London canal walk from Limehouse Basin
Enjoy a 1-mile walk along the Regent's Canal through the colourful urban landscape of London.
Setting off from Limehouse Basin under the sparkling shadows of Canary Wharf, this walk heads onwards in the sweet company of the slow waterways commuter rush. Never pretending to be a green rural trail, your walk along the Regent’s Canal sings with the living colours of a waterways escape away from the daily urbanscape. This water place tells old stories of East End heritage, of hardworking boat horses and families rubbing shoulders with exciting contemporary architecture, boat life and open green spaces created for today’s flexible work life.
Canal: Regent’s Canal
Start: Commercial Road Lock OS Grid ref: TQ361810 Postcode: E14 7LF
Finish: Mile End Road OS Grid ref: TQ362824 Postcode: E1 4PA
Distance: 1.6km / 1 mile
Start: Facing Commercial Road Lock, behind you is Limehouse Basin with its busy marina. The Grade II-listed Accumulator Tower and its chimney peep over the Grade II-listed viaduct carrying the bright red trains of the DLR. Built in 1869, the Accumulator regulated the hydraulic pressure needed to power cranes, locks, capstans and swing bridges in the Basin.
1. Commercial Road Lock is the last (or first if heading north) lock on the Regent’s Canal, taking it into Limehouse Basin and beyond to the River Thames. The canal passes King’s Cross, Camden and Regent’s Park on its way to join the Grand Union Canal Paddington Arm at Little Venice, before the Grand Union continues to Birmingham and the Midlands. All locks on the Regent’s Canal were built with two chambers to allow working boats through in both directions at the same time, though most now only have one working chamber.
2. Follow the towpath under Commercial Road Bridge. The canal widens in front of you, where moorhens and moored boats take advantage of the calm after the busy Basin.
3. Beyond a pipe bridge and Salmon Lane Bridge, a white arched footbridge stretches over Salmon Lane Lock. The Grade II-listed Lock House alongside dates from 1864 and would have been the lock-keeper’s home.
4. The canal curves under a railway bridge to the edge of Mile End Park. A tall 19th-century brick chimney belies its aesthetic beauty as it actually provided a vent for sewers underneath. Geese preen on the towpath edge while coots sun themselves on the green grass. Look behind and you can see the towering buildings of Docklands in the distance.
5. Three canalside Grade II-listed former goods warehouses now house the Ragged School Museum. Converted to the largest Ragged (free) school in 1877 by famous philanthropist Dr Thomas Barnardo to provide free education and meals to poor and orphaned children, the Museum tells the story of how Victorians educated their East End children. Thanks to a heritage grant, the Museum has recently undergone comprehensive refurbishment.
6. Overlooked by converted warehouses and modern apartments, Johnson’s Lock is unique on the Regent’s Canal to have its original central paddle gear to fill and empty the lock. Above the lock, look out for the canal’s two remaining horse ramps at the water’s edge – working boat horses sometimes fell into the canal while towing heavily-laden barges and these ramps helped lead them back up to the towpath.
7. The hawthorn-lined grassy banks of Mile End Park slope to the towpath offering space to sit and watch the water. The Park was laid out on land devastated by catastrophic bombing during World War II, and was part of a scheme for green corridors to connect the suburbs to the heart of London. It is now a 32-hectare linear park along the canal’s eastern edge.
8. Duck your head as you walk under the historic brick Gunmakers Arms Bridge. The London Small Arms Factory, an important arms manufacturer during World War I, used the canal to transport components to its other factory in Enfield. Beyond the bridge, the Park is now enclosed behind a brick wall and railings to your right.
9. Again duck under Mile End Road Bridge 57. At Mile End Lock, deep grooves have been worn into the stone by countless boat horse ropes towing heavy loads. The 19th-century lock-keeper’s cottage and its dynamic contemporary extension is now part of Queen Mary’s University of London.
End: Turn to experience the walk from a different perspective, explore the towpath ahead, or climb the steps by Mile End Bridge to catch a bus or tube.