Mr Bell’s Afternoon Walk To The Hanwell Lock Flight


When you tell people that you live in London they quite often think you live right in the centre of the city with its iconic attractions right outside your front door. That’d be lovely, but I don’t and I always tell them that there’s so much more to London than the main tourist centre. Where I live in West London we have our fair share of famous sights but there’s some that are quite often overlooked and the Hanwell Lock Flight is one of them.

My walk starts in the not very glamorous town of Brentford, although a lot of work has been done to try and improve the area. The Brentford Gauging Lock is the last lock boats would reach on the Grand Union Canal before continuing onto the River Brent and finally joining the Thames. This area has now been redeveloped into luxury housing.

Following the canal I walk through some old industrial warehouses that are now mainly derelict until I eventually come onto the tow path.

This part of the tow path is quite uninspiring as you’re surrounded by large office buildings, mainly belonging to Glaxo Smith Klein.

As I continue further up the canal the road and industrial noise fades into the background and I get a real sense that I’m getting into the countryside.

A little further on I reach Gallows Bridge which was built in 1820 by Horseley, a famous Black Country iron founders. Crossing this bridge I continue on the tow path.

Just ahead and a stark reminder that I’m actually not in the countryside is a modern road bridge carrying the M4 motorway across the canal. As I continue walking the noise fades away once again and I’m back in my little countryside world.

Around another bend and I see the first of the locks I’m looking for as well as some moored up narrow boats along the canal banks.

This is the start of the Hanwell Lock Flight. It’s six locks were built in 1794 to allow narrowboats to travel 16 meters up the Grand Union Canal, it’s a very impressive feat of engineering.

On the way up the various locks I pass some pretty lock keepers cottages.

The large brick wall on one side of the canal was once part of the Middlesex County Asylum, better known as the Hanwell Asylum, which opened in 1831. Today it is the home of the West London Mental Health NHS Trust.

From the top of the lock flight I stop and take some time to look back down and although it doesn’t feel it when I walked up it does give you a real sense of the difference in height from the bottom to the top.

My walk finishes at the Three Bridges, a rare surviving example of a cast iron structure designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and dates from around 1855. The bridge is unusual as Windmill Lane is carried over the canal by a cast iron bridge and, the canal itself is then carried over the railway in an iron trough.

Well that’s my walk finished although you can carry on further if you feel like it, even as far as Birmingham if you have the energy!

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