Life is like a bowl of chocolates you never know what ‘you’re gonna get‘.
The same could be said for The Grand Union Canal. Tuesday morning Peter and myself collected the canoe from Bell Hill and headed back to Southall Common to paddle the next stretch of canal. Travelling through the rush hour traffic made all the more easy knowing we were off to a far better place than our fellow drivers.
We arrive at the common and by the looks on the local’s faces that pass while we unload the boat it’s clear that they see the canal on the other side of the road as nothing more than a dumping ground. With the warm morning sun on our backs we head off upstream, within minutes to our amusement we discover laying captive in the overhanging branches of a tree a fully inflated blow up doll, after much laughing and deciding not to practice our rescue skills we paddle on past Bulls Bridge and under the A312.
As we paddle on, each bridge we approach is like a picture framed gateway to the next stretch each showing rope scars from horse drawn barges from days long gone. Through one we spy a large noisy industrial site with huge excavators moving road building aggregate. Through the next we have tree lined peace and quiet, then modern new flats with wonderful waterside views . Onward, and we find ourselves next to the mainline railway with the woosh of the Intercity high speed trains racing by, full of commuters travelling to and from London, mixed with the slow cluncking of the freight trains as we pass West Drayton station.
We paddle on past more industry and more flats but only two river users showing just how quiet this canal is. One narrow boat motored towards us with what looked like bunting all over the front only to be the owners knickers and boxers blowing in the breeze! After a couple of hours we reach Cowley Lock our only portage for the day were we meet two retired gents who give up their spare time to work for ‘The Canal and River Trust’ as part time lock keepers to ensure that the water levels are maintained on the lower reaches.
After a good chat and acting on their recommendation we decide to stop for an early lunch at the Malt Shovel pub were we enjoyed some lovely food in the garden next to the canal, it certainly beat the usual squashed sarnies. With stomachs full we decide to head back down stream. On the way back a narrow boat passes with balloons and Just Married signs on it as a young couple enjoy their honeymoon we congratulate them as they go past. In no time we find ourselves back at the car. Today has been a quick 11 mile round trip.