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UK Gunner's Regret, Wellington - March 2016

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Johnsonville, otherwise known as J’ville, is a large suburb of the city of Wellington, New Zealand. Originally, J’ville was the site of an old Maori track which stretched from Wellington to Porirua and ran through a dense native forest; no native inhabitants resided there until European settlers arrived in 1841. After the arrival of the settlers, Frank Johnson purchased a 100 acre section of land. Once felling of trees began, Johnson names the clearing ‘Johnson’s Clearing’. A timber mill was quickly erected at the centre of what is now modern J’ville, along with a house which was set by the Johnsonville Stream. Johnson was quick to exploit the local land and vegetation, and soon became one of the biggest suppliers of timber to the nearby town of Wellington which was expanding rapidly. By 1858, after accruing a substantial profit, Frank Johnson sold his land and property and returned to England as a wealthy man. The land left behind had been changed dramatically, and as Wellington continued to grow it seemed like an ideal site to develop a large farming industry that could support Wellington; the town that would, in 1865, become the capital city of New Zealand.


As Wellington grew, so did J’ville. By 1874 the area had become a small town and by 1881 it became a small dependent town district. The early 1900s, which brought electric lighting, drainage and kerbed streets represented a point where J’ville had become more of a suburban area than farm land. Although drainage was first installed in 1912, it was not until around the 1950s; when J’ville became a district of Wellington, that larger concrete drains and a main public sewer were constructed. Today, as J’ville has become more of a commercial area; with a supermarket, two supermarkets, many small shops and a library, most of the small streams and freshwater drains have been fully culverted. This has allowed the area to expand over natural and man-made features that would have otherwise inhibited further development.


Our Version of Events


It was fairly late on in the evening, but we decided to meet up with Gunner and have a crack at a large underground drain that has recently been uncovered in Wellington. Access was a little more public than we would have liked, but once we climbed down into the stream we were no longer visible. The first section through the stream was awkward, on account of the thorns and bushes which were extremely overgrown; like England, there were also the usual things you expect to find in a river or stream: trollies and prams etc. For Gunner, the going was a little harder since he’d forgotten to bring his gum boots, so he’d opted to go barefoot. The ground wasn’t exactly smooth either; at one stage it looked a little like he was walking over burning hot coals. One final trolley, although it could have been a push chair, presented itself as a final obstacle before we reached the large mouth of the drain. I’ll admit, at this stage things were looking a bit too concretey for my liking, so I wasn’t expecting to find anything exceptional down this one.


The first cylindrical section continued for a short while, before it opened out into a box shaped passage; this was much easier to walk through as it was less slippery. Next, we entered more of the same cylindrical pipe we’d encountered at the start of the explore. There were a few old access points above us here and there, but they looked like they’d been sealed years ago. As we continued we passed several small junctions and at each the design of the pipe seemed to change slightly. After what felt like a good bit of walking; although, I did stop and start a lot to take photographs, we reached a section with a cave-like roof. It looked fairly natural, but it could easily have been man-made. After that, we were greeted by more concrete once again. This time, however, the gradient of the drain seemed to vary; some sections were straight, while others suddenly dropped off steeply. At this stage, Gunner, who wore an expression that said something along the lines of “fuck this shit boys”, and decided to head back up to the surface. I didn’t blame him, like, since there were quite a few crayfish (koura) down there and they give a good pinch apparently.


After Gunner’s swift departure, up to the point we were at, the walk hadn’t been too bad in terms of stoopiness, but I was starting to notice, much like that scene in the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory film where they walk along the corridor to the tiny door, that the ceiling was becoming lower and lower. Ten minutes or so later and we were stooping; the back-ache quickly commenced and that desperate longing for a higher section ensued. Like old men, the mumbles and groans directed at the drain quickly began: “fucking bastard”; “piece of shit”; “cunt-fuck”; “jesus christ, my back”. Relief was soon felt, however, as we approached a large twin waterfall. Climbing down seemed a wee bit sketchy at first, as you have to walk down a slippery slope before you reach it, but as it turned out it was easier to descend than we’d first anticipated. Still, the splash back from the water was quite powerful as we walked in between both of the flows towards the next section of the tunnel.


The next section was a bit more varied than what we’d already encountered, and not stoopy whatsoever; thank fuck! First, we encountered a section cave-like section once again, and then a junction where we had three choices: continue forwards, climb upwards, or turn right up a steep incline. By the end of the explore we made sure to test each of the three routes. The first led straight to the outfall; it ended in a small reservoir surrounded by bush. The second route involved a climb into another chamber above us; this inevitably led to another ladder that ascended to the surface. The final route, up the steep incline, led into a completely different styled tunnel which was more ovoid. The ovoid tunnel continued for a kilometre or two, until it reached the outside world once again. Here you are greeted by a locked gate and, unless you have starved yourself for two weeks and taken contortionist lessons, the council gets the last laugh. This means you have to turn around and walk all the way back.


Explored with Nillskill and Gunner.








































































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Tunnels aren't really my thing, but you have some nice shots there and a fair bit of variety of tunnel shapes. No. 11 with the patches on the walls is a bit psychedelic!

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13 hours ago, hamtagger said:

Great pics there mate! And crikey that pool in pic 17 :wub:



Thanks mate. Yeah, it's cool how loads of the drains in NZ lead out into the bush, into pools like that one. 

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1 hour ago, OverArch said:

Tunnels aren't really my thing, but you have some nice shots there and a fair bit of variety of tunnel shapes. No. 11 with the patches on the walls is a bit psychedelic!

I know what you mean; concrete drains aren't usually my thing, but this one was quite varied. Yeah, that section with the patches continued for quite a while, it was pretty intense on the eyes with bright torchlight. 

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