London’s Regents Canal is an iconic piece of the capital’s history, a small part of which we helped to preserve in the winter of 2018. It fuelled Britain’s Industrial Revolution as goods from around the country made their way to London’s docks, whilst the raw materials which made such a revolution possible arrived from around the world, and travelled in the opposite direction. These days, the canal serves a different purpose; as a home to London’s boater community, a pleasant route to work for commuters, and a great recreational resource for tourists and locals alike. And in January, Urban Growth have been doing their bit to improve the experience for everyone.
As any long-time London resident knows, the stretch of canal between Kings Cross and Camden Town was for decades considered a “no-go” area, home to some of the less savoury aspects of London life. But in recent years the area has gone through a transformation, and with the development of the Granary Square complex of restaurants, bars and businesses, as well a a burgeoning hub for the tech industry, the image change has been remarkable. To further improve the area, local business improvement district Camden Town Unlimited, in collaboration with the Canal & River Trust, recruited Urban Growth to undertake a clean-up of the canal towpath from Kentish Town Lock in the west to Camley Street Bridge in the east. This section of the work has been made possible by a grant from the Mayor’s Air Quality fund.
This is the first phase of planned rejuvenation of the canal, with a masterplan developed by the innovative designers at Cityscapes, which aims to enhance the appeal of the route for all its many users. But as every gardener knows, before you can create a new garden you must first clear the space, which demanded a three man team from Urban Growth for ten days in January. Although the job is primarily one of clearance and disposal, the team have also worked to maximise the existing planting, by pruning and shaping ivy and trees along the path, as well as giving particular attention to a rather beautiful weeping willow (Salix babylonica) which stands just past the Kentish Town lock.
As always in the winter months, weather has been a consideration for those on site, with added safety concerns potentially being posed by severe weather, particularly given the tight working spaces and proximity of the water, which have been unique features of the job. Although high winds hampered proceedings in the first week, and a combination of wet and windy weather delayed the conclusion of the job, on the whole conditions have been reasonably favourable for the time of year. The team were made very welcome by the ideally-situated Constitution pub, who kindly housed our tools each night and offered a warm, welcoming refuge to recuperate from the cold.
There was an added personal dimension to this job, as one member of the team lives on a canal boat, and regularly stops in the area. But the positive responses from passersby and local residents make clear that this is a very special place for many people and for a host of reasons. We are delighted to have collaborated with local organisations to improve this valuable public resource.