Canal walk + market + park = goodness

Lovely day? Want a nice walk but also a fun market perhaps followed by some lounging in the park? May I suggest a stroll down Regent’s Canal, through Broadway Market, and then a nice lie down and look up at the trees in London Fields.

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Start at Angel tube station, in Islington. Turn right out of the tube station then right at the York Pub (Duncan Street). Duncan Street dead ends into the Islington entrance to Regent’s Canal. At this point, you can only go East because the canal becomes non-pedestrian as it goes west under the Islington Tunnel. Start strolling! It’s about an hour’s walk (at strolling pace) along one of the quietest and most interesting stretches of Regent’s canal. Parts are industrial and rough, parts are refurbished and beautiful, and some bits are just green and pretty, but through it all you walk along the gently waving canal, which of course is just spectacular if it’s sunny and the sun bounces off the water.

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You’ll be amazed as you enter it at first the contrast with loud, busy Upper Street. You’ll pass lots of colourful canal boats

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Just be sure to watch out for bikes! Most cyclists are very polite, and expect the same from you along the narrow at times canalside paths. Listen out for the ding of bike bells, especially around tight corners under bridges. Note: if you are a cyclist, if you haven’t used Regent’s Canal as a great way to get through a lot of North London do it, now!

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Eventually, you’ll pass a host of other bridges and things and hit Broadway market area. Use Shoreditch Park area as a marker – there are signs for it and it’s almost exactly halfway between Angel and Broadway Market/London Fields area. Just when it starts to look rather very sketchy and you hit a very large bridge with lots of traffic, pop out of the canal (there are stairs for entry and exit at various points). If you’re on Regents’ Row you are in the right place – there is also a sign for Broadway Market on the fence by the canal. If you hit Victoria Park you’ve gone way, way too far, but that’s okay – just go walk around Victoria Park instead!

After exiting the canal path, at peace with life from the quiet and water, go right for only a few steps and then turn left into Broadway Market. You’ll know it’s right by the sudden appearance of nice pubs and food shops, and probably a host of young trendy types. Broadway Market is an interesting place. The full food market is only on Saturdays,  but the whole street is lined with wonderful shops to peruse at anytime – don’t miss Broadway Books! The Saturday market is a wonderful jumble of prepared food, meat, and produce. Once a rather rundown and rough area (though with strong community), London Fields area (of which Broadway Market is part) is getting increasingly gentrified, but it still feels like a real ‘place.’ It’s a tad upmarket feeling now and absolutely swamped by ‘artsy’ types with much of their parents’ dollar to spend, but it’s still a great sensory experience and hey, artsy types always make for good people watching.

 

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Follow the market street all the way to the end, however leisurely you’d like, and it ends right into London Fields. Once a plague burial ground, it’s now a very nice park, full of open green space yet gorgeous leafy trees. And it feels more local, like the people who are there live around there, than the other big parks like Hyde Park which feel more like cut-throat competitive grounds for a bunch of strangers jostling for the best picnic space on sunny days. London Fields doesn’t feel like that at all. There is even a permanent stone ping pong table – bring your own paddles and ping pong ball if you wish and can manage to get a spot. As mentioned earlier, London Fields is also fabulous people watching, due to the fashion-off that happens there daily as hipsters vie for the most unique or trendy look. When I was there last I got to experience the weirdness of five male friends travelling together as a posse, each with a particular ‘style’ carefully crafted to stand out just enough from the other. They were like an indie boy band who had each chosen a decade to wear ironically, including the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. If only one of them had whipped out a ukelele, it would have been hipster complete.

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Beyond that though, London Fields is great for a sit/lie down after the walk and the market, to take in the sunshine, shade, families, and hipsters. You can get back to Angel, Tottenham Court Road, etc. by getting the 38 bus off of Graham Road – follow London Fields West Side road that hugs the (you guessed it) West side of the park North as it becomes Greenwood Road and then intersects with Graham Road. Or you can always walk back by the canal if you’re feeling not tired, which I imagine at this point is unlikely…

p.s. if you need to pee, go sneak into the pub on the park, just off London Fields on the east side. Sadly the public toliets have been closed for awhile so this is your best hope. Or even go grab a pint – it’s a great pub.    

Saturday sorted.

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