The Grand Union Canal - Paddington Arm connects with the River Thames at Brentford via Bulls Bridge Junction

Researched and written by Jeannette Briggs

The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal is a great surprise from so many aspects.  The Regents Canal is well known especially its section from Camden Lock along through Regent's Park past the London Zoo and through Maida Hill Tunnel.

The Paddington Arm's canal runs from the junction with the Regent's Canal at Little Venice, to Bulls Bridge Junction near Slough, through the suburbs of West London until it joins with the main Grand Union Canal.

 







Above: Camden Locks and the towpath
bridge - photo by J Briggs
 

Above: Regents Canal Little Venice

The Paddington Arm is - effectively  - a continuation of the Regent's Canal. The locks at Little Venice were used for gauging the canal boats for tolls.

 

Above: Paddington Arm - junction with Regent's Canal photo by J Briggs

You can journey by canal boat past Paddington, under the elevated section of the A40 Westway and past numerous blocks of flats with the most outstanding being the enormous Trellick Tower designed by the Hungarian architect Goldfinger.  This was built in the 1960ies, and is either an architectural masterpiece or a complete eyesore, depending on your personal taste.  It has actually been listed as a Grade II building.  The "modern brutalism" style of the tower can be counter balanced aesthetically by the numerous blocks of smart canalside apartments that have been built in more recent years - these are (in the main) both decorative and in keeping and scale with surrounding buildings make the most of their position alongside the water.

Further along this stretch you see the terrace of fine Victorian houses in the Harrow Road. Just west of Kensal Green Bridge is a good supermarket, with canal boat mooring bollards and facilities. If you need to stock up on the next part of your canal boat holiday.

 

Above Photo: Kensal Green Cemetery by J Briggs

Beyond the Harrow Road at Old Oak Common you can take your canal boat to the sylvan delights of the huge Kensal Green cemetery. Developed under the Victorians when churchyards in West London became too crowded to accept more bodies, the cemetery is laid out with avenues of trees and huge monuments. Some notable Victorians like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Anthony Trollope, Richard Makepeace Thackray and Louise Blondin were buried here. Coffins used to be delivered here by the canal you can still see the landing piers by the canal bank.

Leaving the cemetery, to the south of the canal, you can see Wormwood Scrubs prison, whose towers can be glimpsed just above the sidings. It is not - however - unremitting doom and gloom and industrial wasteland here! Trees like willows and wild flowers flourish alongside the canal banks, making this a rural artery and a wildlife sanctuary in this somewhat semi-industrial section of the Paddington Arm. It is however a fascinating aspect of your canal boat holiday

The canal now turns north west, past what used to be the Heinz Baked Bean factory, now demolished. It then enters a huge aqueduct which passes over one of the busiest roads in London, the A406 North Circular.  It is quite incongrouous to be able to step off a boat on the aqueduct and to look down on the rushing traffic far below the canal.

From here the canal passes through the leafy suburbs of Alperton, where nicely tended gardens border the towpath, and another supermarket sits on the edge of the canal, complete with bollards for those with a canal boat to moor.  You will also smell the various food factories which are all around you - mostly very pleasant!

 












 

Above: Towpath near Alperton - photo by J Briggs

Above: Horsenden Hill Visitor centre by
the canal - photo by J Briggs

If you are lucky you can see herons here, plus terrapins, swans, grebes, moorhens and coots in the shallow waters of the banks of the canal.

Leaving Alperton the canal skirts the green acres of Greenford Golf Course and sweeps to the south of Horsenden Hill and Perivale Wood, which provide a long stretch of beautiful open countryside. Unusually this is a huge stretch of hilly parkland surrounded by fairly flat countryside, so Horsenden Hill really stands out. It has a Visitor Centre located right on the canal.

The towpath is usually lined with walkers, dogs, cyclists, fishermen and the occasional pub, like the Black Horse at Greenford and nearby, The Pleasure Boat at Alperton. N.B. There are no canal cruises or canal boat hire here.

   

Above: Paddington Arm at Greenford
Bridge - photo by J Briggs

Above: London Waterbus canal cruise boat at Greenford
- photo by J Briggs

Beyond the Greenford Road the canal sweeps south towards Bulls Bridge Junction and passes industrial sites and suburban housing with only a few amenities for canal boaters. (The Civil Engineer pub at Southall and Willowtree Marina West Quay Yeading).

There are no locks to contend with along this section of the Grand Union from Little Venice to Cowley Lock and is 27 miles making it one of the longest lock free pounds in the whole of England. I suggest this makes it a must see "bucket list" for all canal boaters whether they are veterans or new to a canal boat holiday experience.

 

Above: Bulls Bridge Junction - photo by J Briggs

At Bulls Bridge Junction you have to turn either west towards the main Grand Union Canal towards the Midlands - or turn right and travel eastwards to the Hanwell Flight of locks and down to the River Thames at Brentford. (Permission required to do this part of the journey)

Bulls Bridge
is the location for a giant supermarket and, like others on the Paddington Arm cater for canal boaters with moorings, trees and seats along their stretch of canal frontage, plus waste disposal. I hope that this brief introduction to the Paddington Arm will interest you in trying out the Arm for yourself!

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