Sunday 19th May 2013
10 miles approx
Toilets: No public toilets, but various pubs along the way including the Fox, Old Oak Tree Inn, Grand Junction Arms, the White House in Stockley Park, the Toll House, the Malt Shovel, and various pubs in Uxbridge. Shopping Centre in Uxbridge.
Having completed the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal, we moved on to the main route. It starts at Brentford, and many people walk the whole section from Brentford to Uxbridge. However, we had already walked from Brentford to Hanwell as part of a Capital Ring walk, so we decided to start at Hanwell this time. We took the tube to Ealing Broadway, then a bus to Half Acre Road, from where it was a short walk down to the canal, past the Fox pub where we’d had an excellent stop last time.
We joined the canal at about 11.30am and set off past the Hanwell Flight, a group of six locks that considerably raise the level of the canal. It was a very calm and peaceful place, and there were lock keepers’ cottages and side ponds.
I’m pleased to report that this part of the canal was, in general, much nicer than the Paddington branch. A lot of the Paddington branch was really unpleasant and smelly, and the amount of rubbish we saw suggested that people didn’t have any respect for it. Between Brentford and Uxbridge, it’s a better experience. There’s a more industrial feel just after Bull’s Bridge, but it’s definitely a much more enjoyable walk overall.
Lots of ducks and coots were out and about building nests, using both natural and unnatural building materials. We saw one floating along that looked like it was trapped in a plastic bag, until we realised it was a deliberate move to use the plastic bag as part of a nest. There was an impressive amount of building work taking place throughout the day.
Having failed to bring lunch with us, we decided to wing it and find a pub along the way, as there were plenty on the map. Just before Bull’s Bridge, we had a discussion about stopping to eat at the Grand Junction Arms, but decided to wait a bit longer and continue on our walk. This turned out to be a mistake, since there wasn’t anywhere decent for quite a while afterwards. Hayes had lots of places, but the area looked uninviting. A bit further along the route we walked up some steps to the Woolpack, which looked awful. They have “dancers” in a separate part of the building next door, but even the main part of the pub was playing terrible music. On we continued.
The original plan for the day was to just follow the canal all the way to Uxbridge. Although the London Loop follows the route of the canal for much of the way, I remembered there was a turning off into Stockley Park, and there was a pub listed as being right in the middle of it. Stockley Park is a pleasant but strange place. Created in 1986, it’s a self-styled “country park” type of place, but also an office/business park. The landscaping is pleasant and green, but artificial at the same time. To be fair, though, they have created ponds and wildlife areas, and in general a variety of habitats to support biodiversity. It would have been a nice place to have a picnic. It still felt a bit strange, though.
In the middle of the park we found a little hub called The Arena, containing a Weatherspoon’s pub called the White House, alongside a wine bar and a couple of cafes. We finally stopped for lunch. Personally I think Wetherspoon’s pubs are viewed too negatively. Okay, so you’re not going to get the world’s most gourmet meal, but they’ve never pretended otherwise. You know what you’re going to get. It does what it says on the tin.
We then continued through the park and back to the canal again. As the afternoon progressed, the sun came out and we saw more and more people out and about enjoying the day.
We passed Cowley Recreation Ground, which looked lovely. Just afterwards at the lock we passed the Toll House, a lovely tea room and bistro that I’ve been to before. It’s next door to the Malt Shovel, a country-style pub with a lovely outdoor garden where we stopped for a drink. We would definitely love to have stopped here for lunch if we’d started the walk a lot earlier in the morning.
Another short walk along the canal and we finally reached the turning point onto Rockingham Road, from where we walked through the streets of Uxbridge to reach the station.