June 19, 2015

A soleful walk along Regent’s canal

St Mark’s purple slippers catch my eye. There he is, resplendent in his gowns and his purple slippers, immortalised in stained glass, in the window of his eponymous church on the edge of Regent’s Park. I was there to start a short walk along the next door canal. I wondered if his shoes were made for walking. And if St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers, I wondered who St Mark is the patron and protector of. It turns out he watches over notaries, presiding over documents and their signing. Maybe his purple slippers were a way of bringing a splash of colour and personality to proceedings.

I’m not wearing purple slippers, but I am wearing my Po-Zu Brisks in red and orange. I like to think that St Mark would have approved. I head out of the church to begin my walk, with a couple of friends. We’re going to be walking to Kensal Green cemetery, along the canal for the most part. Spring is brightening the churchyard, with shivering daffodils and primary-coloured primulas.

Regent’s Canal, completed in 1820, runs along the back of London zoo. The Lord Snowdon-designed aviary throws its angular edges into the air on the side we walk on. A tall grey bird which could be a crane peers out at us through the mesh, whilst above the smaller birds flit. On the canal bank, moorhens, unaware of their liberty, slip into the water.

Past the zoo, a flock of mock-Georgian palaces sit on the edge of the park, with their pristine lawned gardens reaching down to the water’s edge. There is no evidence of life that we can see. The houseboats, however, moored a little further down the canal, look lived in and loved, with spring bulbs sprouting in pots on deck and in the carefully-tended gardens at the side of the canal path. A black cat patrols whilst a pair of ducks take in some afternoon sunshine on the roof of one boat.

At Paddington Basin, Regents Canal meets up with the Grand Union Canal, in the area known as Little Venice. We take a brief diversion off the canal to the Lisboa café on Golborne Road. This is a slice of Portugal as authentic as one of their ‘pastel de nata’ or custard tarts, which are yellow, custardy and sweet. The café is tiled in Portugese-style and there is poster declaring that Portugal is ‘My heart, my dove, my moon-shell, my Chinese apple’. I like to think that my ‘made in Portugal’ Po-Zu shoes feel that they are coming home here. Fortified, we continue on our way, rejoining the canal, passing in front of the looming Trellick Tower and by way of the Meanwhile Wildlife Garden, a therapeutic and training garden managed by the Kensington & Chelsea branch of the mental health charity MIND.

Soon, we see the Sainsbury’s at Ladbroke Grove ahead of us, which is our cue to leave the canal. We cross over the bridge, and turn left on to Harrow Road. Kensal Green Cemetery is closing its gates so we’ll have to come back another time to explore. Kensal Green station is a few minutes walk, and we can ride the Bakerloo line back along the way that we have come. I think St Mark’s purple slippers would have enjoyed the excursion, even if they got splashed by a few puddles along the way.

By Olivia Sprinkel