Rose gardens and a skyline to rival New York: Michael Leapman strolls along the Regent's Canal and encounters a floral delight

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Watching cricket is absorbing but idle. What you need after, or before, a day at Lord's, where the second Test begins next Thursday, is a brisk walk to get the muscles moving. This route offers a canalside stroll, one of the best views of the London skyline and a timely visit to its finest rose garden, all in well under two hours.

Start at St John's Chapel, the charming Regency church designed by Thomas Hardwick, on the roundabout just outside the ground. If it is open, go inside and look at its fine galleries supported on classical columns. When you leave, turn left into Prince Albert Road, then right opposite Charlbert Street towards a footbridge over the canal. Just before the bridge, go left down a footpath that quickly turns sharp right to next the towpath. Follow the sign for Camden Lock, walking east along the tree-hung Regent's Canal, cut between 1812 and 1820 to link the Grand Union Canal with the London docks.

Passing beneath the sturdy cast-iron Doric columns of Macclesfield Bridge, built in 1816, you see another bridge that takes pedestrians to the zoo. Just before you get to it turn left off the towpath, then sharp right to get back to Prince Albert Road. Cross into Primrose Hill park, keeping to the left-hand path that goes straight up towards the hill. Ignoring the first junction of paths, you soon fork right twice to reach the sunmit, with its fine view south.

Lord Snowdon's aviary is prominent in the foreground and other principal buildings are identified on an engraved marker - though the Canary Wharf tower is too recent to be included.

From here, go down towards the south-east corner of the park, the junction of Prince Albert Road and Albert Terrace, making at first for the spire of St Mark's Church until it disappears behind the trees.

Cross Prince Albert Road and turn left to pass the zoo, entering Regent's Park between two taIl white pillars and crossing a footbridge offering a view of canal boats and a floating Chinese restaurant.

Cross the Outer Circle road and go straight ahead along the broad path with the zoo on the right, passing a Victorian drinking fountain in need of restoration. Keep on until the path crosses Chester Road, with a dinky Gothic pizza hut on the right. Turn right there to go through the black and gilt ornamental gates leading into Queen Mary's Rose Garden.

The first path on the left takes you to the heart of this extensive garden. Planted in the mid-Thirties, it is not to everyone's taste, with formal beds each devoted to a single variety of rose - chiefly hybrid teas - surrounded by climbers smothering the posts. All the same, it provides a tremendous burst of colour and scent at its peak, which will be in the next week or so.

Soon you pass a pretty ornamental lake on your right, popular with water birds; we spotted a heron and a black swan. Beyond it is a pleasing border of blue, white and lilac flowers - restful after the harsher colours of the roses. Ahead is the Open Air Theatre, where this year's season has just begun with A Midsummer Night's Dream, but before you get to it, turn left at the end of the blue and white border, leaving the Rose Garden Buffet on your right.

Cross the road and make for the bandstand. Follow the path as it curves with the lake, then cross a lattice-work bridge and turn right to follow the other bank of the lake. Where it starts to veer right, fork left towards the London Central Mosque. Leave the park at Hanover Gate and turn right up Park Road for Lord's and the Tube station.

Length: 3 miles; Grade: Easy; Time: 90 minutes. Parking: On Outer Circle in Regent's Park (but not before 11am Mon-Fri). A few parking meters in streets north of the park. Public Transport: St. John's Wood (Jubilee Line). Buses 13, 82, 113, 274.

(Photograph and map omitted)