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Ramblings on Regent’s Canal: An East London Escape

Last updated on June 15, 2013

My good friend – and East London local – Matt Lindley, escapes the daily grind and falls in love with Regent’s Canal….

Exploring Regent's Canal by Bike - East London

Getting a bike in East London opened up a whole new world for me. It was an old school Raleigh that cost me £50 off eBay when I was broke and new to the city. The lock cost more than the bike itself, not that anyone would want to steal it. I travelled all the way up to Watford Junction to pick it up off a friendly old lady. The best £50 I ever spent.

It’s fun cycling around East London, it makes you feel free and like an explorer. There’s nothing like a bike ride in the morning to get your brain firing and put you in a good mood for the day. Wide open roads, crumbling urban landscapes in constant flux, Victorian warehouses, railway arches, graffiti tunnels, blocks of council flats, chicken shops, smart terraced houses – that’s East London.

Cycling turns you into the ultimate flaneur, whizzing past people in their own private bubbles, catching glimpses of half-heard conversations and filling in the missing pieces. No longer funneled through crowds of people on the Tube, or made to stand in line at a bus stop, rarely needing to stop for anyone, you start living your life with smooth flow.

Hurtling along Regent’s Canal on a Sunday morning, tinging twice to alert other cyclists before passing under the bridge, swapping the sound of sirens for the sound of moorhens and running water. I spot a giant carp swimming slowly in the metre-deep, litter-strewn water. I’ve always wondered why people fish here.

I once saw a skinny, shirtless Metal dude in denim shorts emerging from the water like a scruffy newt. Another time a Cockney geezer in his late twenties was smoking a joint and gaping at a wild and unusual bird: ‘Fuck me, I’ve never seen one of them before!’ Young people emerge dishevelled and bleary-eyed from their canal boat cabins, mugs of tea and Marmite on toast in hand – a romantic existence not without its hardships.

This is my London experience. Fond memories of cycling past the Ragged School Museum (what the fuck is that?), past the tantalising fork in the canal that leads to Hackney Wick, past the wooden sign where someone has painted the words, ‘Every moment can be joyous.’ Joyfully discovering these areas for the first time, semi-unemployed, either high on exercise or high on life, London stretching out before me like an endless cycle path.

Matt and I have been working on a cool competition which is being hosted by HotelClub UK and Cool Places. We’re inviting you to share your favourite London experiences – the most unique and interesting answer will win a free two-night stay at the jaw-droppingly beautiful 5* London hotel,  St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.

What ‘s your favourite place or experience in London? Leave a comment below….

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