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UK Worsley Brook Culvert (Old Worsley), Manchester - December 2016

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History

Once part of Lancashire, Worsley is a small town in Greater Manchester, England. It is first mentioned in the Great Rolls of the Pipe (a collection of financial records maintained by the English Exchequer) in 1195, when it was known as Werkesleia, meaning, in the language of the Saxons, ‘the cleared place which was cultivated or settled’. Prior to the 18th century, Worsley comprised a small farm-based village and a manor created by William I; however, after the completion of the Bridgewater Canal in 1761, the village began to expand as cotton manufacturers, iron and brick works and coal mining companies were established in the area. Further expansion of the town came following the First and Second World Wars, as large residential estates were introduced, to house the increasing number of workers of nearby factories and evacuees from the south of England. 

A small section of Worsley Brook was culverted during the Industrial Revolution, because a canal had to be constructed above to provide a more efficient means of transporting coal from Worsley to Salford. The first part of the culvert would have been built sometime in the late 1750s. After the completion of the canal it was considered a major engineering achievement because it was accomplished in a timely fashion, built over the top of obstacles such as Worsley Brook and the River Irwell, and even allowed boats to travel underground into the coal mines themselves. By 1887, however, the mines in the area ceased production. Most of the works and several large warehouses were demolished during the early 1900s and the area was transformed so that new developments could be positioned on the land. As part of this redevelopment a larger 400 metre section of Worsley Brook was culverted, to allow for building over the top. 

Today, Worsley Culvert is undergoing major restoration work to address various structural problems. It was reported that the deteriorating state of the brickwork posed risks to 260 local properties because there was a risk of it collapsing and causing subsequent flooding. The plans to stabilise the structure involve lining it with thirty-six four-tonne concrete sections. According to the Environment Agency, a number of pumps have been installed to help drain and divert the brook while the work takes place. 

Our Version of Events

After a rough night sleeping beneath a tarp, we were pretty keen to get moving and do some exploring. To avoid sleeping in two cramped cars (there were eight of us after all), which were each filled with a lot of Tesco sandwich packaging, pigeon shit, a little bit of asbestos and enough gear to get us through a nuclear war, four of us had decided to kip outside beneath the stars. We’d found a nice little spot in some sort of country park by a small duck pond, and it was only really as we were setting up that we started to noticed that the floor was turning white with frost. Still, we decided to ignore it, and cracked on with setting up our campsite for the evening. We figured that we’d just each wear three or four jackets and hoodies and light a few candles for warmth. By the morning, though, none of us could feel our arms and legs anymore. The last bit of warmth in our bodies was centred around the torso area. Getting up was the worst bit, as we left behind the little warmth there was inside our sleeping bags. Putting the boots back on felt like stepping into blocks of ice. The morning didn’t get any better as we noticed that there was a layer of ice covering the tarp, and that the pond behind us had completely frozen over. What is more, we’d left a large half-eaten cake outside, thinking it would be perfectly fine throughout the night for us to enjoy at breakfast, but it was gone! All that remained were several fox footprints (or so we guessed) in the frost. 

It took a wee while to thaw out a bit before we could pack everything up, so our start to the day was a little delayed. Nevertheless, once we were back inside the cars, with the heaters running at full blast, we were ready for some more exploring. First on the list was an old culvert… You can tell this was a well-planned winter trip. Having said that, there was some intelligent thinking behind this decision to don the waders in December. Prior to embarking on our trip to Liverpool, we’d stumbled across a few old reports on a fantastic looking culvert known as ‘Old Worsley’. Judging by the photographs we found, it was short but filled with all sorts of old brick and stonework. The problem, though, was that we’d read about redevelopment work being scheduled between 2016 and 2017. So, since we were passing through Manchester on our way to Liverpool, we figured it would be nice to take a quick look. We hoped, with a little bit of luck on our side, that the work crew might not have ruined it too much just yet. 

We arrived at the entrance of the culvert, which is situated at the side of a nice residential estate, just as everyone else seemed to be waking up. What this means is that we looked like a right bunch of space cadets as we wadered up in middle of the street. One guy who was walking his small sausage dog, which made him look ever so slightly like a camp paedophile, stared at us with an angered expression on his face. He even doubled back on himself to walk past us another couple of times, and the entire time he kept his beady little eyes on us. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to walk up to the brook, so we were soon out of sight. You know what they say, out of sight out of mind. 

Inside, we were instantly a bit disappointed because the redevelopment work seemed to be in full swing. The first section is now almost completely reinforced with concrete. The next part, where there is an arched entranceway and what should have been a rugged boxed off section inside, didn’t look too good either; now, a concrete shell has been erected inside it. The work looked very recent too, since some of the cement was still a bit damp, which was unfortunate indeed. Things looked a lot more promising, however, once we reached the end of this fresh Soviet-inspired culvert (someone ought to stamp a little hammer and sickle in the cement as the company logo really). We had reached a brick chamber with an arched brick tunnel leading off to the right. 

The first steps into the chamber were tentative. The water looked deep and cold. We weren’t wrong. As we waded a few steps forwards towards the arched tunnel, the water instantly became thigh deep (and by that we mean upper thigh). But, ignoring the ball tingling chill, we carried on; the tunnel ahead was interesting and, as far as we could see, there was much more to see further ahead. It was at this point that Ford Mayhem started to find the explore a lot less entertaining mind, as he had discovered a hole in his waders. The main thought whirling around his head at the time was something along the lines of “for fucks sake, why is it getting deeper?! Man, I’m going to have to hold my torch and snap shut the hole on my waders with my hand. Here goes… Fuck, fuck! It’s cold! Jesus, my hand is cold”. Things got even more tricky towards the middle part of the arched tunnel too, as it dips a little bit, so we were forced to lean further into the water. At this point, it was safe to say that most of us were within inches of breaching point as the water was chest deep. For poor Mayhem, the situation was even worse because the key thought swirling around his head now was, “Wait. Why am I getting wet down my right leg? I thought I was holding it shut?... Oh shit. I have a hole on the rear side as well. FUCK!”.

Inside the next section the ceiling was considerably higher, so we could stand up straight again. We were still waist deep in the water though, and by this point our legs were starting to go a little numb. It was so cold in there that there was an icy mist hovering over the water. It was a bit like walking into a steamy sauna, but without the steam and heat. At least we didn’t have to worry about our balls being cold anymore mind, since they’d moved right up into our stomachs to hibernate. For reasons unknown even to ourselves, we continued on. Once again the water level started to get deeper and deeper. It was at this point, two of the Boyz bailed after having stopped for several minutes to discuss how much of a shit time they were having. They had almost reached the breaching point of their waders and couldn’t continue forward any longer as it was still getting deeper. Mayhem was left standing in waist deep water the whole time, trying to pinch shut two holes while holding his torch. What was running through his mind at this point was a slightly desperate “why won’t the others hurry the fuck along? I’m freezing my tits off here!” After a bit more debating, the rest of us made the decision to carry on and see how far we could get.

Two metres later, though, and almost all of the other Boyz had decided to bail. The water was millimetres away from pouring inside the waders at this stage. So, now, there were only two happy-ish WildBoyz willing to carry on, all for the sake of producing a swish new report at the end of it. Soul led the way, followed by Mayhem. For some reason, Soul’s waders seemed to go right up to his nipples and beyond. He might as well have been wearing a dry suit, so he was pretty comfortable throughout this entire endeavour. As for Mayhem, he battled on, trying to pinch his waders with one hand while carrying a torch and now a tripod and camera in the other. The rest of the group had handed it to him as they weren’t going any further. Somehow, he was doing well for a few more metres or so, until, all of a sudden, another icy trickle could be felt down the inside of his right leg. The water was so cold he’d lost all feeling in his fingers, and they were no longer capable of gripping anymore. The bitter water, which might as well have been a murky flavoured Slush Puppy, quickly started to fill up his waders. A sequence of the foulest words known to mankind quickly filled the still silence of the tunnel, followed by the cruel laughter of five others. Cold and completely wet, Mayhem decided that he might as well continue and finish off the explore. Motivated by the knowledge that he had a dry flannel back in the car, he cracked on like a proper legend. 

Meanwhile, everyone else headed straight for the Barton Arms, a pub that’s not too far from the entrance of ‘Old Worsley’, for a quick shandy. By the time Soul and Mayhem got to the pub, looking a lot like two washed up submariners, the rest of the Boyz had knocked back a good few drinks and a few steak and ale pies. It has to be said that sitting in the pub, close to a roaring fire, after being permanently cold for the past 12 hours or so felt pretty damn amazing. 

Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, Rizla Rider, Box and Soul.
 

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I admit, I haven't read the full report (because sometimes it's difficult for me to translate everything into German; and even the Google Translator sometimes only shows incomprehensible gibberish...).

But I like the pics very much, there are some really nice & impressive shots.

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Wild indeed, I don't usually go in for sewers and tunnels and the like but this one is pretty nice. Love the coverage of events as well.

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    • By Kev C

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