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Report - Tin Brook, Stockport - Extended Version, Feb 2013

Discussion in 'UK Draining Forum' started by Alley, Feb 13, 2013.

  1. Alley

    Alley Conspicuous Loiterer
    Regular User

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    Turbulent And Rushing Drains In Stockport - a journey through time

    featuring Alley, NinjaM, SoundLightGo, Sparkonthewater and Anon.​

    2013: We met up in a dimly lit car-park on a cold, clear February night. Going underground would be welcome relief from the freezing air. We went through the familiar routine of packing dry bags, checking lights and wrapping ourselves in layers of neoprene, fleece and rubber. We slithered down the litter-strewn, ivy-coated banks of Hope’s Carr and into the icy brook.

    1700s: The Carr was a leafy valley surrounded by farmland. The town was centred around the marketplace, where you could buy or sell livestock, dairy produce and grain. Cloth was produced by local weavers in their own cottages but not yet on a large scale. Then the first silk mills were built. In 1744 John Guardivaglio and George Warren dammed Hempshaw Brook and flooded the valley. Theirs was one of the first silk throwing mills in Stockport. It was still some years before the arrival of cotton.

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    The site continued to be used in much the same way for the next two hundred years. The great entrepreneur Samuel Oldknow built three mills here in the 1800s. This photo, taken in 1929, shows his Lower Carr Mill straddling the reservoir, with its inlet sluice.

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    2013: The mill is now gone and just the sluice remains. It is a circular, sandstone block shaft which drops into a downward sloping, flagstoned tunnel. We climbed carefully down the ancient, slippery, orange walls. Once inside, we dropped to our knees as the roof descended and the water level rose. With just head and shoulders clearance above the silty water it was a wet and clumsy struggle to reach the end. We emerged from this tunnel into a large arched chamber (underneath the road through the Carr).

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    The next part was open until recent development of the area. It had a sluice gate just before Wellington Street.

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    The sluice has now been removed and we found this section to be encased in 7 foot black rubber pipe which smelled pleasantly fresh, like a brand new inner tube.

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    It felt luxurious to walk fully upright, though that wasn’t to last. At this sign, we ducked down and entered the original culvert.

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    1838: The Robinson family opened Unicorn Brewery. They drew fresh water from their own well, and used the brook to dispose of liquid waste. Today, the smell of beer still oozes from the cracks in the crumbling brickwork.

    2013: There are now some lovely, chunky formations growing up and down the walls. Depending on the concentration of minerals, to grow 1cm of stalactite can take anywhere between 4 and 100 years.

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    From here on, it got lower until we were forced to crawl, knees bruising on the uneven surface (the old cobbled street) and hands chilling in the fast-flowing water. This time there was the added problem of raw sewage. Under Royal Oak yard an old stone sewer has broken, spilling toilet contents directly into the brook. We weren’t too happy about it but had come this far and had a mission to complete. Sigh, it's only poo... (not that I recommend this sort of thing!)

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    I had previously assumed the brook still had the 20 foot drop it had when used by Adlington Square mills but hadn’t taken into account the changing road levels above. This was the furthest I’d dared to go.

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    However, the surface gradient is misleading and in fact the brook only drops 7 feet to the level at which it drains into the Mersey. Even so, the noise of falling water was anxiety inducing but peer pressure significantly increases bravery so, after letting everyone else go first, I cautiously crawled into the lowest section yet - an old stone arch, possibly once a bridge over the open brook, by the Three Shires.

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    ‏The original confluence

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    1967: Flood water rose 6 feet high on Chestergate, filling nearby shops and cars. They built a new system, enclosing Tin Brook in RCP and taking it further to the east into Merseyway, which mostly alleviated the problem. Even so, when the Mersey is above the level of the outlets, you can still see the brook backing up at the car park entrance. Tin Brook can fill this tunnel completely.

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    At the end two pieces of wood, equally unstable looking, bridge a plughole down which the brook thunders relentlessly. One at a time we threw our bags across and took the leap of faith onto the shaky bridge. On the other side rungs in the wall enabled us to go down to the next level.

    The brook went to the right at this point, heading down a long RCP to this steel door under Merseyway.

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    We went to the left and found ourselves in a sewer overflow chamber. The fresh flowed super fast in a narrow channel just a few feet below us. Over it was a filter to catch the solids, should the water levels rise. Judging by the slippery brown carpet beneath our boots, it doesn’t do a very good job. UU are currently working on this sewer, by the bus station, with the intention of stopping sewage entering the river.

    We left the chamber by a second RCP, which we knew would lead to the second steel door. It was a fortunate choice as this was the only one we could have left safely. It took a team effort to open, lift and chain it up.

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    With the Mersey being quite high right now, it lapped menacingly up to the door like an incoming tide. Should it rise much further we wouldn’t be going back the same way. But we’d made it - Tin Brook from its source to its destination.

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