For those of us captivated by Wind in the Willows when we were children ‘messing about on boats’ may be a natural longing for adventure and well past our youth I’m sure.


Picture my face then when a long time friend from Wales recently moved to London and bought a narrow boat or canal boat to live in (though not called a long boat I’m told as this has something to do with Vikings!).


The boat is normally moored in the canal at Northfields, but as I was invited to lunch last Sunday, my friend brought the boat closer to me so that I could get to it easier and moored near Sainsbury’s at Ladbroke Grove. I thought this was so cool. How many friends invite you to lunch and then can move their home nearer to you for easy access!?


After lunch we went for a ride down the Grand Union Canal towards Paddington Basin and Little Venice, though I resisted the offer to steer the thing, which did little good as my friend thrust the oar in my hand when he had to go below deck. Screams of “we are coming up to a bend!!” fell on deaf ears until the first stirrings of cardiac arrest - me, not him.


It was common for some of the walkers and canal residents to wave at us as we passed along, which was relaxed and friendly. Having Marci & Max, the cute pet Jack Russell’s, sunning themselves on the rooftop in their little made-to-measure lifejackets, invoked more than a few photo opportunities from passer-by’s too.


Now, having recommended Wormwood Scrubs to you previously as a beautiful & free local resource for summer living. I hereby recommend our local canal too.  We are so lucky to have these things near by but may neglect to enjoy them. You don’t need a boat either. There is a cycle lane along the towpath and just walking along slowly is sheer joy too. Walking along water is so soothing, I’m sure you’ll agree, but there's a lot of waterfowl to observe also. There were swans of course with their signets; coots making very strange tweeting sounds; a cormorant with its large wings spread wide for all to see as it sunned itself and even a heron on a central island. The most amazing thing for me was seeing a huge dragonfly hovering on the water, wings beating in a fast magic-like blur, with shimmering rainbow spectrum colours along its body. Stunning – no wonder children often mistake them for fairies.


So again - a lovely local experience. The Grand Union Canal. Take a bus to Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury's or near the tube at Westbourne Park.

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Comment by James Hamill on July 11, 2011 at 9:12
I cycled down to Camden last weekend along the canalpath and I must say the bit where all the canalboats are all moored up looked fantastic. Loads of tables and chairs outside for owners to sit and eat along with a massive array of all sorts of flowers all over the place. Had an amazing vibe and would love the opportunity of having lunch in one. Lucky you!

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