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Messing about on the river (and the canals)

Watching an upside down world pass by on my left, the sky below me, heading to the south west skirmishes of London. The eastern end of a canal I rode along as a kid. A startled heron flaps away low across the water. “No Fishing”. The way temporarily blocked a feeding family of geese. Houseboats and allotments, rusty bikes and inflatable kayaks. Warehouses glimpsed through spiked metal fences and budding trees. Posh suburban houses on the far side as the tow path edges along the ex-council estates, tatty garden fences, concrete walls and blocks of garages. Over the water there’s a garage at the bottom of a garden with a red and green canal boat. Back gardens with waterside patios, tree houses, summer houses and mooring rights. Ducking under humpback bridges and ramping down past lock gates. Canals join at a t-junction butted up against the A3 above. Hefty concrete stanchions and pylons, bright graffiti and empty lager cans, faded and dented. The narrow canal widens into flood plains and ponds, waterways blend. The quiet still of the canal replaced by the rippled running water of the river and the rush of weirs. The buzz of motorboats and riverside hustle grows as the city gets nearer. A cox on a bike noisily relays orders to the boat in the river via a tannoy slung over his shoulders. Kids feeding ducks and families lazing and laughing in the park. The river splits and reconnects, weirs and islands. A haunted house with a private bridge to it’s private driveway. Ice cream vans and rowing clubs. Dodging runners with headphones and dogs off leads. The chatter of riverside pubs and spliffs and tinnies in the shadows. Ring a bell to call the ferry from across the way to carry me to my destination.

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