Regency style houses contribute to the atmosphere in several areas of London. On this walk you will see the originals, designed by John Nash, in a development sponsored by the Prince Regent, later George IV. They surround a fine park, and are still owned by the Crown Estate; look out for the crest on bollards and lamp posts.
From Regent's Park you'll move to St John's Wood, where Victorian mansion blocks with receptionists contain enormous flats. Primrose Hill offers views over London.
The Regent's Canal links to the Grand Union Canal, and if you have a boat you could sail to Liverpool
Camden Town offers a contrast to the grand terraces of Regent's Park. Here are music and comedy clubs, youth culture and street food.
The grand route from the Prince Regentís Westminster house (long since disappeared) to Regentís Park culminates where Portland Place joins Park Crescent. Unbroken rows of columns stretch in both directions. Each London park has its own character, and Regentís Park is one of the more picturesque, with flower-lined walks, lakes, and a cascade. The BT tower is seen from the Rose Garden in the above picture.
Nash designed the grand facades but was accused of being a mere painter of scenery, since he took little interest in the internal layout of the buildings. On the right is Clarence Terrace. Letís not ask what those pillars are for; they look great and thereís nothing wrong with beautiful scenery. A blue plaque shows HG Wells once lived here.
The domed roofs of the London Business School (a college of London University) give it a distinctive look, while still fitting the Regency style. The twentieth century Mosque is more distinctive still, yet manages not to look out of place.
Then thereís a series of grand villas (left) designed by Quinlan Terry in, believe it or not, the nineteen eighties. Nash would surely have approved.
However, the largest Regency house used to be hidden in the trees to the right until, after a fire in the nineteen twenties, an American Woolworths heiress demolished it to build something more like home. The views of the English aristocracy who would have been her neighbours are not recorded.
In St Johnís Wood, whose proximity to the park has long been reflected in property prices, you will see RAK Studios where David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Adele are amongst those to have made music. Divert to nearby St Johnís Wood High Street if you are hungry or thirsty.
Notice that in amongst the fabulously expensive mansion blocks there are also housing association flats for the less wealthy, and that these too are well maintained.
Thereís a plaque on top of Primrose Hill to identify the sights of London laid out below. It's worth waiting your turn to see it, if there's a queue. Some of the latest tower blocks haven't made it onto the plaque. The descent passes pretty terraces in an area favoured by writers and actors.
The canal takes you past more Regency houses and under a bridge where a barge carrying explosives once blew up.
Camden Lock has a completely different atmosphere: itís usually packed with teenage tourists, deposited there by desperate teachers.
Dingwalls, overlooking the lock, is a music club started in 1973 in a warehouse whose painted name, Dingwalls, couldnít be scrubbed off the wall.
There are several other music venues in Camden, and many of the British bands from the last twenty years have played here.
Pick your way through the crowds and clothes shops of Camden, which has a high student population. The area has either escaped, or is overdue, depending on your viewpoint, the restoration and refurbishment that has cleaned up so much of London - and has gone hand in hand with escalating property prices.
Gloucester Crescent takes us back to grander houses, with at least two well known authors amongst the residents.
The walk returns towards Regentís Park, and to the Regency architectsí quirky and charming idea of a ďvillageĒ. In 1906 most of Park Village East was demolished to make way for more railway lines into Euston, but the remnants are worth seeing (picture right). Park Village West is small and intimate, though the houses are hardly peasants' cottages.
Progressing down the East side of Regentís Park, Gloucester Gate is fine enough, and lined with exotic cars, but after that we find Nash at his most flamboyant. In Cumberland Terrace, a triumphal arch leads to what is now a place to park a few cars, Grecian-style statues stand along the roof, and a blue and white frieze decorates the pediment.
Then, so as not to seem an anti-climax, Chester Terrace is entered through one decorative archway, and left through another.
Our feast of Regency architecture is over. My house and yours may now seem rather inadequate.
Distance 9.4km / 5.9 miles.
1. Start from Regentís Park tube station. Turn right onto main road from station exit, then right again into Park Crescent.
2. Follow the crescent all the way round. At the end, cross Marylebone road and go straight on into Park Square West.
3. At the end, cross the Outer Circle (a road), ignore the path straight ahead, and turn right.
4. Take first path on the left. When you reach the next road (Chester Road), turn left.
5. Go straight across the Inner Circle, through the gates, and immediately take a path to the left.
6. Note the view of BT Tower as you pass a circular rose garden.
7. Reach a lake, go right to cross a wooden bridge.
8. Then go right, immediately left, and right again to climb.
9. Right at the fork then immediate left up steps to a viewing platform.
10. Return down the steps and turn left. (You can divert to look at the cascade on the way). Continue to gate.
11. Go through the gilded gates and turn right onto the Inner Circle.
12. Pass Regentís College on the left. Look for and take a path to the bandstand and lake on the left, opposite the cafť which is on your right.
13. Turn right onto the footbridge, then right/left to the public road.
14. Cross the road to Clarence Terrace opposite, and go right.
15. Pass: Clarence Terrace, London Business School, Hanover Terrace, Regents Park Mosque, and several villas in varied styles, all on your left. Look out for Winfield House on your right, first the exit then the entrance with an armed guard. (Built for a Woolworths heiress, now the US ambassadorís residence).
16. Turn left out of the park, crossing the Regentís Canal.
17. Go straight across Prince Albert Rd into Charlbert Street. (See RAK music studios on the right). Youíre now in St Johnís Wood.
18. At end of Charlbert Street, turn right into St Johnís Wood Terrace, passing alms houses.
19. At end turn right into Townshend Rd.
20. Left into Allitsen Rd.
21. Go straight across into St Edmundís Terrace.
22. Enter park gate at end of road, turn hard left. This is Primrose Hill.
23. Bear right at first junction to reach the top of the hill.
24. At the top, go across the circular area of hard standing, to the opposite exit. (But do have a look at London first).
25. Take the right hand of the two tarmac paths from the top. Bear left at next junction, then right again to walk parallel to Regentís Park Road.
26. At the end of the path, leave the park through a gate beside a drinking fountain.
27. Cross Albert Terrace and continue along Regentís Park Road.
28. Turn right into St Markís Square beside the church.
29. Cross the main road, Albert Bridge Road, and turn left. Look for a gate on the right hand side, go down steps to the canal, and turn left under the bridge.
30. Continue under a footbridge at the Pirateís Castle.
31. Soon you will see an arched bridge which will take you across to the other side of the canal. Just before the bridge, turn left to look around the Camden Lock food and other stalls, come out the same way and go over the bridge. (Dingwalls and Jongleurs clubs are opposite).
32. The path leads you to the road beside a bridge; turn right here. (Notice the bizarre shop signs, e.g. a giant shoe).
33. Take the second turn on the right, Inverness Street.
34. Cross Arlington Street. (Look right to the massive red brick no 220, built as a lodging house for the poor).
35. Turn left into Gloucester Crescent. Charles Dickensís wife lived at no 70 on the right. (Authors Michael Frayn and Alan Bennett also live in the road).
36. By staying on the same left hand pavement, you walk briefly through Oval Road, past traffic lights, and then Gloucester Avenue. At the cross roads with traffic lights, cross Gloucester Avenue to turn right into Parkway.
37. Cross Parkway at the next junction to reach Park Village East. Look at first few houses then turn round and return to junction.
38. Turn left across bridge, and left again into Albany Street.
39. Turn left into Park Village West. Follow it round until it comes back to Albany Street, and turn right.
40. Turn left into Gloucester Gate, then left again into Outer Circle.
41. Turn left into Gloucester Gate by the Exit Only sign, to walk alongside the terrace until it rejoins Outer Circle. (Donít be confused by the Gloucester Gate name recurring).
42. Turn left into Cumberland Terrace (the grandest of the terraces).
43. Turn left into Cumberland Place and follow it round to the archway into Chester Terrace; turn left to go through it.
44. Go through a second archway at the end of Chester Terrace, and turn right into Chester Gate.
45. Go straight across Outer Circle into Regentís Park; take the path to the left, parallel to the road.
46. At the end of the path, leave the park through a gate.
47. Cross Outer Circle and continue straight ahead down Park Square East.
48. Cross Marylebone Road, and turn right to Regentís Park tube station.