Messing about in boats at London’s Canal Cavalcade

One of the sure signs that spring has arrived in London is the annual Canal Cavalcade in Little Venice. On the first weekend in May brightly decorated canal boats from all over the UK gather in the Grand Union Canal basin as they have been doing this since 1983.  I live just round the corner so always make sure I drop in to see what’s going on.

150 boats lined up with flag flying for visitors to enjoy during the 3 day festival but there are prizes at stake too, awarded for ‘best decorated’ boat,  best ‘ boat handling’ and ‘best Boater’s Sunday best costume’! It’s also a time when boaters (as they are called) get together and have a good laugh and catch up with each other. 

It’s a wonderful sight, full of colour and packed with families having a great day out as there are loads of stalls selling all kinds of crafts, toys, plants, food and drink as well as the boats to enjoy.

Boats lined up in Little Venice basin
Some boaters love to arrive in style!

Most of the narrow boats are lived in and you get a chance to peek inside to see how they manage to pack all mod cons into the narrowest of spaces:

Overlooking the canal is the Horse Bridge which gave a gives visitors a great vantage point from which to view the boats and canal.  Little Venice is a beautiful area of London with fine houses built around the Grand Union Canal and its branches. It is most famous for the house boats which line the canal making it a very sought after watery address! 

The canals were used in the past as a major route for transporting goods as the canal network snakes across the country for over 3,000 miles. Horses pulled the boats behind them as they walked along the towpaths (hence their name), carrying up to 30 tons per horse of cargo such as coal. Diesel power took over from horses so walkers and cyclists took over the towpaths and it’s a great place to do some inner city walks.  Names remind us of older times and the Horse Bridge is one of these.

The Horse Bridge

Someone who used the bridge to good effect was Councillor Angela Harvey, the Lord Mayor of Westminster who stood on the Horse Bridge to welcome visitors and thank the organisers and volunteers who made the festival happen. She was easily recognised by her gold chain and white gloves!

The Mayor of Westminster

The view down the canal from the other side of the Horse Bridge is really pretty and you can see the narrow boats lining the towpaths into the distance. There is a rather nice restaurant just past the trees on the right side called the Summerhouse. You can have a table right over the canal to watch the boats and the birds glide past – a great treat even when the Canal Cavalcade is over.


Bye for now,

Elephant Parade

The big story this week was that we have elephants all around town! We have a major new art installation all across London in the form of 250 life sized baby elephants decorated in the most beautiful range of colours and designs. The aims is to raise awareness of the danger that the Indian elephant is in and the elephants will be auctioned at the end of their visit to London -I’d love one but they are just a bit big for my home! They will be around for a couple of months so I’ll feature a couple each week for you to enjoy.


We took a trip to nearby Leighton House Museum in Holland Park area which was designed in 1860 as the home of the artist Frederic Leighton. It’s just reopened after a £1.6 million refurbishment and we can see the amazing decorations Leighton chose for his home especially the Arab Room with fabulous 16th century glazed tiles from Syria and neighbouring countries which he’d bought on his travels. The studio is a wonderful huge space with floor to ceiling windows to bring the light in. The outside looks relatively plain but inside it’s an absolute delight.




Thursday night was the first in May so there was the aptly named ‘First Thursday’ to go to where the galleries in the east of London stay open late and a crowd of arty types – like me of course! – wander in and out of each gallery and enjoy the chance to see new work. I particularly liked Caroline Hall’s ‘From a Railway Carriage’ with vibrant colours in horizontal lines as if rushing past the window. This happy band were entertaining the crowd and I have no idea what their costumes were for! Thursday of course was an important day as it was the UK election and we are still waiting to see what is going to happen……
The Pizza on the Park is a long standing London jazz venue which sadly is going to close next month as the building has been sold for redevelopment. So it was great to go and support its final flings and see Gerard Kenny perform. I was not familiar with his work but found he wrote the huge anthem ‘New York New York’ and Barry Manilow’s big hit ‘I made it through the rain’ both of which he sang. He’s a great performer and we think his fan club had made a special trip to see him do his last of 18 Pizza on the Park shows.


The SummerHouse in Little Venice is where we went for our Sunday brunch and it has a wonderful location alongside the canal there. We had a window seat so were almost in the water and combined eating with a little bird watching as there were cormorants, Canadian geese and coots along with several ducks. Not bad for the centre of town and a reasonably busy canals with many narrow boats going past for added entertainment tho’ not as many as in last week’s cavalcade.



Bye for now,