17. Inlanding to London – 1989

Grand Union 

This is the seventeenth in an occasional series of postings which should, over time, record all the major ‘inlanding’ trips I’ve taken in the years since 1989. The archive of trips can be accessed via the Inlanding – Trip Reports tab at the top of the page.

Day 17. Copper Mill Lock to Kensal Green 

21 miles – 5 locks – 10 hours

In my minds-eye, with the mechanical concerns of the last few days now pretty much resolved, I woke early and, lying back in my bunk, felt pretty optimistic about a leisurely day ahead, A day of messing about on the water.

However, this was to become – definitely – a day of two halves.

(above) Black Jack's Lock

I enjoyed the first few hours, the final descent through Harefield, Denham and Uxbridge, but then loathed the end hours of the day. I hadn’t realised just how quickly the character of the route would change after Uxbridge – the slog through Cowley, Yiewsley, West Drayton, and the endless miles through Southall, Norwood, Greenford and Alperton.

(above) Widewater Lock
(above) Heavily loaded butty approaching Widewater Lock

From Black Jack’s Lock and Widewater Lock, through Denham Deep, at 11’ the deepest on the Grand Union, the canalside landscape down the Colne Valley remained reassuringly rural.

(above) Approaching Denham Deep...
(above) Looking back to Denham Deep
(above) Cowley Lock
(above) More, Cowley Lock...
(above) Entrance to Harefield Marina, the last 'green' before London?
(above) Uxbridge Lock
(above) Wonderful chandlery at Uxbridge
(above) Bulls Bridge Junction
(above) Through Bulls Bridge and onto the Paddington Arm...

It didn’t last, and the day increasingly became a route march through water; or more prosaically a slow crawl through foam, plastic bags and city litter as I  plunged into a tired London hinterland, voyaging on what felt like an ignored canal, skirting demolition sites, closed factories and ugly breakers yards.

(above) Down the Paddington Arm

It felt an unfriendly landscape, not one to linger in, certainly not one to moor in… Listless, hopeless, flat and grey  and dusty this was canal travelling at its loneliest and most monotonous, with not even the once regular locks to break up the drab hours of getting ahead .

(above) North London Railway bridge

I even began to think about pushing on to Little Venice, but something inside wasn’t quite ready for my journey’s end quite yet, so I held back, and moored an hour short of the Pool at Little Venice, opposite the cemetary at Kensal Green.

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