Finishing off the Jubilee Greenway and taking in some seldom seen rays.

This was one of those rare occasions where my wife agreed to come along for a stroll with me. It helped that the forecast was for delicious sunshine, and that the start and end points provide such a lot of interest. She had no idea of what to expect in the middle so I was happy to help reveal that!

Starting point: Camden Town tube station, zone 2.

Finishing point: Hertford Union Canal confluence with the River Lea (Lee), Hackney Wick overground station nearby, zone 2.

Distance: 6.44 miles (10.4 kilometres).

I could feel the sun burning through my jacket as I hunched over the ATM outside Camden Town tube station. I probably didn’t need a coat after all. We carefully took on the short but slow expanse between the station and the Lock – trying to avoid being jostled into the road by gaggles of tourists. Over the canal bridge and immediately right, you pass a load of amazing-smelling food stalls and navigate around a crowd of yet more tourists snapping images of their friends climbing over a big lion sculpture, then you find peace. Of sorts.

East of Camden Lock, Jubilee Greenway

The waters of the Regent’s Canal are uncharacteristically busy here, the lock was stuffed with narrowboats trying to reach a lower reach of the canal. Waterfowl chicks were happily bouncing around on flotsam on the far side from the towpath, away from the whizzy cyclists, gnashy dogs, and sweaty joggers. Surprisingly little litter and almost no algae yet. Too early in the year and not enough sunlight.

Chicks on the Regent's Canal

The first mile or so is spent trying to avoid other, faster, towpath users. Especially under the multitude of bridges where the curved ceilings cut down on available headroom and necessitate more care. This section appears to be very popular until roughly under the St. Pancras rail bridge.

Looking at cyclists and walkers along the Regent's Canal

We admired the colourful narrowboats at dock under the railway and tried not to skid down the steep slope next to the lock here. Just around the bend is Central St. Martin’s art college. We didn’t realise this at first so we had to wonder at the fact that the lovely old brick building next to the canal was partially coated in tin foil…

Art school tin foil madness along the Regent's Canal, Jubilee Greenway

A few feet further on the newly built and occupied college was revealed in its shiny new expansive plaza. These buildings were classily covered in foil too. It seems like a simple idea, and I have no idea what they hoped to achieve, but it floated my narrowboat. Plenty of other folk were flopped around on the steps and clean stone. Not in a shabby hobo way, more in a ‘this is a good place to absorb sunlight’ way.

Looking south to St. Pancras from the Regent's Canal

The Cally Way passed over our heads and we turned left away from the canal just as an enormous cloud of teenagers’ temptingly pungent weed smoke enveloped us. The slope takes you over the Islington Tunnel and exposes you to some nice bits of the town centre. But first you have to navigate an estate using the floor tiles. No hardship.

Islington Tunnel on the Regent's Canal

Blazes when you leave the Regent's Canal in IslingtonMaygood Street, right along Penton Street, then left into Chapel Market. It was in full flow when we got there. And talk about eating with your eyes. Oh my god it was tremendous. I had to battle with myself not to spend the few quid I had but I fell into a revery bouncing between cheese, pork pie, olive, kebab, and fishmonger stalls. By the time we got onto the second half of the market my appetite was raging and all I had left to look at was stupid batteries, bathroom supplies, and boring dresses. So, to my eternal shame, when Kristina said she wanted to use the ‘facilities’ in M&S I resisted no more and bought a pair of pork pies from the food hall while I waited. Forgive me market sellers, I know now I gone done wrong…

My shame was deep but it was too late now. I gobbled the pies, both of them, as we found the canal again at the end of Duncan Street. Another massively steep slope put us down at the rear end of the tunnel but alas no smoke had wafted through. What we did find was a pair of narrowboats covered with potted flowers. Beautiful. They even had a few bees busily gorging themselves.

Roof mushrooms seen from the Jubliee Greenway, Regent's Canal

The City Road basin provided a few moments of distant city views before we entered the ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ bits of north London. Forget Camden, that’s for tourists and teenagers. The real cool and alternative crew is still very much in Hoxton. All manner of harlequin get-ups and skinny be-jeaned younglings made me look as uncool as I patently am. Looking around me at other cool younglings from their coffees in their riverside cafe. A little further on bohemian women sold secondhand books from temporary shelving units and another under-dressed lady tended to the paintwork on her narrowboat.

Lovely old industrial buildings along the Jubilee Greenway

I often wonder just how expensive it would be to live that life? The boats themselves are not cheap and all the extras like water and fuel must lead to some seriously creative ways to overcome difficulties. It looks a lot of fun to me anyway. There’s a lovely atmosphere between the different canal people, probably in part because they are regularly on the move between each of the free berths. Most you can’t occupy for than a week, I believe.

Regent's Canal curving through Hoxton

Just past the gasometers you find the towpath getting congested again. You’ve reached Victoria Park. We stepped inside and admired all the little ponds and Chinese decoration to the left, the bustle of weekend life in what is definitely becoming one of my favourite London parks. It’s a shame that on the day I took Kristina to see the park we had the pleasure of sharing it with a one-day festival.

Argh! Carrot near Hoxton, Jubliee Greenway

But where were the patrons? Behind the impressive wall of steel there was a hell of a lot of bass from the stages but peeping through the gaps shatters the illusion with a lot of empty space revealed. Odd. The path outside the festival was pretty empty beside a few small groups of extremely drunk women screaming nonsense into the bass-vibrated air.

As soon as we passed the largest stage the noise dropped off and the park began to return to people noodling around minding their own business with small kids. At this point we actually went to visit friends in a flat overlooking the Lea but you can simply follow the Hertford Union Canal a few hundred metres to the actual confluence. From there it’s another 5 minutes north to Hackney Wick station.

This is a classic alternative lifestyle walk. The various sub-cultures that make up young London are fairly represented in the people you see along the way and in the graffiti and art on public display. It’s vibrant and pleasant. Probably a walk that tourists would be well-advised to take on if they want to see ‘real’ London at play.