Jason's Canal Trip review
Jason's Trip run a boat between Little Venice and Camden Lock. It's one of those narrow boats (houseboats with the sides missing) that retirees take waterway holidays on: low enough to float under the branches, slow enough not to disturb the ducks, and painted like one of those fairground gypsy caravans. But you definitely need a lazy day for it. It's the kind of ride you can try on a sunny afternoon when it's too hot to walk anywhere.
I recommend starting at the Little Venice end because if you go the other way (Camden Lock to Little Venice) then you won't get any commentary. They've got a floating cafe on the other side of the blue bridge if you fancy a quick cup of tea beforehand. But don't take too long because they insist you get there fifteen minutes early or they'll sell your seat to somebody else (there's always one person who runs along late -- don't go yet! don't go yet! I'm here! I'm here!).
We're all just standing here waiting to be let onboard at the moment, whilst the boatman is busy doing the important stuff: polishing his brass horn in case he needs to ring it, ding it, bing it, or whatever other sound its supposed to make. That must be his duck alarm, his bird klaxon, and he'll give that a blow whenever a duck ventures too close to the boat. Now he's unstacking the plastic chairs and setting them out in tidy lines. They've got those hot plastic ones that fry up in the sun -- the ones that brand you like cattle when when you touch your bare legs on them.
The last time I tried this trip they had a very entertaining guide onboard, but I can't see her today which is a bit of a shame. Oh, wait a minute, here she comes. She's just been off finding some flowers for her vase. That's the kind of boat this is -- there's a little picnic table at the back with bluebells in a jam jar. Everything is super friendly this morning and when I step onboard we swap our names and where I'm from, been here before?, seen this before?, pick a seat on the sunny side and wait to get going.
It's a very low boat. If you hook your elbow over the side then you can wet your fingers in the water. You could easily scoop up some algae, pick up some pigeon feathers, or grab that sunken packet of fags that is floating past. A couple of dogs have come bounding down the towpath and their noses are at the same level as mine. I feel like I've been shrunk down to their size and I'm seeing the world through their eyes. After a flurry of tail wags and sniffs and running up and down the length of the boat a few times they're off again, bounding over to their owner by the bridge.
Five minutes later the motor chugs up and the guide goes through all the safety announcements. Then she gives us a little history of the Regent's Canal as we slowly float through Little Venice.
Little Venice is a very pretty part of London... it could be one of those picture postcards on a box of Cornwall fudge. Whenever I try and describe it I always make it sound too twee, but that's exactly how it is. The houseboats really do have flowerpots on top. It's all pottery boxes with daffodils and spinning sun catchers... little picket fences with wicker baskets and rusty buckets, and bikes with flowers growing through the spokes. People are sitting on their little patios drinking cups of tea, waving at us as we float past. The guide seems to know all their names. She probably recognises all the birds as well, and all the local animals, and has individual names for them all -- it's exactly that kind of friendly community.
One of the best bits is when you head through a long, dark and dingy tunnel where the motor coughs and splutters off the black bricks and sends an echo through your chest. After that you're into some overgrown nettles and riverside weeds and pass a few more boats moored up in front of big brick factories. There used to be a power station down here so the upper path is bristling with CCTV cameras and tall metal fences, whilst the towpath below is all pretty picket fences and houseboats.
Then it's under some rusty bridges with peeling paint and graffiti. (I'm not trying to put you off -- it's all very atmospheric.) Eventually you'll ease into the greenery by Regent's Park and past the million pound mansions (probably more like ten million). The riverside gardens down here are very impressive indeed, and probably cost more to tend than I make in a year.
Keep looking left and you'll see a big wire cage that towers above the trees. Have a look inside there and see if you can spot some birds (there's hundreds of them -- Ibis, peacocks, all sorts). That's the Snowdon Aviary at London Zoo. You're floating through the northern end of the zoo right now and you can see some other cages on the right. With a bit of luck you might be able to spot some African hunting dogs. After that comes a red Chinese restaurant that looks like it's floated in from the Yangtze River.
The final stretch towards Camden Lock pretties up considerably with more houseboats on one side and gardens full of bird boxes, bird tables and patio tables on the right, and a few rowing boats tied up by the riverside stairs. After passing under a few more bridges carrying clattering trains you'll pass a canoe school and some of the most graffitied walls in London (but this is Camden, remember, so it's very arty graffiti!). Then they'll slowly float 360 and kick you off at Camden Lock.
Guest – Are dogs allowed on the boat ? Thank you
Admin – I emailed them to ask, and got this reply back:
so it looks like it's okay
Guest – Hello, is it possible to do it the other way around - that is, Camden Lock to Little Venice and back? Thanks
Admin – You can do, yes. But they only do the live commentary from Little Venice to Camden. You don't get any commentary coming back the other way.
Here are some more boat journeys…
|Guided tours in April|
|Guided tours in May|
|Guided tours in June|