Following on from two articles concerning the route of the Regents Canal between the Thames and Camden Town, its time to mention a small fragment of the canal network that sits about halfway along that stretch – the mile-long Hertford Union Canal in Hackney.
This stretch of the canal network simply serves to connect the Regents Canal with the Lee Navigation, and was initially built in 1830 as a short-cut to negate the need for vessels heading towards the River Lee to negotiate the complicated twists and turns of the Bow Back Rivers or deal with the tides. For reasons unknown it never proved popular – perhaps the toll was too expensive or captains preferred their tried and tested routes?
Today the Hertford Union Canal is a picturesque spot for a walk as it borders Victoria Park for most of its length. On the other side of the canal there’s a mixture of modern housing and industrial units from the Victorian era and early twentieth century. Here are photographs of two examples, one renovated and one falling into decay – I’m not sure which I prefer, as I think there’s something hauntingly beautiful about old factories as they experience their slow-motion descent back into nature.
Other notable features on the canal are its three locks. They’re of a rather unusual design in that each one is immediately followed by a bridge – as you approach them you could be forgiven for thinking that the canal just stops, because from a distance it appears that the locks are immediately in front of a blank wall. There’s also an interesting piece of sculpture to look out for – a rather pretty piece depicting a pony and covered trap which you’ll see between two blocks of flats on Barge Lane.
For the artistically inclined, at the southern end of the Hertford Union Canal there’s the Chissenhale Gallery which offers a changing series of contemporary art shows (Ed Atkins ‘Us Dead Talk Love’ starts tomorrow) and for coffee lovers there’s always the Fat Cat Cafe Bar – a fun space that attracts an interesting young crowd in the evenings.
Of course at its northern end the canal deposits you in Hackney Wick, just around the corner from its many artists studios and galleries. There’s some interesting street art to spy as you approach the Olympic Park, and a rather surprising sculpture that sits right on the edge of the towpath where the waterways merge. Also worth noting is the message to LOCOG from local residents about the disruption caused during London 2012, which at times saw Hackney Wick effectively cut off from civilisation – you can understand their frustration!
The next post in the series, coming soon, will document the route from Camden Town all the way over to Little Venice. There are more photos of this little jaunt here.