This walk of 5.60 miles / 9.02 kilometres is almost all away from streets and features Regent's Park and Canal, Primrose Hill, London Zoo, Camden Lock, Camley Street Natural Park and the exciting new developments north of King's Cross Station. The only appreciable climb is the ascent of Primrose Hill.

 


 

1. Leave Baker Street Tube Station by the side entrance, turning right along Baker Street.  Cross over Allsop Place, bearing left then right past the end of Clarence Terrace, to cross the Outer Circle (road), and enter Regent's Park by the Clarence Gate.

Regent's Park stands on land appropriated by Henry VIII for use as a deer park and was originally known as Marylebone Park. Following a period in agricultural use, in 1811 the Prince Regent (the later George IV) commissioned John Nash to develop an estate on the park's edge. Nash, together with Decimus Burton, designed a grand series of classical terraces which still fringe the east and south sides of the park.

2. Turn right in front of the lake. To the right can be seen York Terrace West and East, built in 1822, the two parts divided by St Marylebone parish church (built 1813-7), opposite York Gate. Go straight across the roadway and continue on the same path, taking the right fork. Continue over the next cross-path to enter the Avenue Gardens. Now turn left along the Broad Walk, the main axis of the gardens, although you might prefer the more colourful side paths running parallel.

3. On coming to the end of the gardens, turn left along Chester Road and, in 200 metres, cross over the Inner Circle (road) and enter Queen Mary's Gardens, resplendent with roses in the summer months. Immediately turn left at the first path junction. Follow the line of this path, passing a pretty lake over to the right. 

4. Arrive at a multi-path junction, with the large ornate Jubilee Gates over to the left. Continue straight on but, at the next path junction, turn left to pass a restaurant and back to the Inner Circle. Cross this to go down the opposite path, soon curving left to follow the Boating Lake. On reaching the bridge, turn right over it to arrive back at the point where you first entered the park.

5. Now turn right to keep alongside the lake again. Clarence Terrace (1823) and Sussex Place (1822), with its strange painted metal domes, can be seen on the left. Fork right on the major path to pass between a café and the Children's Boating Pond. Over to the left can be seen the minaret of the London Central Mosque, built 1972-8. Turn right and left over two bridges (toilets here). Pass these to take the left fork, eventually going through the Winter Gardens.

6. On coming to the Outer Circle again, cross to take the path opposite. This leads down to Charlbert Bridge over the Regent's Canal. The bridge also carries the encased River Tyburn over the canal. Once over, turn immediately right, following railings, then sharp right to reach the canal towpath, where turn left. The next bridge we reach is Macclesfield Bridge, made of iron cast at the famous industrial site at Coalbrookdale in Shropshire. It is now more popularly known as "Blow-up Bridge" on account of a major accident (described below).

London had already been already connected to the national canal network via the Thames when the Oxford Canal reached the river and, later, the Grand Junction Canal connected at Brentford. An extension to the Grand Junction was opened to Paddington by 1801. It was only natural therefore that a further section be extended eastwards to Limehouse, enabling connection back to the River Thames and the River Lea. There were considerable difficulties encountered, however. The Act authorising the canal was passed in 1812, but the canal was not completed until 1820. Unlike the Paddington Canal, which has no locks or tunnels, the Regent's Canal required twelve locks and two tunnels. Moreover, unreasonable financial recompense was being demanded by landowners, especially by one William Agar, a barrister who owned land on which the notorious Agar Town slum was later built. Lastly, in 1815, one of the original proposers of the canal, Thomas Homer, was found to have been embezzling funds. He was subsequently sentenced to seven years transportation, but the money was never recovered. 

A later disaster occurred at Macclesfield Bridge. In the early hours of the morning of 2 October 1874, a train of six barges being pulled by a steam tug were passing along the canal. One of the barges, the "Tilbury", was carrying a cargo of gunpowder and exploded under the bridge. Three people were killed and the bridge brought down. Evidence of the disaster is still visible. When the bridge was reconstructed, the columns were turned through 180 degrees. Rope friction marks that were already present can now be seen on the landward side; those on the canal side were worn after the bridge was reconstructed. Additionally, a tree that was badly damaged in the explosion, managed to recover and is still living, albeit with a huge split clearly to be seen.

7. Just as the next bridge is reached, turn back on yourself along a rising path by the fence, turning sharp right again at the path junction. When level with the top of the bridge, turn left and take the right fork over the pedestrian crossing on Prince Albert Road to enter Primrose Hill.

8. Go up the leftmost path along the park's edge. As the hill levels out, take two successive right turns to gain the viewpoint with its iconic view over central London. To continue, resume direction to swing right downhill, then soon right again. At the multi-pathed junction at the bottom of the hill, take the second path on the right (NB: not the fork further on) to where you entered Primrose Hill, then retrace your steps to get back onto the canal to continue in your former direction. The path now bisects London Zoo, although there is no access possible from the towpath.

London Zoo was established in 1826 and is the oldest established scientific zoo in the world. There are nearly 700 different species with a total individual count of over 20,000. As well as being a tourist attraction and an educational facility, it interacts with breeding programmes in other zoos internationally. The large wired structure to the left of the towpath is the Snowden Aviary, built in 1964.

9. Pass under three more bridges to arrive opposite the Cumberland Basin after 370 metres.

The Cumberland Basin was an offshoot of the canal of about a kilometre running down towards Euston Station. Later on, it was filled with war debris and, as well as the floating Chinese restaurant, now serves as a carpark for the zoo. The canal now changes course; originally it was intended to take the canal across Regent's Park, but the wealthy inhabitants who were to occupy Nash's terraces, took exception to the likely proximity of lowly canal folk, hence the change of direction.

10. Follow the canal left under Prince Albert Road, closely followed by Grafton Bridge. There is a change of character as the canal heads towards the cosmopolitan Camden Town, with the fine villas around Regent's Park gradually replaced by more utilitarian ones. Pass under the rail line carrying traffic from Euston Station, soon to arrive at the Pirate Castle. The building to the right houses a community centre and a youth kayaking facility; the building in a similar style opposite is a pumping station providing cooling for the electricity cables running under the towpath.

11. Soon we find ourselves at Camden Lock. The towpath rises over a dock, then changes sides to go past the Ice Wharf Pub. The lock here, more properly known as Hampstead Road Lock No 1, is the first of twelve which lower the canal 86 feet (26 metres) to the Thames at Limehouse. To continue along the canal, go forward into Chalk Farm Road, turn left just before the entrance to Camden Market back down to the canal, then left yet again to pass under the road.

Drop-out point: If you want to break off at this point, turning right along Chalk Farm Road will soon take you to Camden Town (Northern Line) tube station. Otherwise, numerous bus routes are also available.

NB: The towpath is currently (November 2018) closed past here whilst Hawley Wharf is being redeveloped, so a short diversion is required.

At Chalk Farm Road, cross with care and turn right, then take the next left into Hawley Crescent. Kentish Town Road is soon reached, and the towpath can be regained by crossing this and turning left for a few paces. The towpath is expected to reopen at the end of 2018.

12. The canal now performs a series of turns, passing under Camden Street, Camden Road, Royal College Street and St Pancras Way before straightening up. We now pass through the former area of Agar Town, a notorious mid-19th century slum, now entirely replaced by Elm Village. This is a quieter stretch now after the hubbub of Camden Market and Kentish Town.

13. Pass under Camley Street and the rail lines from St Pancras to arrive at a spectacular group of three reconstructed gasholders, formerly used by the Imperial Gas Light and Coke Company; two of them containing housing and the third a garden. The canalside here has been imaginatively redeveloped with colourful flowerbeds. Across the canal can be seen St Pancras Lock and, a little further down, Camley Street Natural Park.

14. Follow the rising path by the wall between the canal and gasholders to cross the Somers Town Pedestrian Bridge over the canal. To the right can be seen the striking water-tower, the sole survivor of seven which supplied water for steam locomotives. It was moved 700 metres to its present location. The bridge arrives at the entrance to Camley Street Natural Park (currently undergoing redevelopment, but scheduled to re-open in Spring 2019).

Camley Street Natural Park is a former railway coalyard that later became an unofficial refuse tip. It was rescued in 1983 and became the present nature reserve under the management of the London Wildlife Trust. It contains a variety of habitats, including woodland, grassland and wetland. There is a staffed information centre and entrance to the reserve is free. A circular path links the various areas and visitors to the reserve may feel almost in the middle of deep countryside.

15. On leaving the Natural Park, retrace your steps across the pedestrian bridge and turn right. Pass the former Fish and Coal Offices, comparatively rare examples of mid-19th century coal merchant offices. They were later used in connection with the fish trade. Bear left through Granary Square with steps leading down to the canal on the right. However, stay on the same level. Across the square are refurbished warehouses. Bend right now to cross the canal, then use the pedestrian crossing to enter King's Boulevard. King's Cross and St Pancras Stations can be seen at the far end; there is also access to the stations on the right of the boulevard.

 


 

© Mike Biggs, Ramblers (Inner London Area), 2018.

If you have any comments about this walk, or notice that it needs updating to take account of changes on the route, then please contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.