What do you think of when you think of canals? Colourful narrowboats? Rosie and Jim? That programme with Timothy West and Prunella Scales? We think of Hanwell Lock Flight.

Once upon a time, the Grand Union Canal was a busy industrial waterway linking London with the Midlands, used for transporting wood, coal, and other goods. These days it’s a little bit quieter being mostly used for pleasure boating, and the slow pace makes it a fantastic escape just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of city life, whilst feeling words apart.

There’s also so much wildlife to be seen! From the aloof wading of the majestic heron and the elusive kingfisher, to the surprising sight of the cormorant drying out his wings after diving for fish or a mother swan leading a single-file line of her fluffy babies – walking along the towpath is a paradise for nature lovers.

Hanwell Lock Flight

If you prefer to marvel at the engineering triumphs of human beings, then the canal is also the ideal place to visit for you. Hanwell Locks take boats up or down hill, using the same method of letting water in and out of the locks which would have been used by the boats carrying industrial materials all those years ago, and the lock gates themselves are wonderful examples of engineering standing the test of time. If you’re there when a boat is going through, the crew would also probably be glad of your help if you’d like to experience them in action!

Along this stretch of canal, it’s also worth looking out for the ramp leading down into the canal’s water. Many boats of old were towed by horses, and the slopes were designed for horses which fell in, perhaps due to a fright, or a misstep on a narrow towpath.

Visiting Hanwell Locks

If you fancy paying Hanwell Locks a visit, then it’s certainly worth doing! For eating and liquid refreshment, you’ll find The Fox, and there are plenty of places to sit down with a picnic.

You can find out more information from the Canal & River Trust.