Carry On Up the Canal with Secret Adventures

Written by: Sophie Taylor

Are we starting a new world order? Is this a post Trump Noah’s Ark journey?

Finding myself wandering around Limehouse Basin craving a pint and perhaps even a slice of pizza, I needed to get home to my local Crate Brewery sharpish (they do the freshest craft beers and have award winning pizzas). But how to get there? Stumbling in to Limehouse Station and towards a huge sign saying CLOSED, I consider walking there instead.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick

A short meander riverwards, I reach the canal and begin to notice a group of people donning chunky waistcoats stretching their arms around. I pause for a second, swaying slightly on the spot, watching this mesmerising circle of humans yielding huge double ended spoons.

At which point I spy a clipboard next to a van that reads, ‘Limehouse Basin to Crate Brewery’ and my eyes light up.

“Hold your arms out at right angles” a woman in the middle shouts. “Then dip one end in to the water, swivelling slightly as you do so”. Into the water? Swivelling? We were all on terra firma – I peer down and scrape the ground like a bull to check. Suddenly all goes quiet and looking up again I find the group staring at me.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars

“Want to join us?” the middle woman asks.

At which point I spy a clipboard next to a van that reads, ‘Limehouse Basin to Crate Brewery’ and my eyes light up.

“Yes!” I proceed to climb in to the back of said van, sitting myself awkwardly amongst a pile of bags.

The woman and her oversized spoon peer round the slidey door, smiling slightly. She hands me a chunky vest and pulls me back out in to the circle.

“Take this”.

I’m handed one of the large ladles (though not as large as everyone else’s – I’m 5’ 3” and apparently require a smaller spoon situation).  Everyone pairs off at this point and starts walking down to the river edge.

Are we starting a new world order? Is this a post Trump Noah’s Ark journey?

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick
A man named Madoc suddenly glides out in front with a cameraman sitting at the head.

As I begin to wonder where the pairs of giraffes and monkeys are, I’m led down to the water and into a long thin vessel. This is it. I realise I have been chosen for my child bearing hips and embrace my new role as procreator for the new world.

Floating down the canal at first, the current pulls our vessel (apparently it’s called a kayak) away from the group. A man named Madoc suddenly glides out in front with a cameraman sitting at the head.

“Welcome to Secret Adventures” he grins. The cluster of kayaks behind us cheers and we’re stopped in our tracks.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars

“Thank goodness for the sunny weather tonight, eh? We have made this journey in a storm before. But that was pretty exciting!”

I suddenly suspect he may be the urban Bear Grylls.

Apparently this is all Madoc’s brainchild. It transpires he was working as a volunteer for Raleigh International in Africa and once back in London he missed the nature, the adventures and meeting new people.

“I took it upon myself to create a MeetUp group and organise adventures in the city.”

The first adventure was a moonlit cycle ride from Hackney to Hertfordshire. Within a fortnight he’d collected 300 members and his events were selling like hot cakes.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick

After a while Madoc was able to quit his day job and pursue Secret Adventures fully, creating events like narrowboat picnics, skinny dips, swimming to secret islands and camping in forests.

So what are we doing tonight I wonder? I suddenly suspect he may be the urban Bear Grylls. Spying the cameraman again I start to picture Lord of the Flies-esque scenes with us made to fight for the last remaining oar while they keep the camera rolling and we are left stranded in the middle of the canal with a couple of water flies to lead the way / eat.

I reach for my phone out of habit and mild panic before remembering they’ve stored all of our possessions in the van.

I forget where we’re going and why. I forget that I never knew in the first place

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick

Which is the exact moment my anxieties begin to float like dead rats on their backs downstream. I remember how freeing it is to be without my phone and I dip my hands in to the river smiling. Starting to close my eyes and laugh to myself I feel a sudden thud. Looking up I realise we’re scraping a wall and my kayaking partner is turned round staring at me. “I think we actually have to paddle” he says, deadpan, thrusting my paddle into my hands.

So off we row, getting in to a steady but fast rhythm to catch up with the rest of the secret adventurers. For the first five strokes I continue to feel elated, until the lactic acid begins to build and I’m told we have another two hours to go.

Someone begins to sing I Think We’re Alone Now, the lock starts to fill with water and we’re slowly raised skywards.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick

But after getting in to another steady stride, we begin to really enjoy the canal. We watch it dash and bend round surprising corners, see it house families of swans, ducks and unidentifiable objects, reflecting graffiti swathed brick office walls.

It provides the view for surrounding warehouses and balcony adorned flats, creating the foundation and route for colourful bobbing houseboats who line our path and cheer us along.

Neon clad cyclists stop at bridges to watch us glide beneath while river boats float past, honking their horns as we take a breather.

I forget where we’re going and why. I forget that I never knew in the first place, that this was a leap of trust into a body of water. For the most part we are alone along the canal stretch, not finding a pace with the kayakers behind and in front. But our trail of adventure stays in line and led throughout by Madoc and the other guides who watch over us quietly.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars

Slowly, however, we start to see a group forming and clustering at an impasse. We are grouped inside a canal lock, enjoying a few moments rest to chat and catch up. Someone begins to sing I Think We’re Alone Now, the lock starts to fill with water and we’re raised slowly skywards.

We’ve almost made it from Limehouse the 6km to what looks suspiciously like Crate Brewery in Hackney Wick. Which, it just so happens, is where we’re headed after following the Limehouse Cut and River Lea. Madoc and the guides help steer us in to the dock, making sure we avoid the family of nesting swans, straight into the arms of craft beer swilling revellers.

Lines of curious Hackney Wickers ask us what we’ve been doing while one by one we pull ourselves up and empty our shoes of river on to the ground.

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars, hackney wick

But we still need our sea legs. It’s time for our appointment with Crate’s boat bar where we are served sourdough pizza and freshly pulled pale ales under the colourful awnings and fairy lights, enjoying some relieved chitter chatter and the sounds of the resident DJ warming up indoors.

It is blissful.

We even have to be reminded to gather our phones and belongings from the parked van round the corner. I leave it switched off and take another sip of well deserved crisp Craft cider, raising my glass to the swans and the graffiti. Cheers.

Fancy Kayaking London’s oldest canal from Limehouse to Crate Brewery Hackney Wick with Secret Adventures?

Get more info and find tickets herePrice is per person in double super stable kayaks and includes:

North Four, North London magazine, kayaking, secret adventures, canals, canoe, oars

Kayak

Paddles

Buoyancy aids

Waterproof storage barrels for any valuables

Professional instructors

Van to take any valuables

Staff to take your kayak away at the end point

Secret AdventuresCanoe Shed
Limehouse Basin
London , E14 7JZ

Under the DLR railway arches in Limehouse basin (just behind Limehouse DLR). Come out of the Branch Road exit and turn immediately left. They’re easy to spot with lots of kayaks and instructors ready to greet you. Nearest postcode: E14 7JZ.

Photos by Mike Barry.

North Four, North London magazine, green rooms hotel, arts, culture, review, interiors, design, photography, wood green
Eat & Drink Lifestyle

My First Night at Green Rooms Hotel

Staying in a hotel one mile from where you actually live feels strange enough, but doing it on your own is even stranger. These photos are a visual record of me wandering the lonely corridors of a new boutique hotel between the hours of 10-12pm. I would describe the decor as handmade but not cheap, minimal but not clinical. It has the feeling that money has been spent on the things that matter.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, cheese, fromage, cheese festival, n1, islington, market, festival, food, gouda, edam, brie, camembert, wheel of cheese
Eat & Drink

You Feta Brie-lieve it: Cheese Festival Comes to North London

The rumours are true: a cheese festival exists and it’s coming to North London. This Sunday. Be there or be … cheese-less I suppose. But you’ve gouda get there early:  If you’re as keen as brie and one of the first fifty fromage fondlers to show, you’re in the running for a free bottle of Black Cow’s pure milk vodka. Traders will be setting up stalls along Islington’s Chapel Market: from the Raclette Brothers and Mac to the Future to La Fromagerie and The Cheese Truck.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, dream phone, dream talk, sound art, collaboration, musician, artist, london, phone boxes
Culture Lifestyle

Dream Talk: Sound Art for Your Commute

Dream Talk. It’s like Dream Phone, but not at all. Artist Emma Alonze and musician Andy Becker have joined forces to collaborate on a (possibly prophetic) new sound art project. Londoners are invited to take a moment out of their daily commute, routine or journey and immerse themselves in a narrated collection of dreams. Taking three years worth of forty winks, Alonze has gathered and narrated a chosen few to be set to an ambient soundtrack by Becker.

Read More...
Events

Between the Sheets at the Underbelly Festival

Holy smoke, her nipples are on fire! Somebody pass the woman an extinguisher. Wait, why is she climbing into that giant margarita glass - does she not know it's highly flammable? She's going to need to be doused with a sizable portion of aloe vera gel at this rate, the poor lamb. 

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, events, to do, 100, keeping it 100, hackney arts
Culture Events List

Top Four "Keeping it 💯" Workshops

If there's anything the new moon today has told us, it's that it's time to be our true selves. That's what my horoscope told me today anyway. But what does that mean exactly? It means that if you want to eat honey loops for lunch, you 100% can. It means if you feel like learning how to make a bouquet instead of working on your tax forms, you 100% can. It also means if you want to learn how the deep throat (singing technique) you don't have to explain yourself. You're keeping it .

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, eroc, skateboarding, skater dog, french bulldog, frenchie, skateboard, halfpipe, interview, internet sensation, instagram star, tony hawk, fanbase
Lifestyle

Who is Behind Eroc the Skateboarding Dog?

Our exclusive meeting with Eroc: the Beyonce of the skateboarding dog world. Eroc the french bulldog is making waves. With fans like Tony Hawk, BBC Radio and over 30k followers on Instagram (and counting), Eroc has also become something of an online sensation. His viral status comes and goes, randomly popping up on online social media channels every now and again to generate hundreds of thousands of views and clicks via the likes of Buzzfeed, Time Out and rogue iPhone filmers.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, protest, opinion piece, lifestyle, trump, women's march, brexit, riots, uprising, human rights, march, rally
Lifestyle

Protest is Dead! Long Live Protest!

We all have our own ways of dealing with life when things get shitty. Having a big cry and getting it all out can be incredibly therapeutic, and even more so when we find ourselves repeating the same line over and over through the tears. “He’s a dick!” or “I’m not a bad person!” These little lines of reinforcement help us push through the crappy feeling. Sometimes we might even revert to a hearty little stamp on the floor / kick of some unsuspecting object. It feels surprisingly satisfying when the rage sets in and we feel helpless.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, trio da kali, musicians, live music, gig, stoke newington, the old church, tickets, events
Culture

Contemporary Malian Sounds in Stokey

This Friday sees the release of Malian master musicians, Trio Da Kali’s new album Ladilikan. Fusing rich, expressive vocals with traditional instruments like the balafon and bass ngoni, this is a beautiful mix of ancient Mande culture and contemporary Malian sounds. Luckily for us North Londoners, we have the opportunity to see the trio play live in the rather fitting ethereal surrounds of Stoke Newington Church next month. 

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, sylvanian familes, store, monsell road, finsbury park, toys, toyshop, collectibles, rare, dolls
Lifestyle

On your Doorstep: Inside Sylvanian World

Walking along Monsell Road in Finsbury Park, we spy the charming exterior of a shop looking like something out of a children’s book circa 1932. Beneath a green and white striped awning, a whimsical new world of mini animals awaits. Once inside we stumble about the store in hushed awe, reaching over a book of minuscule carpet samples/ family of miniature otters to tap a tiny bell.

Read More...
North Four, north London magazine, outdoor cinema, pizza, sodo pizzeria, snug, events, refreshments, foodie, picnic
Events

Kids and Big Kids: Pizza, Curry and Open Air Cinema

Whether you’re looking for something to entertain your kids, your friends’ kids or that particularly large man child in your life, you might just have lucked out. Snug are hosting an open air screening of The Incredibles next Saturday evening. There will be tasty sourdough pizzas from Sodo Pizza (Upper Clapton) and ultimate authentic curries from Rice n Spice, Northwold Road.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, vegetarian restaurant, ceremony, veggie, cuisine, risotto, dish
Eat & Drink

Ceremony: A New Take On Veggie Cuisine

Coming soon to a Tufnell Park near you is a whole new vegetable patch of delights / wheat field to run vicariously through. It’s time to get excited for Ceremony: a brand new bar/restaurant serving modern British veggie cuisine. Although the website remains tantalisingly mysterious, you can glean more info from their well stocked insta.

Read More...
Spring Kind, Pit Party, North Four Magazine, Music, North London, London
Culture Eat & Drink Events List

Top 4 Weird Things to do This September

Sound baths, pit parties, fake cheese and nipples, these are a few of our favourite things, said no one ever. Bored of drinking down the pub every evening? Unlikely, but bare with me. Sometimes you just want to let down your hair, shake it off and do something down right odd of an evening... followed by a pint at the pub.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, texlationship, online dating, illustration, iphones, texting, tinder, julia potocnik
Lifestyle

Dating North London: IRL vs Textlationship

It’s been a few months since the last instalment of Online vs Offline. I deleted Bumble, Happn and Tinder, flirted with the idea of match.com, went to a friend’s wedding, heard the vicar call my name instead of the Bride’s and reflected briefly on the crushing inevitability of my own spinsterhood before realising everyone was laughing in the pews and I should probably join them.

Read More...
north four magazine, north london, stroud green, cheese
Eat & Drink Events

Stroud Green Market Opens This Sunday!

Gluten-free cake consumers, vegan cheese enthusiasts, craft beer connoisseurs, lovers of pies and drinkers of tea; your time is now. Buy food of a quality & variety you can’t easily find in the shops, from organic meat to vegan cheese, fish caught that morning to pickles which have been fermenting for months, at Stroud Green market.

Read More...
North Four, North London magazine, the finsbury, finsbury park, n4, music venue, gigs, folk
Events

Free Cake and Gin Soaked Folk Pop

Who’s up for free entry, free cake and free folk (except for a jaunty little hat that is passed around for donations)? Get down to The Finsbury this Wednesday eve for a little mid week hootenanny and celebrate some of the best in new live music from the ‘acoustic, singer-songwriter & indie-folk scene’. Host with the most, Zoe Konez (“Ridiculously talented, Konez handles her guitar like she was born with it” - For Folk's Sake) will be deftly introducing each act from gin soaked folk popster herself, Penniless Cove to German indie band, Kalon.

Read More...
Lifestyle

Lamps, Records, Frenchies: The Big London Flea

What if you could mix the joys of your local Sunday car boot and all it’s dog perving potential with your favourite vintage clothes shops and high end antique markets? Within the sparkling depths of Dalson’s former ABC cinema, you’ll find The Big London Flea: London’s largest indoor vintage market.

Read More...