At this time of year I am forced to give up a precious part of my London life for another season: walking home along the canals. Even though I work about eight miles from my flat, it is possible to cover the vast majority of this distance through wooded walkways, parks and towpaths.
Once I had learned how to access these green tunnels through London, I found that a lot of journeys can be diverted away from the traffic and towards trees and water. Tiny locks, smoke from house boats, laughing ducks and fishermen contribute to the microcosm of countryside along the way.
On the other hand, part of what I love about waterways in London is the juxtaposition of green water with unabated urban or industrial development. Given that canals used to have functions other than that of cycle super-highway, it feels natural that these things are around them, and viewed from the canal side they become more wistful, more beautiful.
In Paris recently with my friend Lou we walked the length of the Canal St Martin in the North-East of the city. We joked that the area, and adjoining Belleville, were really the Hackney of Paris, but the more we explored the more appropriate the comparison became. We found all the things we love about Hackney and Hackney Wick repeated and rendered temporarily more exotic by the language difference - an effect we wished away when we found the best graphic novel bookshop we'd ever seen.
The Canal St Martin felt like home, and we claim her series of lovely iron bridges as our own, including the ghost bridges...