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.

Illustration of tank with duck in it reading 'peace is coming' at Atom Gallery for North Four Magazine
Culture

Tomorrow's World at Atom Gallery

Joined by over 50 other artists incorporating printmaking, painting, digital art, photography and small-scale sculpture, Tomorrow’s World presents us with utopias, dystopias, predictions, prophecies and visions of the future. We hit up the private view last Friday and it was pretty damn bleak, in the best sense of the word.

Read More...
Brave Sir Robin Opening 14th December 2017
Eat & Drink

Local Thinking, Craft Beer Drinking: Brave Sir Robin Launches in Crouch Hill

Carouse founders Chris, Theo and Ben – the charming folk behind Kentish Town’s Rose and Crown – have a new venture afoot and we couldn’t be more bloody excited to see it. We’ve been creeping in their windows, peering through the paint and sneaking glimpses at builders’ bums for a few months now (okay, maybe not the last one), watching these guys transform this cosy corner of Crouch Hill into a rather cool little boozer. Now they’re opening and everyone is invited. Come one, come all, and try all 20 of their beers on tap with us.

Read More...
Back of persons head with cigarette tucked over ear
Events

Body Hammer: Clubbing, but not how you know it

Last month I decided to try clubbing again. I don’t quite know what came over me, but I actually (brace yourselves) enjoyed it. I went to Body Hammer’s monthly party in Manor House and I’m here to tell you to go too, whether you love clubbing, hate clubbing, or really couldn’t care either way. #notspon

Read More...
Close up of person shoving a stuffed potato skin into her mount at Skins in The Magic Roundabout for North Four Magazine
Eat & Drink Events

Go Your Own Way at Skins' Fleetwood Mac & Cheese Night

Rich, fried, buttery, potato-y vessels loaded with flavor combinations that go down rather well with craft beer, late nights and good times. Ha, who am I kidding, EVERYTHING goes down well with beer. You heard that right buddy, loaded potato skins are back with a bang (and a generous portion of bacon) and are currently being served at Old Street's The Magic Roundabout by street food pop-up Skins and we could not be any happier. Well, unless they were to stuff it with, say, Mac and Cheese or risotto. Oh, that's exactly what they do? Well paint me green and call me a cucumber.

Read More...
Christmas Gift Guide by Pretty Shiny Shop in Stroud Green North London
Lifestyle List

A Very Pretty Shiny Christmas Gift Guide

Magical gifts, wonderful gifts, marvellous gifts, beautiful gifts, gifts, glorious gifts glo-ri-ous giiiiiifts. Please Sir, I want some more. It’s that time of year again and whether you love it or loathe it gifts will be purchased and presented into expectant hands. Stroud Green's very own Pretty Shiny Shop have compiled a gift guide to help ease the shopping shock. Imagine only having to trot to your local gift shop and tick off your entire shopping list in one fell swoop. Done, finito, terminado! To make it that little sweeter, it's also all very affordable... so you won't even have to pick a pocket or two.

Read More...
Three people clinking plastic glasses in the air in a tent with people in the background at Thor's Tipi Bar in Regent's Place
Eat & Drink Events

Drink, Feast, Conquer, Repeat. Thor's Tipi Bar Has Arrived.

Alright guys, it’s happening. The frosty charm of December is, once again, being beaten to a pulp by the capitalists’ wet dream: Christmas. The hideous twinkling of artificial outdoor lighting is starting to appear, with tourists flocking from far and wide to watch D-list celebrities press a button. Invitations to Christmas parties flood in from your multiple part-time jobs, ensuring you make bad decisions bi-weekly til next year. Supermarkets are selling 12-day advent calendars containing confetti, cookie cutters and candles for a flawless £50. And oh, how the mulled wine flows.

Read More...
Girl peeking through gold and pink balloons at Top Balloon in Shop Stroud Green for North Four Magazine
Eat & Drink Events

Shop Stroud Green Christmas Trail 2017

Who doesn’t love a cheeky statistic, correctly sourced? You know we do. Well, did you know that for every £1 spent with a small business, 63p is re-spent in the local area, as opposed to a measly 40p in every £1 re-spent locally with larger businesses? An absolute travesty, am I right? That 23p has to mean something, right, guys?! Guys? Guys, where are you going? Wait, there’s freebies involved too!

Read More...
Eat & Drink Events Lifestyle List

Top 4 'Christmas is just a bad excuse for a' Winter Markets

By gum there are a lot of winter markets this year. Fueled by sickly sweet mulled wine and overpriced pulled pork sliders, we’ve managed to wade our way through the murky waters of winter markets and find some decent looking ones round this here part of town. Don’t let our Grinch-esq vibes put you off (I’m more of a Pancake Day person myself) because, if you’re into markets, you’ll probably like these. Read on, if you’re merrier than us.

Read More...
The Vinteriors team and Mary le Comte at Moseyhome in Finsbury Park, North London for 'Style My Shop'.
Lifestyle

Style My Shop: Vinterior x Moseyhome

Take a short walk along Finsbury Park’s own sunset strip and you’ll find MoseyHome, an interiors retailer and styling consultancy who have invited us to collaborate with them on an exciting new series titled 'Style My Shop', in which they invite some of London's most talented interiors experts to quite literally style their shop. Interiors porn at it's finest.

Read More...
Eat & Drink Events List

Top Five "It's That Time Of Year Again" Things To Do This Winter

Why was the snowman sad? Because he had a meltdown. Much like us, every year, when winter comes. It’s cold, it’s dark, and we know Christmas is on its way. But hey, it’s not all bad – the events round this time of year can be pretty swell. So don your scarf-shawl-blanket and get your frolic on, it’s time for fairy lights, scarfing mulled wine and stuffing your face!

Read More...
Hand feeling colourful splashes of artwork at Smith and Sinclair Flavour Gallery
Culture Eat & Drink Events

Suck it at The Flavour Gallery

Touch, taste, smell, hear and create art. Smith & Sinclair, purveyors of the Edible Cocktail, presents The Flavour Gallery: a multi-sensory adventure that’ll seduce your senses and tickle your taste buds beyond all imagination. Ooh matron!

Read More...
Hodgepodge on Crouch Hill, North London. New restaurant opening November 2017
Eat & Drink

New Opening: Hodgepodge Crouch Hill

Offering modern British cuisine with a smokey twist, Crouch Hill's newest contender to its foodie scene, Hodge Podge, is all minimal styling and hearty yet inventive dishes.

Read More...
Cartoon of vampires standing in tunnel for London Horror Festival
Events List

Top 4 ‘Eat, drink and be scary’ All Hallows haunts

Brush the cobwebs off your sexy banana costume; it’s that time of year to make a tit of yourself in fancy dress again. We’ve rounded up the most spine-chilling Halloween happenings in North London and, trust us, they sound horrendous. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Read More...
Eat & Drink Events

The Moroccan Medina at The Queen of Hoxton Rooftop

God bless the Queen... of Hoxton. Or, more specifically, their rooftop - which happens to be one of our favourites in this here city of London. These guys are well known for creating beautiful, seasonal pop-ups which have included the Nordic Viking themed 'Skye Halla' and the Neverland inspired 'Bangarang'. This winter make way for 'The Moroccan Medina', a sky high hideaway inspired by the romanticism of the beguiling ancient city of Marrakesh.

Read More...
Mento, floristry cafe in finsbury park, North London
Eat & Drink

Mento: Flowers and Coffee

Next time you need a caffeine hit why not take it from a cup brewed from Jamaican beans grown under a canopy of rainforest-preserving trees, whilst eating a home made vegan banana bread as you sit among an array of sweetly scented blooms. Welcome to Mento, Finsbury Park.

Read More...