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Slough Arm
John Betjemin once famously urged friendly bombs to target Slough, a rather unlovely town in the mostly lovely county of Berkshire. The town might not be anything to shout about but the canal towpath, formerly dotted with brick work wharfs, is now mostly quite a pleasant if unremarkable stroll with long straight sections and a haven for aquatic fauna and flora.

Opened in 1882, a very late arrival to the canal scene and departing the Grand Union from the roving bridge at Cowley Peachey, the canal's purpose was to satisfy London's demand for bricks, sand and gravel. After this trade declined, rubbish came from the opposite direction and was used as landfill for the exhausted quarries. By the 1960s the local council wanted to fill in a portion of the canal as part of a road scheme but local enthusiasts formed the Slough Canal Group and by 1975 it had been saved and subsequently made navigable again.

Initially the towpath walker passes the Packet Boat Marina on the other side of the cut, the name refers to the packet boat that used to carry passengers to Paddington. Interestingly the first bridge (a footbridge to the marina) is no.0. Walking through part of the Colne Valley Regional Park, the landscape is created out of the remnants of the gravel and clay extraction industries. Three rivers are crossed in fairly quick succession: the Frays River, River Colne and Colne Brook. Guarded by pill boxes, you can visualise Corporal Jones fending off the hun from these hi-tech defensive positions.

The outlook remains green and pleasant but less attractive is the waste disposal site just after the Fray's Aqueduct - a graffiti splattered architectural monstrosity that's very noisy and covers the immediate area in fine dust. The hum of traffic noise increases as you approach the M25 but the outlook is agreeable with the water filled with reeds and lilies. Before and after the motorway, factories and business parks are partially or completely hidden from view, but litter is a problem and will continue to be so.

Between Thorney Lane Bridge 3 and Meads Bridge 4 through the Iver cutting, the towpath is elevated above the level of the canal. You can climb up to the unused bridge before continuing on the towpath that goes over the barely discernable entrance to an old wharf and on to the Meads Bridge Winding Hole by which time there is little or no traffic noise. A mobile home site then appears on the towpath side before Hollow Hill Lane Bridge 6 (Bridge 5 has been demolished) and then there's the Iver Boatyard. Residential boats of many shapes, sizes, ages and repair are moored 2/3 abreast near High Line Yachting and stretch, adjacent to Langley Golf Club, all the way to Langley Park Road Bridge 7.

On the towpath side it is now David Brent heaven with large swaths of modern soulless business units between the canal and railway. There is a bench if you want to take your ease and, judging from the amount of fag ends littering the floor, smokers haven't died out yet. Factories, new and old line the canal following Trenches Bridge 8 while lilies and reeds again decorate the water. A new housing estate follows St. Mary's Road Bridge winding hole and Bloom Park (home to the annual Slough Canal Festival) after Middlegreen Bridge 10 provides a pleasant green space before neat houses take over. Reeds again obscure the water, narrowing the canal while the towpath widens.

At Uxbridge Road bridge 11, which is decorated with an attractive mural made from re-cycled materials, the space that was taken up by the spaghetti mess of steel tanks and steaming silver clad pipes of Uxbridge Gas Works is now being redeveloped with housing on the far side. In this decidedly urban landscape, look to the right just past Wexham Road bridge and you'll see the gleaming white Iqra Islamic School appearing imposingly above the tree tops.

After nearly 5 miles the arm ends at the deeply unimpressive Slough Basin and Stoke Wharf. Surrounded by high metal fencing and dereliction, these are two places from where you want to escape rather than visit. Most towns and cities recognize that canals are a valuable resource and they have been transformed into welcoming waterside destinations - see Aylesbury Arm. Living up to the town's dire reputation, it's taken Slough many years to realize this fact, but thankfully this inauspicious area now has planning permission to be developed into somewhere slightly more welcoming, and that shouldn't be too difficult to achieve.

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Grand Union Canal Slough Arm
Grand Union Canal Slough Arm
Grand Union Canal Slough Arm
Grand Union Canal Slough Arm
Grand Union Canal Slough Arm
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Slough Basin, not exactly a tourist trap
A mural featuring unconvincing water voles
Residential boats moored between bridges 6 and 7
A wartime pill box still ready for action
Limehouse with a full load of trolleys and bicycles
The entry to the Packet Boat Marina at Cowley Peachey