Rush hour becomes ‘splash hour’ for London ‘Canuter’….
TNR moved offices this summer from Victoria to Paddington as part of PA Media Group’s wider rebrand. The Point building in Paddington Basin is surrounded by canals and nature, encouraging some of our team members to use more creative ways of commuting to the office, Craig Gunn our Head of Photography being one of them, here is his story…
I have lived in Willesden Junction for nearly five years now and one of the main attractions that brought me to the area was its proximity to the Grand Union Canal. Over the years I have largely avoided delayed and crowded tube trains preferring to run or cycle the canal towpaths, which have meant a significantly safer and pleasurable commute.
Fate, now in 2019, has seen my company relocating to the Paddington Basin, just 3 miles away from home. This has made me the envy of colleagues as I live really close-by, reducing my commute time to just 13 minutes by train on the Bakerloo line, a 16-minute cycle, or a 27-minute run. However, these sporting distances are not a stretch for me so I have decided to revitalise my childhood passion and ‘Canute’ to work – (not to be confused with the Danish King who showed his courtiers that you can’t “turn back the tide”).
As a teenager growing up on Canvey Island one of my summer leisure pursuits was Kayaking. On warm summer days I could often be seen paddling around the estuary waters in my fibreglass kayak – salvaging old inflatable tyres, life buoys, fishing gear, nets and ropes and basically anything I could tow home and fill up my parents’ garage with. Thinking back, I don’t think all of these endeavours were strictly legitimate.
20 years on and before I hit the water again I thought (my wife thought) some refresher training was in order. For safety reasons – I definitely advise some solid training. I did a 2-Day course with the Phoenix Sailing Club on the Welsh Harp Reservoir. I found the course really good fun and it gave me my confidence back.
Course done – kayak arrived at home. All ready to go – however I did still have some trepidations about this largely solo pursuit, so let’s consider some of the negatives. Canals can be hazardous places so having some experience and training in advance is definitely recommended. Obstructions under the water, such as vegetation and fly-tipping can cause hazards and also kayaks and canoes are also not allowed in locks, so anyone travelling this way will need to walk their vessel around a lock of which there are 71 in the London region (approx. 100 miles of waterways).
Also, you have to be prepared to share the water space with boaters and other users, as well as all the wildlife (I have found Coots to be particular aggressive and curious on the water!).
There is a certain amount of rigmarole with carrying the kayak into the water, removing and parking it. Lucky for me my organisation has a car park and sympathetic building managers that allow me to store it next to the bike racks.
I see plenty of wildlife. Swans, coots, moorhens, cormorants flying over, a solitary heron perched on a car tyre and well-fed rats by the bins at the Ladbroke Grove Sainsbury’s. I also recently captured a photo of a plate sized turtle basking on some overhanging tree branches, a survivor no doubt from the 80’s when people where purchasing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – who either escaped using their Ninja skills or simply kids couldn’t look after them and flushed them in to the great unknown.
As I draw close to my destination, I glide through Warwick Avenue under a couple of small bridges, the Canal and River Trust HQ and the picturesque Little Venice adorned with its cafe boats and landscaped borders – a premium spot for residents and tourists alike. As I head into Paddington Basin the Victorian designed architecture ways make way for the modern destination hotspot of Merchant Square with its plethora of trendy bars, restaurants and towering office blocks – some very much still developing.
I finally reach the end of the waterway by Paddington mainline station and disembark on some very low dry docks. Lucky for me we have a serviced lift to a subterranean car park and I have arranged permission to leave my vessel there.
My daily journey is a lot of fun – if not the quickest. The last thing I needed to do was name my trusty vessel. The narrow boats on the canals have such soft names, written in bright coloured and traditional fonts – ‘Marigold’, ‘Bluebell’ and ‘Wanderer’. However, I thought of something a little more contemporary – so over a few beers I named it ‘Usain Boat’ – although ironically – it and I combined have created the slowest vessel (4 miles per hour) on the waterways. When commuting becomes this pleasurable…why rush?
Since then I have renamed the boat Selma. Selma Kayak and yes it now has its own hashtag on Instagram.