Hertford PIN
Hertford Union Canal

The shortest canal in London was constructed for very practical reasons. It would offer a short cut between the Thames and the Lee Navigation, with traffic by-passing Bow Creek and the waterways that connect the River Lea with the Thames which were meandering, tidal, silted and therefore a pain to navigate.  

Sir George Duckett was the main proponent of the canal that, on the face of it, was likely to be financially viable bearing in mind the success of the Regent's Canal and due to the proposed toll of one shilling per ton of cargo. An appropriate Act of Parliament received Royal Assent in 1824, Francis Giles appointed engineer, and the canal opened for business in 1830.

Even though the toll charge was quickly waived to encourage business, the canal was not a success. The summit of the canal was six inches above the Regent's Canal and. in the early 1850s, a dam also prevented this vital element from being taken from its neighbour. Reliant on a small reservoir and steam pump, the Hertford Union soon became difficult to navigate. Investors weren't interested in a commercial flop and it was finally sold to the Regent's Canal Company in 1857. The dam was subsequently removed and improvements including dredging and widening rescued the cut from dereliction.

Starting from Hertford Union Junction on the Regent's Canal, which is between Mile End Lock and Old Ford Lock, you quickly pass Bow Wharf with its moorings. A large and seemingly derelict factory a little further on has an interesting history. Originally CHN Veneers, aircraft parts were manufactured here during the second world war and then the building housed Godson's in the late 1970s, a pioneering independent brewery. A gallery, studios and dance space are the current occupiers.

Housing on the towpath side soon gives way to the southern boundary of Victoria Park. At 213 acres, this is the largest park in east London and was created after a petition was presented to Queen Victoria calling for a green space that would benefit the area's working class.

The walk is now quiet and pleasantly tree lined with the Hertford Union Top Lock reached after nearly three quarters of a mile. The canal's locks are close to each other and were collectively referred to as the Old Ford Three Locks but now, perhaps to avoid confusion with any other Old Ford locks, are known as the top, middle and bottom lock, descending about 19 feet to the River Lea..

Reaching the middle lock, you wouldn't describe the environs as pretty, there's lots of concrete and not very attractive graffiti, However the high and wide backdrop to the bottom lock is certainly an impressive array of artistic endeavour.

High rise buildings adjacent to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park come into view and, once under the Hackney Wick Footbridge you reach the Lee Navigation. The park, purpose built for the 2012 olympics, is on the far side. In addition to the London Stadium that is clearly in view, there's the Copper Box Arena, VeloPark and Aquatics Centre. Due to its proximity, this is a busy finish to the walk with plenty of people on the towpath and boats in the water.

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Regent's Canal to the Lee Navigation
regents canal 1
Hertford 7
Hertford 1
Hertford 2
Hertford 3
Hertford 4
Hertford 5
Hertford Union Top Lock and Cottage
Lee Navigation and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
Bottom Lock Graffiti
Passing Victoria Park
The former CHN Veneers factory
Bow Wharf