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  1. 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. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22:
  2. History “No boat shall enter Butterley Tunnel at the east end except between the hours of five and six in the morning, one and two in the afternoon, and nine and ten at night, and no boat shall enter the west end thereof, except between the hours of one and two in the morning, nine and ten in the forenoon, and five and six at night, and every boat shall make its passage through the same with all possible dispatch and on no account exceed three hours after such entry. And if any person or persons having the care of any boat, shall offend in any of the particular aforesaid, he or they shall forfeit for every such offence: forty shillings and shall also turn back on meeting another boat in the said tunnel†(Extract from the Rules, Byelaws and Orders made by the Cromford Canal Company: 30th May 1804). Butterley Tunnel was opened in 1794 and it runs for approximately one and three quarters of a mile, along the disused Cromford Canal. Although tools were much more basic in the late 1700s, than what we have available today, upon completion the tunnel was measured to be 2,966 yards (2712 metres) long, 9 foot (2.7 metres) wide at water level and 8 foot (2.4 metres) high from the water to soffit; although this depended on the water level after heavy rain. Much of the water flows from the 50 acre reservoir situated on the hill above the west side of the tunnel. There is no tow path inside Butterley Tunnel, so all narrow boats had to be powered through using the muscle power of the narrow boat’s crew. This is a process commonly known as ‘legging’. Consequently, a number of signs were displayed at either end of the tunnel, emphasising the use of the tunnel in only one direction at any one time. Any crew found to be disobeying these rules would receive a hefty fine. In 1889, subsidence caused the tunnel to close for four years. The tunnel was eventually reopened after repairs in 1893, however, the long period of closure resulted in the loss of many customers to rapidly expanding railway companies. A second collapse, in 1900, due to mining related subsidence, caused partial damage and effectively split the tunnel into two sections, making it impassable to narrow boats and their crews. Despite the efforts of Rudolph de Sails, a director of a prominent canal freight company, who conducted a government funded survey of the tunnel, it remained abandoned because the 1904 report was not favourable. A third collapse in June 1907, and a subsequent report by Sir William Matthews, ended all hopes of ever repairing and reopening the tunnel. It was declared beyond economical repair in 1909. The canal continued to operate without the tunnel up until 1944, until commercial traffic finally ceased. The war is likely to have stopped all final activity. Since its closure, Butterley Tunnel has still been extended twice, to allow the construction of a railway and the A38 road. One of the more distinguishable changes is the culverted section of the western portal which runs for 18 metres. But, in 2013 it was announced that much of the canal and the tunnel were now exceptional monuments and work by the ‘Friends of the Cromford Canal’ to preserve them has continued. No more changes to the tunnel, other than repair or restorative work, is now permitted. The Friends of the Cromford Canal are a group of volunteers who aim to fully restore Butterley Tunnel and the Cromford Canal. A few years ago they offered horse drawn visits into the only navigable section of the tunnel to raise money, however it is uncertain whether or not they still continue to do this given the poor integrity of the structure. Our Version of Events We left Leeds and the Dark Arches behind just as it was getting dark. Next on our agenda was something else that lies underground, but this time the dinghy was required! We’ve attempted Butterley once before and ended up paddling our way down the abandoned Cromford Canal; which was entertaining in itself, but a little disappointing since we didn’t manage to reach the tunnel entrance because of extremely overgrown and dry sections. This time, we avoided a leisurely cruise down the waterway and arrived directly at the tunnel entrance itself; wasting no time putting waders on and inflating our trusty vessel. We had assumed that some sections might be dry, because the tunnel is abandoned after all, yet the heavy rains in recent weeks must have raised the water level quite considerably. We didn’t spot any dry land while inside and only had to leave the dinghy once to bypass a pile of rubble and silt which had fallen from one of the air shafts directly above us. Later, by the time we reached some of the supports a fair distance into the tunnel, the water level was too high to get the dinghy beneath and we didn’t fancy climbing over the wooden support beams because they are no longer made of wood; they’re more sponge than anything else. A final attempt to ditch the dinghy and wade our way further into the tunnel also failed on account of the depth of the water. Climbing out of the dinghy is easy enough, but climbing back inside is altogether a different task. As you try to haul yourself back inside, without being able to touch the ground beneath the water, you get sucked under the boat. After a few failed attempts to find the ground, and one breeched pair of waders, we decided to head back to the cars and tents for a bit of rest before the next day’s activities. On a final note, I would warn anyone else thinking of visiting Butterley Tunnel that it is a bit worse for wear these days, and we witnessed several sections where the wooden support beams have disintegrated from the ceiling. After seeing images of reports from years ago, a number of the support beams which used to lie at floor level have also disappeared. The brickwork is a bit sketchy too in certain places, where new cracks have formed and subsidence has caused a number of bulges to appear. It was certainly a little disconcerting as we paddled on, knowing that the tunnel has collapsed in on itself before. Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do, Rizla Rider and Husky. 1: The Night Begins 2: Preparing the Vessel 3: The Western Entrance: The Corrugated Steel Lined Concrete Culvert 4: The End of the Culvert Section 5: Inside Butterley Tunnel 6: Rail Extension: Curved Steel Support Beams Backed by Wood 7: Inspecting the Woodwork 8: Some Structural Damage 9: Reaching the End of the Metal Support Beams (the Low Red Brick Arch) 10: Original Tunnel Support Beams 11: Passing Through the Original Wooden Beams 12: The Brick Lined Section 13: Old Brickwork 14: Second Section of Original Support Beams 15: Almost at the Ventilator Shaft 16: A Bit of Seepage (Close to the Old Reservoir Audits) - The Wooden Slats on the Floor Should have Been Somewhere Around Here 17: At the Ventilator Shaft (Situated Directly Above) 18: The Low Support Beams Preventing Further Access 19: Success! And Fresh Air.
  3. History The Standedge Tunnels, which consist of four parallel passageways, are located beneath the Pennines in England. Two of the tunnels are former railway lines which now function as service ways, one is still part of the live main rail line, and the final one is a canal tunnel. The canal tunnel, the longest and the oldest of the four passages, was officially opened in 1811. The first single-track railway line wasn’t completed until 1848; it was constructed by the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). A second parallel tunnel was opened until 1871. The third and final railway tunnel which features double tracks; the one that is still operational today, was ready for use in 1894. All four tunnels are linked by adits (from Latin, meaning entrance) at strategic intervals, and these played an important role in the construction of the railway tunnels because waste could easily be removed from them and transported out via boat. Although the canal tunnel closed in 1943, during the Second World War, it was reopened in May 2001 and now features a visitor centre. To this day it remains the deepest, longest and highest canal tunnel in Britain, measured as being 16,499ft long (5,029 metres), 636ft (191 metres) underground and 643ft (196 metres) above sea level. Work initially began on the first tunnel in July 1795, and by mid-1796 727 metres had successfully been cut. In some sections track had been laid so that steam engines could be used to keep the works drained. Towards the end of 1797, excessive water began to impede on the progress being made, but the consulting engineer, Benjamin Outram, was awarded more funding, time and an increased rate per yard for completion, and by the middle of 1799, 910 metres of the tunnel had been finished, and a further 910 had been excavated. In the early 1800’s, however, progress slowed and eventually ceased because suitable contractors capable of carrying out the work were hard to find. Outram eventually left the project in 1801 after flooding damaged parts of the finished sections of the tunnel. Despite the misfortune, the Canal Company raised additional funding through a parliamentary act, and they were able to restart work. On 9th June 1809 the two ends of the tunnel finally met, but it wasn’t until two years after when it was declared fully operational. A grand opening ceremony took place on 4th April 1811 and a party of boats successfully completed the entire journey in one hour and forty minutes. Although the estimated costs for the canal tunnel had been £178,478, it cost only £160,000; this, however, still made it the most expensive canal tunnel ever built in England. Some money was saved where bare rock has been left exposed inside the passageway, meaning that it was only brick-lined in certain places. The working canal tunnel is only wide enough for one narrowboat and, unlike other canal tunnels in England, Standedge was built without a tow-path. Traditionally, all canal boats were towed by horse, but, instead, boats had to be ‘legged’ through Standedge by professional leggers who were paid six pence for working a boat through the tunnel; it would take one hour and twenty minutes to get an empty boat through and over three hours to get a fully loaded one to the other side. Inside, there are several ‘passing places’ because the tunnel was designed for two way traffic. This idea was, however, abandoned when boat crews were found to be too competitive. In spite of its popularity, by the 1940’s the tunnel had fallen into a state of disrepair, and with several blockages, it was deemed too unsafe for boats to navigate. The last boat passed through in 1948, despite the fact that the tunnel had officially closed in 1943. It was permanently sealed with iron gates to avoid any potential disasters. In the late 1990’s Standedge tunnel received £5 million as part of a restoration project, in efforts to reopen the entire canal. The instability that had been noted back in the 1940’s was found to be in the rock-lined areas which had not been brick-lined. These areas were stabilised using rock bolts and, in some places, concrete. While diesel engines were not permitted in the first few years of its reopening, due to fears surrounding the lack of ventilation, in September 2007 the trip boat Pennine Moonraker was taken through the tunnel under its own power; without the use of an electric tug boat. Since then, boats have been allowed to travel the length of the tunnel under their own power; although they must be accompanied by a chaperone on the boat, and are followed by a service vehicle in the parallel disused railway tunnel. The railway tunnels which run parallel to the canal are level throughout, and each was designed so that people could access the canal tunnel easily; so traditional steam engines could be supplied with fresh water without being forced to stop. Originally, only a single tunnel was constructed, but it proved to be a bottleneck for traffic moving in both directions. Subsequently, a second tunnel was constructed to alleviate this problem. Each of the tunnels are over 3 miles long (4803 metres). The 1894 double-bore tunnel opened to cater for newer high speed trains which were being developed and this is three metres longer than the single passageways. Overall, it is the fifth longest rail tunnel in England. The older tunnels offer an emergency escape route and provide emergency vehicles with road access into the hillside. Our Version of Events One again, it was late one evening as three of us drove off into the night. We were aiming for Marsden, a small village in West Yorkshire, in hope that we could find the Standedge Tunnels. These historic tunnels have been on the ‘to do’ list for quite some time now, and, since it was one of the lads birthdays, we decided to have a crack and see where we ended up. The night started well; eating pickled onion monster munch as the clock struck twelve, and although it was beginning to rain outside, our spirits were high. We arrived and tucked ourselves away in a nicely concealed parking spot to avoid any unwanted attention from the reception area at the tunnel entrance. Although all appeared to be quiet, a few lights were burning brightly inside the nearby building. Undeterred though, we ventured outside into the rain to check out the entrance and make a quick plan from there. Ten minutes later, with the plan in motion, I cunningly made a phone call as the others began to inflate the raft. As it would happen, the raft was very nearly fully inflated by the time I returned, so we quickly loaded our gear inside (a couple of oars, some camera equipment and a birthday cake), and as silently as we could manage, we carried the raft to the edge of the canal and carefully lowered it into the water. One by one we climbed inside, and avoiding the motion sensing security light outside the main reception, we drifted past noiselessly. The large iron gate was in sight and, quite effortlessly, after managing to avoid getting stuck beneath it or anything like that, we soon found ourselves surrounded by late 1700’s brickwork. It was pleasant inside, and the water was calm as we began to paddle into the unknown. The old brickwork lights up especially well under a drop of torchlight, and the shadows of ripples from the water shimmer nicely on the walls and ceilings. We paddled for a reasonable distance and hopped out here and there to check out some of the small passageways and adits branching off from the waterway. For the most part, our expedition was dry, save for a few leaking wall sections which sprayed water into the boat; at least until we reached a sort of waterfall. But, despite drifting along at quite a pace, we spied the cascading water early enough; so I was able to frantically fumble around to pack the camera away – trying to place it under something dry. We inevitably passed through the wall of water: and the end result? A large pool of water in the bottom of the dinghy and a soggy birthday cake… Nevertheless, quite undeterred we cracked on and managed to haul the raft up into one of the service tunnels. Once inside, we each enjoyed a quick slice of moist birthday cake and spent the next few hours wandering around the old diesel smelling passageways, trying to find the main line. So, overall, I’d say the night was a success and it was well worth getting a little damp to experience the full scale of the Standedge Tunnels – they certainly didn’t disappoint and lived up to our expectations. Explored with Ford Mayhem and Meek-Kune-Do. 1: The Beginning (Monster Munch in the Car) 2: Raft Inflated and Ready to Go 3: Drifting Inside the Tunnel (First Glimpses) 4: Standedge Canal Tunnel 5: Further on in the Tunnel (Getting a Good Pace On) 6: Brick Archways 7: Inside a Service Passageway 8: Looking Down a Small Service Tunnel 9: The SeaHawk II Turned into a Canal Boat 10: Moored at the Side 11: No Exit That Way 12: The Waterfall 13: Birthday Cake 14: Getting Stuck In 15: Jam Sponge Underground 16: The Service Tunnel (One of Them) 17: One of the Connecting Adits 18: Second Service Tunnel 19: Heading Towards the Mainline 20: The Mainline (Live Railway) 21: Emergency Telephone 22: Smaller Service Tunnel 23: White Crash Barrier 24: Adit Number 28 25: Where we Left the Raft 26: Back Inside the Raft (Heading Home) 27: Changes in the Brick/Stonework 28: Side Splashes 29: The Exit 30: A Steamy Situation
  4. I can only go Xploring on Saturdays as Mrs Plan works and I have all day free to do what I like, this Saturday I had a meeting to go to in Northampton, I knew it would be finished by 2 I didn't want to waste the whole day. I spent a few hours on google and google maps and found this little place. Other than it was a farm house and next to the Grand Union Canal nr Milton Keynes that's it. Its been empty for over ten years but going there yesterday it looks like they are starting to do the place up, I don't blame them as its a great little place next to the canal and with great views. It doesn't have running water or a toilet but these days I don't think that would be a problem. Anyway! lets get down to the photos with a full set here http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157641376023034/ Thanks for looking