Best picnic spots: the Hertford Union Canal

A Sunday farmer’s market is the starting point for this gentle amble along one of London’s lesser known (and shortest) waterways

Hertford Union Canal


For many local residents, shopping for ingredients at London Fields Sunday Market (Sundays, 10am-2pm, London Fields Primary School, Hackney) is a regular part of their weekend routine, but recently the market has also had a new injection of energy, meaning that as well as tempting local produce there’s often live music and free yoga classes too.

After you’ve limbered up and packed your rucksack with picnic ingredients, take a stroll down Sheep Lane to the Regent’s Canal and turn left along the towpath. Follow the path for just under a mile then turn left as the Hertford Union Canal branches off. A little over a mile and a quarter long, and with only three locks, the Hertford Union Canal packs a lot of charm into its diminutive length.

The canal was a latecomer on the London scene and opened in the spring of 1830 as a shortcut between the Regent’s Canal and the Lee Navigation, creating a quicker route between the Thames and the River Lea. However, the canal never found commercial success and eventually became part of the Grand Union system in 1927.

Today, the best thing about this poker straight canal is that for much of its length the water runs alongside Victoria Park, meaning that you can peer into the park’s leafy depths and keep an eye out for a good picnic spot.

Once you’ve had your fill, continue to the end of the canal, where you can choose to jump back on the overground at Hackney Wick, or continue along the Lea Valley Walk to explore the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Read more about the Regent’s Canal and the Hertford Union Canal on the Canal & River Trust website.

Ungry Young Man