Richard had found the perfect parking spot. The Common in Southall. We had the park on one side of us and the Brentford arm of the Grand Union Canal on the other. We put the canoe in the water and paddled off towards the Bulls Bridge junction. We thought today, Friday the 8th was a good enough day to paddle the Paddington arm of the Grand Union up to Horsenden canoe centre in Perivale (about 6 miles each way, no locks to portage!). At Bulls Bridge the canal splits, the Paddington arm heads north and the Brentford Arm continues to form the main branch of the Grand Union canal all the way to Birmingham.
Passing under Bulls Bridge and after a very short period we noticed the trees and bushes. Trees seem to line both sides of the canal, protecting it from what lay beyond. We could hear the heavy noises of everyday life, but we couldn’t see what was making it, we could only guess. We caught a glimpse of a train flying across a bridge as we paddle up to Minet Country Park, we spied a Sainsbury’s lorry passing over as we were passing under the Uxbridge road, but the trees were dominant, along with all the moored canal boats.
As we slipped quietly past King Georges Fields with Hayes on our left and Southall on our right and on into Marnham Fields we began to take notice of the amount of wild life. I have never seen so many swans dominate so much of a canal. Herons, standing like tired old men lined our route as we paddled underneath the busy Western Avenue. We caught a huge terrapin lazing on a log as dozens of moorhen chicks sought protection as we paddled past the Mohammedi Park Masjid Complex, which we knew was there because it rose high above the tree line. Quite an impressive sight. Through Greenford and Perivale we travelled until we reached the Horsenden Visiters Centre.
After a short break we started back. As our canoe passed under the Oldfield road bridge Richard and I decided it was the perfect time of day to stop at the Black Horse. Although we did not eat the food looked amazing, completely intimidating my squashed cheese sandwich.
Paddling back through a short part of Northolt was rather different to the mornings paddling with a young boy throwing stones at us from his third floor balcony. Men, old enough to know better throwing us moody stares from underneath dirty hoodies. A couple of lads trying to catch another couple of lads on the opposite side of the canal with their fishing rods, line and hooks. But don’t let this put you off paddling this stretch of water. Although very busy with canal boats drifting up to London, there is not a lot of foot traffic and this seems to have encouraged the wild life to flourish. At some points not the prettiest of paddles but well worth the effort.
Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch)
The Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) is a broad canal and is part of the Grand Union Canal. It runs for 13 miles and 4 furlongs from Bull’s Bridge Junction (where it joins the Grand Union Canal (Grand Junction Canal – Main Line)) to Paddington Basin and Wharves(which is a dead end).