Urban Packrafting London - Camden to Angel

The true versatility of packrafts is in their ultra-lightweight. This allows you to carry them through mountains on expeditions or to just head down to the nearest stretch of water and take off on a whim. Recently one sunny morning, I threw my packraft in a rucksack and caught a tube to Camden with the intention of exploring urban London from the water.

Last summer, some friends and I met after work and paddled the Regents Canal from Paddington Basin, through London Zoo and the Maida Hill Tunnel to Camden Lock. Today, with a few hours spare I decided to paddle the next section from Camden to Angel.

This stretch is beautiful and is what urban packrafting is all about, with stunning architecture and nature nestling side by side, two locks to portage and a 15 min walk through bustling Upper Street in Angel to avoid an 886m tunnel.

Camden has three locks within a couple of hundred meters. Kentish Town lock is the lowest and the perfect place to start your paddle. It’s only minutes away from Camden Town Tube Station.

Camden has three locks within a couple of hundred meters. Kentish Town lock is the lowest and the perfect place to start your paddle. It’s only minutes away from Camden Town Tube Station.

One chamber of each lock on the canal has been converted into an overflow weir to prevent lock users inadvertently flooding the surrounding area.

One chamber of each lock on the canal has been converted into an overflow weir to prevent lock users inadvertently flooding the surrounding area.

The St Pancras and Kings Cross area has seen significant investment and regeneration in the last decade.  The Lighterman Bar and Restaurant  is a striking new addition to the canal and with tables and plenty of space outside it’s a great spot for packrafters to stop for refreshments.

The St Pancras and Kings Cross area has seen significant investment and regeneration in the last decade. The Lighterman Bar and Restaurant is a striking new addition to the canal and with tables and plenty of space outside it’s a great spot for packrafters to stop for refreshments.

IMG_20190606_113014-01-01.jpg
Passing  Word on the Water , a friendly and popular floating bookstore.

Passing Word on the Water, a friendly and popular floating bookstore.

The western mouth of the Islington Tunnel. Time to get out and walk.

The western mouth of the Islington Tunnel. Time to get out and walk.

The 886m long Islington Tunnel. Unlike the Maida Hill Tunnel unpowered craft (such as packrafts or canoes) are strictly forbidden. This is a photo taken from the mouth of the tunnel and the light you can see is a canal boat coming the other way, nicely illustrating why it would be an exceptionally bad idea to attempt to paddle it.

The 886m long Islington Tunnel. Unlike the Maida Hill Tunnel unpowered craft (such as packrafts or canoes) are strictly forbidden. This is a photo taken from the mouth of the tunnel and the light you can see is a canal boat coming the other way, nicely illustrating why it would be an exceptionally bad idea to attempt to paddle it.

A short portage takes you through the bustling streets of Islington and past Angel Tube Station (drawing a few strange looks).

A short portage takes you through the bustling streets of Islington and past Angel Tube Station (drawing a few strange looks).

Then down to City Road Lock past weeping willows. Unlike the stretch to the west of Camden, this whole section of canal is beautifully maintained and well used by cyclists and runners.  On the day I was out occasional rain storms swept in but i just paused under the many bridges to let them pass and then continued on my way.

Then down to City Road Lock past weeping willows. Unlike the stretch to the west of Camden, this whole section of canal is beautifully maintained and well used by cyclists and runners.

On the day I was out occasional rain storms swept in but i just paused under the many bridges to let them pass and then continued on my way.

The Narrow Boat  is a beautiful canal side pub and the perfect place to finish your paddle (book a table if you want to eat because it’s small and popular).

The Narrow Boat is a beautiful canal side pub and the perfect place to finish your paddle (book a table if you want to eat because it’s small and popular).

This is one of the best short paddles in London.

Notes:

  • History:

    • This section of the canal was opened in 1820 but by 1845 they were already plans to convert it into railway. Numerous attempts failed and by the 1960’s it had fallen into significant disrepair.

      In the 1970’s the Electricity Board buried high voltage cables under the towpath to supply electrical power to London as part of the National Grid. In the process they renovated the towpaths and began the regeneration of the canal. Canal water is now circulated as a coolant along the high-voltage cables.

      Recently someone using a canal boat hammered a mooring pin into ground and punctured the cable housing narrowly avoided a fatal injury.

  • Times and Distances

    • Camden Lock to the western mouth of the Islington Tunnel is 2.5km and a gentle 45 min paddle, with one lock at St Pancras which is very to easily portage.

    • The portage over the top of the tunnel is just over 1km through a busy part of Angel and takes about 15 mins.

    • The eastern entrance of the Islington Tunnel to the Narrow Boat pub is only 500m and should only take 15 mins.

    • The whole paddle could be completed in a leisurely couple of hours (depending on how many refreshment breaks you take along the way) or you could continue on through Hackney towards Limehouse.

  • Licences:

    • British Canoe Union membership allows you access to all Canal and River Trust waterways including the Regents Canal.

#wordonthewater #narrowboatpub #longshoreinternational #regentscanal #urbanpackrafting #packrafting #packraftinglondon

Tim Clark