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Earlier this week, I went up to London to see my friend Mary. Inspired by her brother’s previous exploit, and hoping to have better weather than he did, I decided to walk from Paddington Station towards Camden Town. Mary met me off the train, which was five minutes early. I was pleased to have her guidance to get me to Paddington Basin, the start of the walk.

I did not realise it at the time, but we must have been very near to St Mary’s Hospital, where I had a couple of minor operations in my childhood.

Looking back at the Fan Bridge

We stopped for a coffee in a café in one of the many luxurious buildings in the recent grand redevelopment around the basin. We sat looking out over the canal, which at this point is the very end of the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal. (On just looking this up, I now realise that the canal we used to visits as kids in West London/Middlesex was on this same Paddington Arm.) We thought we might hang on for the few minutes before the expected Fan Bridge opening, but fortunately checked our facts. We thought that two days and seven minutes was too long to wait.

We also reckoned that, though attractive – in warmer weather – these boats were far too expensive to hire.
I tried to capture in this picture the expansive splendour – about which I had very mixed feelings – of the whole development, but failed miserably.
The gulls seemed to like the roof of the narrowboat as a resting place.
Just one of the many interesting buildings
We could find no explanation of this sculpture of two men facing each other.
Approaching Little Venice, where the Regent’s Canal joins the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.
A gull photobombs the view of the Grand Union Canal. We’re going over the bridge to turn right and walk beside the Regent’s Canal
A Canada goose is a little more co-operative, but a moorhen isn’t
I think Mary’s suggestion that we take the boat rather than walk was only a joke, but I’m not sure.

For much of the time, because of private moorings, works, or the canal disappearing into a tunnel, we could not walk on the towpath itself. Here we passed alongside the Blomfield Road private moorings, and can see the Apostolic Catholic Church on Maida Avenue. It is (or was in 2014) the only remaining congregation of that movement in the world, and that with limited liturgy, as the last priest died in 1971. There were 200,000 followers in 1000 congregations worldwide in 1900.

The canal goes into the Maida Hill tunnel, but we have to go over the top.
Another short tunnel we could not enter

I was particularly glad to have Mary with me at this point, as works sent us away from the canal for a short while, but she knew where to go. It was particularly pleasing, for more than one reason, to see this as we approached Lisson Grove and the Lisson Green estate.

As we crossed back over the canal. we saw the boat we had not caught earlier on, returning to Little Venice.

We continued to the most beautiful section of our walk, including six Italianate villas, built, amazingly, between 1988 and 2004, as this fascinating article reveals.

Looking back at a vanishing cyclist. I think this is the one who actually said ‘Thank you’ as we stood aside.
This is Macclesfield Bridge, also known as Blow-up Bridge following an incident which led to the passing of the Explosives Act, 1875
We’ve come just a little too far, as we are now at the aviary in London Zoo…
… and opposite the giraffe house.

We made our way back a few yards, and went up a short flight of steps to cross the road to Primrose Hill This plan informed me that, whereas all my life I have referred to ‘Regent’s Park’, I should have been calling it ‘The Regent’s Park’ – which makes sense.

We crossed the grass beside Primrose Hill, resisting the temptation to go up.

So this was the best view overlooking London that I could manage.

I enjoyed the effect of the thinning foliage on the elegant houses as we neared our exit from the park.

A delicious Greek meal was taken at ‘Lemonia‘ in Primrose Hill, but we had arrived too late for the chocolate fudge cake. Perhaps it’s as well.

In the early evening, Mary went off to a talk on Troy, a prelude to an exhibition to come soon, and I went to a Guardian Live ‘conversation’ at King’s Place, between someone who no doubt thought she was too well-known to introduce herself, and Trevor McDonald, held to promote the latter’s recently published autobiography.

A bowl of home-made lentil soup and an exchange on our cultural experiences rounded off a very pleasant day.