We currently deliver on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the London area. One day covers from Bull’s bridge to Paddington on the Paddington arm of the Grand Union canal and including Hanwell in West London. Our second day covers the Regents canal in central London and a lower section of the river Lea, East London. We switch days each week depending on our direction of travel.
The Grand Union Canal links London with Birmingham and is the ‘trunk route’ of the UK canal system. This particular canal was never constructed as a single entity, but is the result of the amalgamation of several independent waterways — the oldest being the navigations around the River Soar in Leicestershire, the longest section being the Grand Junction Canal from Braunston to the River Thames.
The Grand Junction Canal was built to improve the communications between Birmingham and London. It received its Act in 1793 and was fully opened in 1805. Its major engineering works were the two long tunnels at Blisworth and Braunston, and the long and deep cutting at Tring summit. It has several additional “branches”, one of which is the Paddington Arm which forks off to the north at Bulls Bridge and runs 12 miles (19 km) to join the Regents Canal at Little Venice.
First proposed by Thomas Homer in 1802 as a link from the Paddington arm and the Grand Junction Canal to the River Thames at Limehouse, the Regent’s Canal was built during the early 19th century after an Act of Parliament was passed in 1812. Notable features of this canal include the Maida Tunnel, the excavated earth from which gave London Lords Cricket Ground, the long stretch through Regents Park that gives you a nice view of a couple of London Zoo’s enclosures, the flight of locks through Camden, and the 878 meter long Islington Tunnel.
Obviously the canals were originally built for carrying material commodities between different areas of the country dependent on availability and need. The competition between canal carrying companies and the railways, which developed over the course of 19th century, is well documented and it is widely known that much of the fabric of the railways such as iron and steel and coal were moved to where they were needed via the canal network. Less well known is their use to traffic other commodities including grain, raw materials for HP sauce, leather waste, last blocks, cresylic acid, zinc ashes, and even cheese. Our interest in canal history very nearly led us to call the Onion Barge, the Grand Union Carrot Carrying Company (GUCCC), until we decided that this was perhaps too niche a sense of humour…
We are delighted to have found a small way to participate in the tradition of carrying produce on a Narrowboat, using the canals for the purpose that they were originally built.