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UK Mayhem's Dam, Newton Aycliffe - May 2016

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History

As a previous report detailing our clock tower explore noted, the town of Newton Aycliffe was constructed after the Second World War in an effort to tackle Britain’s ‘Five Giants’: poverty, disease, homelessness, ignorance and unemployment. The government at the time, which introduced the concept of the Welfare State, had largescale plans to rebuild the whole of Britain according to the Newton Aycliffe design. 

Prior to the development of the town, however, the moors in the area had been identified as a very useful site since the marshy moorland was ideal terrain for hiding munitions factories during the war. As the landscape was often shrouded in dense fog and mist, it offered ideal protection against Luftwaffe raids. A further advantage of using this area stemmed from the fact that it was well connected by railway lines; the first railway in the world to operate freight and passenger services with steam traction was built nearby during the 1800s, and since that time it had been extended to join a multiplicity of other railway lines. To begin with, a large ordinance factory that was no longer needed was converted into the first factory. 

As the war continued, more ammunition was demanded, and more land was subsequently required. Yet, because much of the land which had been identified as being suitable for ammunitions manufacturing was boggy, owing to the amount of clay in the soil, and inhibited by several small streams and becks, some of it had to be drained. A number of the streams were culverted initially using brick, so that additional roads and factories could be constructed on the surface above. The military were careful to avoid draining too much of the land during this development period though, to avoid losing the misty conditions. Once the factories were completed they were largely operated by local women; they were known as the ‘Aycliffe Angels’.  

In the years following the war, the munitions factories were replaced by manufacturing buildings, and the area gradually became known as the ‘Industrial District of Newton Aycliffe’. Many companies, including Great Lakes Chemicals, Eaton Axles and B.I.P (now Inovyn), moved into the area and they quickly became the biggest employers for the rapidly expanding town. New companies continue to base themselves in the exiting industrial estate today, including Hitachi who brought £82 million railway rolling stock factory to the area. As many of the former culverts were deteriorating, some had to be replaced with reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) during the mass factory expansion era. More recently, additional sections of some of the local streams have also been encased in RCP so that further development and expansion can continue. 

Our Version of Events

Prior to exploring the clock tower in Newton Aycliffe, we had a few hours to kill because we were waiting for darkness to fall. After spending an hour or so cruising around the town, we deduced that there isn’t much abandonedness going on it Newton Aycliffe, so we decided to have a look around for some underground stuff instead. Luckily, we discovered that our waders were in the boot of the car, so we didn’t have to worry about getting wet. 

After a fair bit of wandering around, we finally uncovered a nice little culvert that hasn’t, to our knowledge, been done yet. To be honest, by the look of things no one has been down there in a long while; although the stream is fairly wide, the overgrowth getting to it was incredibly thick and brambly (not good when you’re wearing waders and forgot your quick-fix bicycle puncture repair kit!). For a long while, as we were walking along the river, we became certain there wasn’t going to be a culvert; we seemed to do a lot of walking, and other than some sort of abandoned bridge, came across nothing for ages. Eventually, however, four small portals appeared in front of us. Our perseverance had paid off… Sort of. 

At first, looking at the tiny portals in front of us with fast flowing water pouring out, none of us seemed too enthusiastic about the prospect of crawling through a back-breaking tunnel. But, since we’d come this far, we decided to have a look inside anyway. Once inside the stoopy fast flowing fucker, the first twenty metres or so were completely spider infested. We were forced to wave our tripods around in front of us, like heroic champions ready to slay dragons. Of course, we didn’t look like heroic figures, as we flapped at our hair, sleeves, hoods and various other places when we felt that all-too-familiar crawling feeling you get when you encounter hordes of eight-legged creatures. Having said that, these spiders were bold fuckers and seemed keen to give chase when we were forced to pass beneath them.  

Fortunately, further ahead there was a bit of a junction where we could stand up. We all squeezed into a space that was less than a metre wide, but tall enough to stand comfortably. As you can imagine, a group of lads sporting waders, all crammed into one small space isn’t too pleasant, but the feeling of relief in the old back muscles felt incredible – so it was worth in that respect. What is more, at this point we appeared to have outrun the majority of the spiders, so the junction thing we were standing in had far fewer legs and eyes. 

There was only one way to go after resting in the small junction, that was right. We splashed our way, groaning in agony the entire length of the next section which, as it turned out, was very long. Finally, we reached a sort of waterfall, where we were able to stand once more. The climb up the ledge, which was around average head-height was an interesting obstacle that made the explore all the more entertaining. Once past that, however, we realised we’d reached a dead end. Just ahead of us was a large grill, fully clogged with many years of Newton Aycliffe’s shit (not shit in the literal sense). Water poured through a few holes here and there, but for the most part the rubbish and decaying foliage was functioning very well as a dam. This last chamber was clearly pretty old though; since it was constructed out of brick it was perhaps one of the original culverts that were built during the war. We spent a lot longer in this section, taking photos and prodding the make-shift dam, in an effort to postpone the inevitable journey back for as long as possible. Eventually, though, we decided to get it over with and head back to the surface. We ran the entire way back in the end, to save our backs, and didn’t take a single shot. Funnily enough, it didn’t seem as long going back, and we were quickly enjoying the taste of fresh air much sooner than we’d expected. 

Explored with Ford Mayhem and Husky. 
 

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