I love cycling the canals of England. They speak of a an industrial age long since confined to history, but one where the legacy still remains, in the form of old mills now transformed and used for an entirely different purpose. Canals came into being because the Industrial Revolution (which began in Britainduring the mid-18th century) demanded an economic and reliable way to transport goods and commodities in large quantities. During the early 20th century, especially in the 1920s and 1930s, many canals in theGreat Britain, mostly in rural areas, were abandoned due to falling traffic, caused mainly by competition from road transport. The fact that they have survived decay due to the efforts of a number of people, as was recently pointed out in a television program, is nothing short of a miracle. Today the canal is used for recreational purposes, the narrowboats that course their way up and down theUK’s canal system being home to many people. Having cycled up the Grand Union Canal from Little Venice near Paddington, in central London, on more than one occasion, the furthest town reached being Kings Langley, in Hertfordshire, my desire had been to explore sections of the canal beyond this.
Passing along the canal through the industrial part of Kings Langley where the Ovaltine factory once stood followed by the neat housing and gardens adjacent to the canal, it fleetingly brought back painful memories of the time back in 2002 when my Cannondale mountain bike and cameras were stolen one weekend from the home of a friend, who lived just up the road, not far from the canal. A bag containing my personal belongings had been fished out of the canal by the police and from details taken from my address book, the perpetrators had driven up the M25 to where I lived in Welwyn and ransacked my flat as well, probably whilst the police had been interviewing us early the next morning.