When London Canals Freeze Over…

Last Sunday I decided that something had to be done about my current addiction to (a) duvets, (b) blankets and (c) our gas fire. Donning as many layers as possible I took my camera to photograph the canals of Little Venice, which had frozen over.

Looking down Regent’s Canal from the blue Warwick Avenue bridge the canal looked more like a road you could drive along, rather than a waterway to float along.

A rare patch of water was visible under the other side of the blue bridge.  Further along I found the beautiful red puppet theatre barge, which brought its optimism to the otherwise grey-and-white day.

Around the corner, poor old Jason sat quite inert. In the warmer months of the year he keeps busy chugging tourists up to Camden Lock and back, but now the canals are frozen solid so there’ll be no chugging for Jason for a while.

Some local folk had been testing the solidity of the ice, throwing bricks and other rubbish onto the canals to see whether the ice would break. It didn’t for this piece of scrap metal that will soon be polluting Browning’s Pond.

I once watched someone walk across an iced-over canal in Regent’s Park, but didn’t feel like risking an icy bath by trying to do so here. Meanwhile, in Scotland, a couple of joy-riding youths narrowly escaped death this week when they took their Peugeot 406 for a spin on the frozen Union Canal. Were their brains frozen? Apparently so.  

This barge-café was open as usual, serving mugs of tea and coffee to walkers in need of somewhere to thaw.

Looking back at the Puppet Theatre and the blue bridge on Warwick Avenue, all of Browning’s Pool had disappeared beneath the ice.

The seagulls and other inhabitants of Browning’s Island took to their feet, walking about the ice in confusion. Where had the water gone?

Bilster wisely wore a coat against the weather.

And Bilster had obviously been around for a while, having been part of the Grand Union Canal Carrying Company, in the days where the canals were used to transport goods up and down the country. FYI London hasn’t seen a phone number like CITY 4755 for quite some years.

The plants on this barge were hardy in the cold, but still I wondered if they might like to be taken inside to warm up, if only for a little while.

Further along, I met a swan in a patch of water near Paddington. He was swimming in circles, bleating at me as he searched in vain for his friends. Where had they gone? How ever had he been abandoned?

Still, he seemed happy of my company, even if the other walkers looked at me with concern each time I replied to his cries with a quack of my own.

Near Paddington I found a barge with homely plume of smoke coming from its chimney and two loads of firewood stacked on its roof.  The occupants must be long-time residents of the canal and know how to protect themselves against the elements.

It was time to turn back. At Browning’s Pond the island’s usual population of Canada Geese were on the ice, preening themselves with the aid of watery reflections.

But now it was time to trudge home, careful not to slip or do involuntary ballet-like manoeuvres in an attempt to stay upright on icy patches. Enough of ice and snow. Bring on the gas fire, duvets and blankets!

8 Comments Add yours

  1. w1kkp says:

    Oh, what fun this walk was! You have had the worse weather this winter and yet this proves that with some simple decision to throw off the duvet covers, stories await. PS. England has the best names ever…Bucklersbury. C’mon. If I had a cat which I don’t cuz I really don’t like cats sorry everyone but IF I DID, I’d name him (or her) Bucklersbury.


    1. epicurienne says:

      Pat and Planet – re: cat names. Bucklersbury? England has stranger names than that. How about Bishops Itchington, Burnt Houses, Giggleswick or Great Snoring? There’s Ham and Sandwich, Nether Poppleton, Egypt and California. I might have to do a post about some of the worst. How many little sods do you think might reside in Little Sodbury?

      PR – don’t ask me why they call them Canada Geese. They don’t look particularly Canadian to me, either. But that’s their name, at least in England, and kinda like you, they TALK a lot, even if it sounds more like honking…


  2. planetross says:

    Nice photos and commentary on … ice.

    It’s always good to go out exploring to see what’s what … and other what stuff.

    That goose didn’t look Canadian, but that’s just me. hee hee!


  3. planetross says:

    Oh! If I had a cat I’d call it Mister … because I’d probably have a male cat. hee hee!


  4. Well, thank you for being brave enough to venture out from under the duvet! Great little photo trip down your canal. I have a serious soft spot for canal boats and get all wistful when I see them.

    Not that I wish you more cold, but if the ice gets thicker, you could go skating! How fun would that be on a canal?!?



    1. epicurienne says:

      Hi T.P. I love being thanked for braving the cold conditions! I just may have to keep up this mid-winter adventuring. Apparently we have been colder than Antarctica at times this winter, but that’s not hard, considering it’s their summer right now. It feels a lot milder this week, but the meteorologists say that more snow is on its way, so I’ll keep an eye on the canals in case people do go skating, although I think we’ll need a serious and prolonged cold snap for that to happen!


  5. Razzbuffnik says:

    Thanks for all the pictures. I wonder if the Thames will freeze this year?

    The story of those clots who drove their car along the canal until it fell in made it inot the paper here in Oz.


    1. epicurienne says:

      Hey Razz – Not sure about the Thames freezing, but you never know. I’ve seen snow here in late March before, so nothing’s impossible with the unpredictable UK weather. As for those ‘clots’ as you call them, why on earth would anyone sane want to DRIVE on a frozen canal? I remember one story from the Darwin Awards where some guy drove his brand new SUV onto a frozen lake, where, to his great surprise, it promptly fell through the ice and sank. A Fiat 500 may have survived a jaunt along a frozen canal or onto an iced-over lake, but a Peugeot 406, as was driven onto the canal, is quite a substantial car in size and presumably weight, as is an SUV. I just don’t get these drongos. The guys in Scotland are in the clink for their little joy-ride. Best place for them.


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