A few days ago this time last year, I marveled at the glorious sunshine and high temps that baked London’s streets, sending each and every able bodied Londoner to the nearest patch of outdoor space, grass or bare step at any availability to grab every ounce of vitamin D they could. I went for a walk, as I am known to do, down Regent’s Canal through Camden, taking photographs of yellow daffodils reaching for the bright blue skies. Read all about my exploits here in my post titled Spring is Dead. Long live the Spring! or March is the new July.
This year I am over 6,000 miles away in a whole different weather pattern. And they aren’t wrong, whoever they are. Living on the westside has its temperature perks. When it is unbearably hot in the Valley, with temps at 90f+ (30c+), it’s in the 70s (20s) over this side of the hill, cooled by the ocean breeze. The flipside of the ocean breeze is the ocean itself. It brings with it fog, what we call the marine layer, that sits on us all morning, sometimes all day. Whilst the rest of the city is bright eyed and tee-shirts, we are long sleeves and cardigans. Compared to the current winter weather that’s gripped the UK and Europe, I’m happy for a bit of overcast. I’m satisfied with cardigans. I definitely prefer it to the Valley’s high temps and requisite sunburns.
In a salute to weather passed, here’s a walk I took with the DH (dear husband, as a reminder to you readers) on the Regent’s Canal heading east – a direction I’d not ever been before. It wasn’t exactly margarita weather, mind, but we were able to start off the sunny Sunday at the pub. We were wearing jackets as the temps were a little more normal March/April with clouds that threatened to open on us as the day went on. And in order to truly participate in the UK’s national pastime (complaining about the weather) one has to get out in it and experience just how very diverse it is.
And you may get lucky with a day dry enough to wander around with a camera. Of course, I’m sure most Londoners would just prefer it warm enough.
Since the sun was out and a beer garden so tempting, we stopped at the Lion & Unicorn Pub in Kentish Town on the way.
An empty pub and a blue, sunny sky. We were tempted to stop here for the day but instead kept going. We had a canal to explore!
So we walked from Kentish in to Camden Town, down Kentish Town Road. At the railway bridge we could not be more certain about our location.
And instead of turning right toward the big money of Primrose Hill, we went left towards the hipster edginess of Hackney.
The above building looks like a Victorian Pump House, another reason to love this city, because here this beautiful building sits amongst broken down boats and a rail line. The section of canal just east of Camden goes through the construction site known as King’s Cross. At present there are major works going down all around the prolific railway station, including refurbing university buildings for Central St Martin’s, a prolific art school, that is already housed on site. Soon one can actually enjoy the walk through this area to the fullest. I thought I’d save the photos until then. Here’s a website for the development itself so you can see the scale of what they are doing to this once rough part of London.
One thing we didn’t actually realize, though we both knew considering I’d even been in the tunnel itself, was that the canal actually goes under Islington fairly soon after you leave Camden, meaning as pedestrians we had to find our way through the streets of well to do neighborhoods Islington and Angel to get back to the canal. Upon making our way back to the canal, the first thing we stumbled upon was another lock.
City Road Lock, as it’s known, is just a bit east of the Islington Tunnel, constructed sometime around 1812.
Even with the hipster graffiti, it’s looking pretty old for a 100 year old lock.
This area is full of contrasts – like the new, designed buildings next to old industrial warehouses, likely soon to be expensive flats.
And like any day with a bit of sun, the locals have come out of doors to find their patch, ideally with a pint in hand. This might be what I miss most about the UK, and especially London: getting outside and socialising with friends with a few cans or a bottle of wine. I have fond memories of sitting along the Thames in Chiswick with a can of Fosters (yes, I said Fosters, get over it), surrounded by happy people and their picnics. Completely legal, drinking out of doors. Tourist tip: don’t go doing it on the tube or trains as that’s a no no.
This is where our canal journey ended – as building work along the canal meant we had to take a detour through the De Beauvoir Estate. And although there are a lot of buildings that look like this:
There are all these modern new builds along the canal that can only mean one thing: gentrification of the area is going to make the above eventually go away or be converted. Give it 20 years, maybe.
Doesn’t mean we can’t take some artsy black and white photography before that happens.
Like the above, a new build with lovely glass balconies. And in front of the construction, an old woman in ragged clothes smoking a cigarette. It won’t be long until she won’t have a place to sit anymore.
Yet, as it so happens, Hertford Road changes again. This area, De Beauvoir Town, was once meant to be residences for the upper classes in the 1820s when the area was purchased from some De Beauvoir chap. However, delays to building due to supposed illegal acquisition of some sort (likely to do with paying off planners for a speedy approval) meant that the upper class folk who were going to move in here instead moved to the west end. What story would Hackney have written for itself if De Beauvoir Town had achieved its upper class desires? An east end Mayfair? And has it taken this long, this almost 200 years, for this part of Hackney to reclaim its crown?
Even if its past was pillaged from it, Hackney keeps on.
Okay okay, I don’t need to hear the groans. I thought that was a pretty good bit of wordplay, if I do say so myself. Pirate. Pillage. Whatever.
Our walk ended at Haggerston Overground station, just a couple streets over on Kingsland Road. The weather had started to become bleak, the sky threatening to open up on us and the wind picking up to warn of the coming storm. Not 30 minutes later we were safe as houses back in our flat, even though deep down we both wanted to go back down to the pub to eek out as much of the day as we could.
So, who wants to talk about the weather?