Camden Lock to Little Venice Walk

Towpath of Regent's Canal

While visiting UK last month, I spent a pleasant half-day exploring Camden Lock Market followed by a walk along the towpath of the Regent’s Canal as far as Little Venice and back again (about 4 miles in total).

Camden Lock Market

Camden Lock Market is a bustling collection of shops and stalls spread over an area of converted warehouses, cobbled yards, stables and newer buildings. It is open seven days a week and has become a popular destination for Londoners and tourists to shop for antiques, arty stuff, clothing, accessories and handicraft items from all over the world.

Camden or Calcutta?

Camden Market is also a good place for food with inexpensive stalls selling dishes from Ethiopia, Peru, Argentina, Nepal, Japan and Holland to name a few. In fact the only food you can’t seem to buy in this East End market is jellied eels and fish and chips.

Some of the food stalls at Camden Lock Market.

After stuffing myself with potato curry, a refreshing walk was needed. 

Regent's Canal

We walked along the old towpath which runs alongside the Regent’s Canal (towpaths were originally used by horses to tow barges). There were a few cyclists, joggers and walkers about but it was far from busy.

Regent’s Canal was opened in 1820 to link the River Thames at Limehouse to the Grand Union Canal junction at Paddington.

One of Grissell's bridges

The path passes underneath a number of bridges. This one bears the name Henry Grissell. This man was proprietor of Regents Canal Ironworks and his company built bridges over the River Nile, the iron works at Covent Garden Opera House and the railings outside Buckingham Palace among other works. Apparently he was buried at West Norwood Cemetery in a galvanised cast iron tomb. A true Iron Man!

Cow on BalconyFeng Shang Chinese Restaurant

The route passes London Zoo where you might catch sight of some hyenas in enclosures near the canal. There are plenty of other sights to see along the way including a life-sized plastic cow on somebody’s balcony and a Chinese floating restaurant.

Regents Canal, London

The canal runs along the northern edge of Regent’s Park where a handful of beautiful grand houses, in the style of famed architect John Nash, are located. These super luxury homes look old but seemingly were only built in the 1980s and 1990s.

Nash, who played a large part in the planning of this corner of London, originally intended Regents Canal to run through the centre of the park but he was persuaded that the uncouth language of the canal navvies would offend the refined residents of the area! 

There is no such problem these days as the narrow boat residents at Little Venice are a more genteel class of people, living Bohemian lifestyles with pot plants displayed alongside their permanently moored eco-barges.

Bohemian lifestyle at Little Venice

I saw an advert for a narrow boat and mooring at Little Venice on sale for £75,000. Mooring fees are £4,000 per year.  Compared to other properties in this part of London it might seem quite a bargain but it is a depreciating asset.

Narrow Boat Tours

There are regular narrow boat tours between Camden Lock Market and Little Venice if you don’t fancy too much walking.

Fawsley Church, Northamptonshire, England

I have been neglecting my blogging lately due an extended visit to England and a side trip to Turkey (even full time travellers need a holiday now and again!).

Now back home in Malaysia, I’ll post a few blogs relating to my trip.

fawsley

Just a few miles from my parents’ place in Northamptonshire is a delightful church in the tiny parish of Fawsley.

Fawsley Church

The present building dates from 1209 and, although it has been partially restored and embellished over the centuries, it still has an ancient feel to it.

Alabaster tomb of Sir Richard Knightley and his wife Jane Skenard. Organ built in 1839.

The church’s magnificent wooden ceiling was built in the 15th century. It had to be faithfully restored during the 1960’s due to death watch beetle infestation.

Interior of Fawsley Church

Fawsley has some superb medieval stained glass windows,the oldest of which date from the 13th century. American visitors to the church might be interested to see a glass window depicting the coat of arms of the Washington family which includes a stars and stripes motif and no doubt influenced the design of the US flag.

Some of Fawsley Hall's exquisite stained glass

Most of the monuments, memorials and inscriptions in the church relate to members of the powerful Knightley family who acquired the Fawsley estate in 1316 and it remained in family hands until 1932.  Sir Edmund Knightley commissioned the construction of the nearby Fawsley Hall in the 1530’s. It has been expanded over the past 150 years and is now a luxury hotel and spa and a popular venue for weddings, conferences and other posh events.

Knightley family memorial

As for the village which the church was built to serve, it has more or less disappeared without trace. The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded 17 families working the land and by 1377 there were 90 men over the age of 14 engaged in arable farming in the community. By 1524 however there were only 7 people listed. Perhaps the Knightley family found that keeping sheep was more profitable and less troublesome than collecting rent from impoverished peasants. The land was enclosed for sheep farming and the farm labourers presumably drifted away.  The village was depopulated and its remains disappeared, possibly under the ornamental lakes which were designed by Capability Brown to enhance the beauty of the estate.

Ghostly apparitions at Dower House.

Among the oak trees of Fawsley Park lie the ruins of a Tudor stately home called Dower House, reputed to be the oldest brick building in Northamptonshire. Tourists looking for a creepy experience should venture there at midnight on Christmas Eve when the ghost of a headless horseman is said to emerge from its walls!

More details on Fawsley Church can be found in A Brief History of Fawsley Church and Park by Ron Wilson and published by Wild Boar Books. A pamphlet can be obtained inside the church.

Chinatown

Where in Asia do you suppose this photo was taken?

Chinatown 

It’s a trick question. This is the gateway to the Chinatown district in Manchester, England. It is not a particularly big district, comprising a few streets lined with Chinese restaurants, oriental supermarkets and other Far Eastern owned businesses. I felt that the area was not quite as bustling and energetic as similar districts in other cities. Perhaps the inhabitants have lived in England too long and some of their natural dynamism has worn off. Or maybe it was just too cold that day.

Talking of energy,  a few minutes walk away from Chinatown is the magnificent Manchester Town Hall in Albert Square.

Manchester Town Hall, Albert Square

This grand Victorian building was completed in 1887 and is partially open to the public. Statues of former captains of industry and other local dignitaries, largely forgotten, line the ornate entrance hall. Off the foyer, is the Sculpture Hall Tea Room, an elegant cafe where customers can admire the sumptuous surroundings while seated in deep leather armchairs.

One of the statues was of James Prescott Joule, the Salford-born scientist who devised the unit of energy which bears his name, the joule. Slumped in his chair and pondering a mechanical instrument, he appears half-asleep. For a man who devoted his life to energy, he looks remarkably lacking in it!

James Prescott Joule

Sulgrave Manor – Northamptonshire, England

On my recent trip to UK I visited historic Sulgrave Manor, located in scenic Northamptonshire countryside in the heart of rural England.

Sulgrave Manor, Northamptonshire

You might wonder what this has to do with the theme of my blog, “Strolls around Asia”, and the answer is not much. This relatively modest manor house was the home of Lawrence Washington, great-great-great-great-great grandfather of George Washington, who purchased the estate from Henry VIII in 1539.  If Lawrence’s descendants had found the place more to their liking they might never have migrated to America and who knows if the world might have turned out differently.

The Great Hall has been restored and furnished much as it might have looked in the Tudor era. The flagged stone floor must have been quite cold in winter. Our guide explained that instead of carpets they would have covered the floor with thresh (straw). The doors to the Great Hall  have raised sills in order to prevent the thresh from escaping, hence the term threshold.

Still on an etymological bent, the same room also contains a beautifully carved and inlaid piece of Elizabethan furniture known as the dole cupboard. This cabinet was used to store left-over food and ale to be doled out to the poor who would knock on the side entrance to the Great Hall. According to the guide, this is where we get the term on the dole.

Talking of ale, the manor house had its own brew house. In those days clean drinking water was hard to come by and most people would apparently drink beer instead. Even children would have supped weak ale for breakfast, unlike the youth of today who prefer fruit flavoured vodka .

The fascinating kitchen is filled with the implements and artefacts of the period. The bread oven was a rustic affair where a lump of dough was placed on the floor of the oven resulting in a hard blackened base to the loaf while the upper part was cooked just right. The bottom of the loaf would have been eaten by the servants whereas the upper crust was reserved for the master of the house. Hence the term upper crust when referring to the wealthy. Today of course we know the hard bit at the bottom as a pizza!

The bedchamber in Sulgrave Manor is also decorated in Tudor style. It has a very grand bed but no sign of an en-suite bathroom. Indeed the whole house was without a bathroom because (according to the guide) the Tudors rarely washed, apart from splashing their faces from time to time. Some say this is a myth but, if true, people must have had less sensitive olfactory systems those days to stand the stench. It was about this period that Europeans were starting to explore other parts of the world including the tropical shores of Asia. Given their poor hygiene habits it is hardly surprising that they easily succumbed to exotic diseases.