I often see prospective visitors to this country asking what the weather will be like at such and such a time of year. The simple answer is that nobody knows. Even our weather forecasters often get it wrong.
Let me give you an example. On Friday the forecast for Saturday was clear skies all day and on Saturday we did have some sun but there were clouds all across the sky and they were moving slowly which meant that when a cloud covered the sun it was often ten minutes before it shone again. This meant that at just the point I wanted to take a photograph the sun went in and I was twiddling my thumbs for 10 minutes waiting for it to come back out.
Remember, this forecast was only 24 hours in advance.
So what was I photographing?
Well, it started at Liverpool Street Station where we normally come in to London, or did it? We went from there by Underground to Paddington so did it really start from Paddington? You decide.
Having arrived at Paddington we went into the Mainline Terminus to have a quick look at Brunel's handiwork.
This station served as the London terminus of the Great Western Railway and its successors since 1838. Much of the current station dates from 1854, and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. That glazed roof is supported by wrought iron arches in three spans, respectively spanning 68 feet, 102 feet and 70 feet. The roof is 699 feet long, and the original roof spans had two transepts connecting the three spans. This shows just one of the roof spans.
One has to admit that the roof does look impressive.
Paddington Station wasn't part of our original plan but as we were passing through we thought that we'd have a look. So where were we headed? Paddington Basin of course, where else!
Paddington Basin is the terminus for the Paddington arm of the Grand Union Canal and is on the eastern edge of Paddington Station. But back to the picture above first. Notice at the far end of the station there is a grey horizontal band running over the train – that is a footbridge and that is where we are going. Up to the footbridge and over the tracks we follow signs and suddenly emerge on the edge of Paddington basin. There are other ways to get there but that was most convenient for us.
We turn right towards the end of the basin and very soon passed a very modern looking footbridge to the opposite side of the basin which we ignored and continued to the next footbridge from which I took this picture.
In its heyday it was a very busy goods transhipment facility but like a lot of London's docks it fell into disuse when the traffic dwindled. The basin is now the centre of a major redevelopment as part of the wider Paddington Waterside scheme and is surrounded by modern buildings as you can see (The Canary Wharf treatment). Towards the far end is this unusual bridge, which you can just see in the picture above if you look carefully, but it's not what we mean when we talk about 'travelling by tube'.
You may notice that all of the boats are canal narrowboats. This is to become today's theme.
After having a leisurely look round we started off along the canal-side path in the opposite direction towards the main part of the Grand Union Canal. I was going to refer to the path as the 'towpath' which is what they are generally called but that didn't seem to really do it justice as it looked like this.
Although it looks pleasant enough those two bridges in the distance are carrying road traffic and consequently it isn't quiet here. Nice place for a cup of tea or coffee in the canal-side cafe perhaps?
A little further on we have our first sight of Little Venice. This is where the Paddington arm joins the main Grand Union Canal forming this large basin. To continue on our planned route we need to be on the far side and, at first, I thought that Amanda would have to wade across carrying me on her back.
But having continued around the bend we spotted a nice little bridge.
That narrowboat is a floating cafe, you may notice some tables and chairs on the path beside the boat, which would have been an interesting experience for a meal but it was only mid-morning so we passed on that one. That bridge carries a road and so gives access to the local area should you so desire – we didn't.
The part of the canal that you can see beyond the bridge is not the part that we wanted so we crossed the bridge and turned right. Just as we left the Little Venice basin we came across numerous narrowboats moored along the canal on both sides. A lot of these, possibly all of them, appear to be 'permanent' moorings i.e houseboats where people live. We had to leave the towpath soon after this point, because the path was 'residents' only, and walk along the road for a short way.
You may notice in the far distance a boat in the middle of the canal and just behind it a dark rectangle which is the entrance to a tunnel. There is no path through the tunnel so we followed the road slightly uphill until we were at the same height as the top of the tunnel then followed the road opposite, Aberdeen Place, until it bent sharp left. Opposite us, on the bend, was a footpath which lead back to the side of the canal.
You can see the exit from the tunnel and the steps we came down to reach the canal-side path and we certainly weren't alone on this walk.
The surroundings started getting green and leafy so we guessed that by this time we were entering Regents Park and then we came across this house.
We couldn't decide whether it would make a nice weekend cottage or not so we decided not to buy. A mistake perhaps?
When we reached a bridge that gave us the opportunity to leave the canal we went up to ground level but don't worry because we will be returning to the canal later. This was our last veiw of the canal for the time being.
Crossing the canal we found ourselves in the green oasis of Regents Park with the BT Tower showing in the distance.
Regents Park is big! It covers 410 acres and it was just over a mile from the canal to where we were heading – Queen Mary's Gardens. The canal crosses the northern edge of the park and Queen Mary's gardens are, of course, near the southern edge. This involved crossing the 'Inner Circle', one of the few roads in the park, which surrounds Queen Mary's Gardens.
On the other side of the road we found the Garden Cafe and it now being lunch time what could we do but try it? There are two separate areas; the waitress service part and the part for the Hoi Poloi. I was going to suggest the waitress service part as I'd spotted something on the menu which sounded nice but then Amanda saw that they had a 'Stew of the day' in the other part which she liked the sound of – so we joined the Hoi Poloi. Today it was Chicken Stew and it really was very nice. I thoroughly enjoyed it, well we both did but we didn't enjoy the paper plates and plastic utensils. The waitress service next time perhaps.
After lunch we went to look at the gardens. They are mostly roses and, being roses, they won't bloom until about mid-june and there are 30,000 roses of 400 varieties. Amanda wants to come back after they bloom. I wonder if she'll count them?
We found an area including a pond, a nice little bridge and a cascade which looked rather picturesque that didn't involve roses.
We finally started back north towards the canal but when we reached it we first crossed over onto Primrose Hill. A bit like a continuation of Regents park with grassland liberally dotted with trees but also a hill! We had a really good view from the highest point and, as you can see from the photograph, it's really popular with visitors.
What we could see from right to left was the London Eye, the BT Tower, the Shard, St. Paul's Cathedral and Canary Wharf. Certainly worth the not very arduous climb of 256 feet.
So, back to St. Mark's Bridge on the canal at the bottom of Primrose Hill where we go back down to the canal-side path and yet more narrowboats – some moored some moving. Do you see a theme here?. After an interesting little walk along the canal it is not long before we reach our final destination.
Camden Lock and Camden Lock Market. You may notice that there were a lot of people – it was seething! This was a Saturday afternoon, remember, on a sunny day. I wonder what it's like during the week?
After turning off the canal-side path into the market at West Yard our nostrils were assailed with the very tempting smell of hot food. It smelled really delicious and appetising but, as we'd had lunch only a short while ago we had no appetite – bummer!
One thing we quickly discovered is that this place is a warren which made it even more interesting. Going through the stalls to the back we found a short passage into another large area of stalls, Camden Lock Place, and then there are all the stalls inside the surrounding buildings.
They seem to sell everything here – hot food, clothing, fabrics, jewellery, fancy goods, geological specimens, antiques – you name it they seem to have it.
Then there were the stalls inside the Market Hall building over two levels.
This market is interesting, amazing, stupendous! If you like markets you cannot afford to miss this one. We finally dragged ourselves away from all the stalls and emerged back onto the canal-side.
That boat in the foreground is one of the water buses which carry fare-paying passengers from Little Venice to Camden Lock (and back if so required). Then we crossed that bridge in the distance from which we had a good view of Camden Lock.
From here we set off towards the nearest underground station, Camden Town, along Chalk Farm Road and realised that there were also lots of small shops which were almost as interesting as the market. An amazing place indeed.
I took a lot more photographs than I have shown here many of which will appear on the main site in due course. Time to go home to rest our weary legs.