A night in Hackney Marshes turned out to be unbelievably quiet considering the long, long lines of people going about life along the towpath. It wasn’t much of a journey before turning off onto the Hertford Union Canal – also known as ‘Duckett’s’ after Sir George Duckett who tirelessly lobbied for construction of the 1.5 kms of water designed to bypass the torturous, tidal Bow Back Rivers of the Lea. The canal was a commercial failure and in less than 20 years after its opening in 1830, it was unnavigable. All restored and working well today, the canal began with Old Ford Locks and soon had a feeling of time gone by which lasted to the join up with the Regent’s Canal.
Having chopped out Limehouse and Mile End we emerged in Bethnal Green. The Victoria Park moorings were heaving with boats, up through Haggerston, Hoxton and Islington where we disappeared into the gloom of Islington tunnel. Oblivious to the changes that have gone on all around, the tunnel stands just as it did when it was opened in 1818.
The various wharfs and basins and docks tucked in and around London are a constant source of intrigue to us so it seemed a great opportunity to take advantage of the London Canal Museum moorings at only £8 with water and electric. Tucked down in a far corner where Ice Wharf Marina and Battlebridge Moorings meet, the visitor gap has proper old warehouse views. The Canal Museum is situated in Carlo Gatti’s old ice warehouses – a Swiss entrepreneur who made his fortune importing ice from Norway in the 1860’s. The ice was shipped from Norway, travelled up the Thames, was offloaded onto barges in Regent’s Dock (Limehouse) and finally up the canal and into the warehouse. He soon became the largest ice importer in London, making ice-cream affordable for the not quite so rich, plus the option of domestic ice boxes thanks to his fleet of delivery carts..
A few minutes walk from the peace of Battlebridge Basin is the bustle of Kings Cross and beautiful St Pancreas Station that only just avoided demolition in the 1960’s architectural smash up.
Quite mad to think we could be in Paris in less time than it would take us to travel back to Hackney Marshes.