it’s a sociable route, busy with dogwalkers, canal boats and people on a lazy stroll, wandering through one of the best bits of Islington. Find out about the history, activities and the best places to stop for food and drink along our bit of the Regent’s Canal.
1 ISLINGTON BOAT CLUB
The Islington Boat Club (islingtonboatclub.com) is at City Road Basin. It’s the place for adults and kids to learn waterskills. There’s a youth club and school outreach too. Even if you’re not into boats, it’s fun to watch people learning to kayak and sail. You can even join 201st Islington Sea Scouts, originally set up in 1919. The charity offers activities for six-14-year-olds.
2 CAMDEN LOCK
Camden Lock is a lovely place to see the canal at the same time as checking out the fantastic market, with its one-off stalls and delicious street food. You can also book a boat trip along Regent’s Canal with the London Waterboat Company (londonwaterbus.com) based at 58 Camden Lock Place, NW1, on Friday evenings in June and July, where you can take the boat to the zoo – the only time the zoo opens late.
Thanks to Starbucks setting up in the lock keeper’s cottage AT 289 Camden High Street, there’s a dedicated room with panels about the Regent’s Canal. Find out about how this route linking the Grand Union Canal with the Thames was crucial for the early industrialists. These days the canal’s renaissance isn’t just all the new live-work spaces with moorhen-views, there’s also the possibility it could be used to carry freight again. Learn more canal facts from the Friends of Regent’s Canal at friendsofregentscanal.org.
4 CAMDEN GARDEN CENTRE
Winner of urban garden centre of the year in 2012, Camden Garden Centre (camdengardencentre.co.uk) is just off the canal (exit close to Georgiana Street), offering a vast range of plants and products suitable for ponds (as well as less wet landscapes including window boxes). It also has a car park and there are delivery options. Added bonus is that it’s a charity providing employment and training opportunities. Even if you never go, now you know why people are walking the canal holding bags of plants…
5 CAMLEY STREET PARK
Tranquil Camley Street Park (wildlondon.org.uk/reserves/camley-street-natural-park) is a two-acre green oasis where you can learn tree ID, and in the right season see frogs, newts and dragonflies, picnic or just get a relaxing dose of proper nature – within a few metres from the Eurostar route and King’s Cross St Pancras.
6 KING’S PLACE
Since 2008 King’s Place (kingsplace.co.uk) with its art galleries, Green & Fortune café, Rotunda restaurant by the canal and lower ground auditorium ideal for jazz and classical concerts has been a cultural hotspot. Or you can also just pop in to admire the space and maybe spot musicians and Guardian journalists top up on espresso. There are gigs and talks seven days a week.
7 LONDON CANAL MUSEUM
The London Canal Museum (canalmuseum.org.uk) in Carlo Gatti’s old ice-cream warehouse is a place to go inside a narrowboat cabin, find out about the history of all London’s canals and see a genuine ice store (the ice used to be brought in from Norway). It’s also a place to learn narrowboat crafts including roses and castles painting workshops.
8 THE NARROW BOAT PUB
Just after the bridge over Wharf Road there’s The Narrow Boat pub (thenarrowboatpub.com) – the only Islington pub that’s right on the canal. Find a table downstairs and you can eat overlooking one of the winter moorings where canal residents moor boats and Wenlock Basin.
9 ANGEL CANAL FESTIVAL
The Angel Canal Festival is held on the first Sunday of September at City Road Lock – so 6 September 2015 from 11am-5pm, free entrance (angelcanalfestival.org). Whatever the month you can still watch boats going through the lock or enjoy a view of the water by the old lock keeper’s house with its cobbled ramp designed to stop the barge horses slipping. Lock your bike at the cycle racks near Hanover School Towpath Gardens and have a picnic, take a canalside stroll or study the four colourful murals, designed by the primary school students, to give a snapshot of the area past and present.
10 ISLAND QUEEN
At 87 Noel Road, just behind the canal, is the unique Island Queen (theislandqueenislington.co.uk), opened in 1848 but now a thriving backstreet pub. It’s famous for its cosy interior and tasty Sunday roasts. Join their mailing list to get a free Bloody Mary.
11 HOLBORN STUDIOS
Opposite the slowly emerging new homes on the Packington Estate is historic Holborn Studios with its distinctive Victorian chimney. Despite the listed studios employing hundreds of local people – and being a place where Madonna, David Bowie and Cilla Black have posed – it’s at risk of being turned into luxury flats and offices. Keep up to date with the campaign at friendsofregentscanal.org.
12 GAINSBOROUGH STUDIOS
Look out for the Cooperative supermarket by New North Road bridge, the spot where young horror master Alfred Hitchcock’s learnt his trade in silent movies at the Gainsborough Studios. It is now stylish apartments looking towards the canal or grassy Shoreditch Park – you’re not far from Old Street tube or trendy Hoxton here. Read more in London’s Hollywood: The Gainsborough Studio in the Silent Years by Gary Chapman (Edditt, £14.99)
13 ROSEMARY BRANCH THEATRE
Regent’s Canal continues through Hackney, past Victoria Park, and on to the River Thames. At Baring Street, the Islington exit point, you can even treat yourself to a theatre show at the Rosemary Branch pub (rosemarybranch.co.uk) at 2 Shepperton Road, N1. Next year is their 20th anniversary, so no better time to see one of their high quality off West End plays.
14 THE SCOLT HEAD
Detour up Southgate Road for Sunday lunch (12-4pm weekends, but also serves food weekdays) at the buzzing Scolt Head pub (thescolthead.co.uk) at 107a Culford Road, run by De Beauvoir locals Rich Haines and Rosie Wesemann. The Scolt Head has a TV room showing the big footie games, cosy garden, books, newspapers and delicious atmosphere – inspired by a small island off the north Norfolk coast. We may be in inner London, but it’s easy enough to find places to prevent you feeling like a landlubber.
Written by Nicola Baird from islingtonfacesblog.com