On cold winter days – especially snowy ones that give you an unexpected day off – it can be tempting to spend the day tucked under a duvet watching box sets. But shake a leg, pull on some warm clothes and get outside – because there’s something particularly magical about an iced over canal, a snow-topped towpath and boats covered in a thin layer of icing sugar. One of central London’s prettiest canals is Hackney’s gorgeous little Hertford Union Canal, which connects the Regent’s Canal to the River Lee and runs along the border of Victoria Park. At barely a mile long, with pubs and cafés at either end, it’s ideal for a short snow day stroll in the city.
Like many of the London canals, the Hertford Union was a late arrival to the network, opening in 1830. It was built as a short cut between the Regent’s Canal and the Lee, connecting to the Regent’s just south of Old Ford Lock and joining the Lee at Carpenters Road. Its promoter was Sir George Duckett, so for a while it was known as Duckett’s Canal – a name that has largely gone out of use. It was constructed so that boats heading south along the Lee could reach the Thames via the Regent’s Canal, thus avoiding the more complex navigations of the tidal Bow Back Rivers.
Although never a success as a commercial navigation, the Hertford is a cracker for walkers. The towpath is adjacent to Victoria Park for most of the length, while on the other side of the canal, long gardens lean right down to the water edge. On cold days, the canal will ice over, which is always a beautiful sight. Pedestrians can also amble through Victoria Park if they fancy a change of scene – the park has a hill for sledging if that appeals – while the central location means there are plenty of pubs, restaurants and cafés around, plus a colourful wall popular with graffiti artists at the middle lock. The walk ends at the Lee, where you can continue to hug the water or instead head through the Olympic Park for more snow-covered greenery. Just across the Olympic Park is the Westfield shopping centre, which has plenty of places to warm up, plus great transport links to get you home.
Plan your day out along the Hertford Union Canal with our online guide.
*If however it’s looking too treacherous outside, don’t risk it, save this walk for another day – you won’t be disappointed!