Get in some last-minute Christ­mas shop­ping on our Re­gent’s Canal walk, tak­ing in not one but two of Lon­don’s mar­kets...

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Get some last-minute Christ­mas shop­ping in on our Lon­don walk which takes in two mar­kets

It’s the fes­tive sea­son – oth­er­wise known as the dark­est part of early win­ter – so in­stead of a muddy ru­ral tow­path, we’ve headed for in­ner Lon­don and the Re­gent’s Canal. Here you can take to a nice dry con­crete path as you walk off that ex­cess tur­key over the hol­i­day, or per­haps com­bine a walk with last-minute Christ­mas shop­ping.

We’re go­ing to start at Lime­house Basin and head into Lon­don – for rea­sons you’ll see later. The eas­i­est way to get there is on the Dock­lands Light Rail­way to Lime­house Sta­tion.

Back in the 1980s this was a run-down for­mer dock amid a lot of dere­lic­tion, but now it’s sur­rounded by mod­ern hous­ing – amuse your­self by look­ing at the prices in the wa­ter­side es­tate agent’s win­dows! Turn right and walk all around the basin (making sure not to take the Lime­house Cut by mis­take), or left for the shorter route to the first lock of the Re­gent’s. As with all the canal’s 12 locks, it was orig­i­nally paired, but like all bar one of them, one cham­ber has now been con­verted to an over­flow. Two more locks fol­low as Lime­house is left be­hind and the canal runs north through East Lon­don. It’s still a far cry from the

EastEn­ders im­age – there’s plenty of mod­ern canal­side hous­ing, and Mile End Park has been cre­ated and ex­tended on the right-hand side. Not so long ago you wouldn’t have seen many boats moored, but to­day it’s busy with res­i­den­tial craft.

The tow­path’s well used, too – es­pe­cially at peak com­mut­ing times when I’m em­bar­rassed to say (as a some­time cy­clist my­self) that some of the two-wheeled com­muters have yet to en­tirely take on board the ‘drop your pace’ mes­sage. But we walked it on a week­day late morn­ing and had no is­sues.

The Hert­ford Union Canal heads off on our right, forming a link to the River Lee as well as a di­vid­ing line be­tween the mod­ern Mile End Park and the older Vic­to­ria Park. Fi­nally, a mile and a half of near-con­tin­u­ous park (not bad for the East End) comes to an end.

A rather more stereo­typ­i­cal area sees the canal lined with in­dus­trial premises, crossed by a rail­way viaduct (the fourth since we started – for those who want to cut their walk short, we’re sel­dom far from a sta­tion) and ac­com­pa­nied by some im­pres­sively large gash­old­ers.

A long straight takes us past Kings­land Basin and a mix­ture of mod­ern build­ings

as we pass Hag­ger­ston. Wen­lock and City Road basins lead off, while Sturts, Ac­tons and City Road locks con­tinue the climb.

Is­ling­ton Tun­nel has no tow­path, so we must leave the canal. At least five dif­fer­ent de­signs of pave­ment mark­ers show the route through Is­ling­ton’s busy shop­ping streets. But, just in case you miss them: from the tow­path head straight on along Duncan Street to a T-junc­tion with the main Up­per Street. Turn left, then first right into Liver­pool Street, and first left into Chapel Mar­ket.

De­spite Is­ling­ton’s ‘trendy’ rep­u­ta­tion, this is a ‘proper’ Lon­don street mar­ket with lots of tra­di­tional fruit, veg, fish, meat, cloth­ing and bric-a-brac stalls as well as some more up­mar­ket pro­duce – so it’s just as well that we’ve not got far to go, as you might find your­self car­ry­ing the odd bit of ex­tra shop­ping.

Turn right into Pen­ton Street, sec­ond left into May­good Street and fol­low a path ahead to re­gain the tow­path at the tun­nel end. Ahead is Bat­tle­bridge Basin, home to the Lon­don Canal Mu­seum.

Any­one fa­mil­iar with the next length past King’s Cross and St Pan­cras sta­tions a few years ago is in for a sur­prise: it’s chang­ing be­yond all recog­ni­tion with the re­gen­er­a­tion of ex-in­dus­trial land. We take a tem­po­rary float­ing tow­path where the right bank is be­ing re­mod­elled; there’s new build­ing al­most every­where, and the strangest new ad­di­tion is the re-erected cast iron frame of an old gash­older with a lawn in­side – see page 7.

Look out for Eurostar trains leav­ing St Pan­cras, and con­tinue through some more con­ven­tional ur­ban sur­round­ings to Cam­den, where the canal snakes its way through a short cut­ting. In yet an­other area un­der re­de­vel­op­ment are the fi­nal three locks: of­fi­cially Ken­tish Town, Haw­ley and Hamp­stead Road – but to most Lon­don­ers, the name as­so­ci­ated with the top lock is Cam­den Lock.

Our walk ends at the fa­mous Cam­den Lock Mar­ket, with hun­dreds of stalls sell­ing ev­ery­thing from col­lecta­bles and books to clothes, jew­ellery and gifts. And that’s why we’re end­ing our walk rather than start­ing it here – you won’t want to walk six miles car­ry­ing your last-minute presents or New Year bar­gains!

You only need to lug them as far as Cam­den Town tube or Cam­den Road Over­ground sta­tion, a short walk away.

Be­tween Hox­ton and Hag­ger­ston

Is­ling­ton Tun­nel’s east­ern por­tal

St Pan­cras Lock amid new de­vel­op­ment

A fes­tive ‘Santa flash mob’ at Cam­den

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