The Paddington Arm Canal
Grand Union Canal
TfL Fare Zones 1 to 5
The Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal runs from Little Venice, Paddington to Bull’s Bridge Junction at Hayes, Hillingdon, Middlesex.
Travelling the Canal
With a length of approximately 13½ miles (22 km) the canal passes through a mainly urban industrial landscape with some rural idylls. It is a level canal with no locks but crosses a major motor route on an aqueduct.
The canal was authorised in 1795 and built in 1801 to avoid using the tidal Thames. When the Regent’s Canal was built the Thames was accessed through the massive Regent’s Canal ship dock (now called Limehouse Dock). There are many interesting things to see along the Paddington Arm for both walkers and ‘boatees’.
Starting at Little Venice, behind Paddington Mainline Railway Station is a set of elegant locks and a quaint white toll keeper’s house. This was built to gauge the narrow boats for tolls.
The canal passes under the busy A40 Westway road past high-rise blocks of flats and offices. The railway lines leaving Paddington run beside the canal and Great Western trains thunder past. The flats give way to rather nice terraces of Victorian houses in the Harrow Road with their gardens stretching down to the canal.
Kensall Green Cemetery
Just beyond Harrow Road, at Old Oak Common, the canal passes the Victorian Kensall Green Cemetery. This cemetery is the last resting place of a number of famous Victorians – Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray. It is worth making a detour to wander through this well ordered cemetery with its avenues of trees and huge monuments. Beside the canal bank can be seen the landing piers where the barges offloaded the coffins.
Wormwood Scrubs Prison
Kensall Town came into existence in 1840 when the railway arrived. Back on the canal, the towers of Wormwood Scrubs prison can be glimpsed across the railway sidings. However, in the last 50 years the area has been carefully redeveloped and the towpath is bordered by willow trees and in summer wildflowers abound giving the industrial landscape a rural feel.
Along this stretch was the giant Heinz food factory, demolished in 2002. The raw ingredients for ‘Baked Beans’ would arrive from the docks by canal barge and unload straight into the factory.
North Circular Bypass
Suddenly the canal splits into two channels and is carried over the busy North Circular bypass on an aqueduct. The old aqueduct built in 1933 had a bronze Middlesex Coat of Arms on it. This Coat of Arms now stands on the ‘island’ between the two water channels.
Once over the aqueduct, the roar of the traffic is left behind and the canal continues on to Alperton and Ealing. Ducks, swans, moorhens, coots, terrapins and even herons inhabit the canal here and anglers find good fishing. We seem to be right out in the countryside but are in fact skirting the green fairways of Greenford Golf Course on our way to Horsenden Hill and Perivale Wood.
Horsenden Visitor Centre
The Horsenden Visitor Centre, Perivale is right beside the canal and a good spot to pull in.
The Black Horse Pub
Another pleasant spot to call in and seek refreshment is The Black Horse Pub at Greenford. There is nothing nicer on a fine day than sitting in the pub’s garden overlooking the canal.
The Marina has easy access and security in an attractive location. It offers moorings, opportunities for wildlife photography, filming, walking and narrowboat hire.
Southall - Little India
The urban sprawl of Greater London has stretched out to include Ealing and Southall, but the canal’s route provides much needed green space at the bottom of many people’s gardens. Southall is sometimes called ‘Little India’ and is a fascinating suburb to wander around. The shops sell Indian food, produce, saris, etc., displaying their goods on the pavement. The cinemas show Bollywood films and the cafes serve real Indian food. Join the locals at long tables and enjoy with them the TV in the corner playing Indian entertainment day and night!
The Paddington Branch is now nearing its junction with the Main Arm of the Grand Union Canal at Bull’s Bridge near Slough. The terminus is marked by a delightful old brick bridge painted white. As you approach there is no hint that on the other side is an enormous shopping centre – suburbia again!
Hiring a Narrowboat
Willowtree Marina proudly hosts a fleet of superb, high-spec narrowboats available for self-drive hire presented by Black Prince Holidays, the recognised market leader for canal hire boats in the country. Any of these boats would make an excellent base from which to explore London and the surrounding countryside.
Further details available on Web: Willowtree Marina
Getting to Willowtree Marina
Details of nearest public transport, etc. available at Web: Directions to Willowtree Marina
Google Maps - Paddington Arm Canal