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Report - Winter Hill Disused Water Catchment Tunnel System

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by munki, Oct 17, 2008.

  1. munki

    munki Guest
    Guest

    [​IMG]

    From the top of Winter Hill radiate a network of stone built water conduits and wells of an indeterminate age that certainly pre-date the large scale reservoir building period of the mid 19th century.

    Although now disused and un-maintained by the water authority some of the system is still functional, particularly following heavy rainfall. Other sections such as the tunnel shown here, have been isolated and remain dry apart from general damp.

    The tunnel system can be found in many locations on the top of Winter Hill and locations near Horwich and Belmont have also been identified. The tunnels may be contemporary with the early small reservoirs and seem to have been made to transport water from the hill to the major population centres of the time. No water tunnels have so far been found in the northern half of Winter Hill.

    Constructed entirely from stone with massive stone slabs forming the roof the miles of tunnels represent a massive architectural and labour intensive work, yet little is known about their initial construction or purpose. With this in mind we are left to examine the system as it remains today.

    [​IMG]

    Many exposed sections of tunnel are close to stone built 'wells' like the one shown intact that is located in Three Nooked Shaw Clough. Many of the wells higher up the hill are now filled in or lost probably due to natural occurances.

    Although designated as wells on the OS maps and having the characteristics of a familiar 'wishing well' we believe the structures to be a primitive but effective valve system. In the photograph above observable ripples in the water indicate an inflow of water from the bottom of the image, while an outflow pipe can be seen higher up in the opposite side. This could be to regulate water outflow volume due to fluctuations in the local water table. It is not known whether the wells contain a second outflow conduit below the water level that would indicate a regulatory purpose or whether the water level represents the actual water table in which case the wells could have been used pressurise the water in a similar way to an artesian well.

    It should be noted that all reservoirs function in a similar manner but their regulatory aspects are governed by sluices and overflows rather than the natural state of the water table. In fact wells are often located near natural springs.

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    Many of the wells higher on Winter Hill seem to have been constructed with a stone built dome or beehive cap as can be seen in this photograph. These characteristic structures have a two piece circular keystone that can be seen at the top of this image (note the rounded stone). These stones are easily found lying close to several of the collapsed well structures.

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    No domed wells are found intact on Winter Hill although there are several suspect areas where domes appear to be below ground level with their tops just above ground. Two very similar and fully intact structures can be found in a field near Chorley reservoir in Anglezarke that may be contemporary.

    It is interesting that the water channels are capped as it would seem more conducive to water catchment to have them open. It seems the builders where seeking to create a closed system and in several places the conduits can be seen to transport water parallel and close to other natural streams of quite high volume. In some areas although there is no evidence above ground there are labels for aquaducts and it may be found that the channels are even carried over rivers and streams.

    The stone structures that are labelled aquaduct are of a seemingly older style than the stonework associated with the later and larger reservoirs and are more likely to be contemporary with the water channels. Interestingly the aquaduct structures are of a size that could enclose the water channels but this is so far unexplored.

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    Sections of the tunnel system can be explored internally in many areas through collapses in the roof structure and presumably via conduit exits although no locations are currently known for the latter. The internal height of the tunnels is generally 3-4 feet and can be negotiated in a crouch. The tunnel in the picture above, located near Montcliffe is built on a fairly steep incline and is somewhat low in height.

    Although the exploration of the water tunnel system is arguably less dangerous than potholing or mine exploration, extreme care should be taken as the condition and contents of the unexplored system could be hazardous. In some areas the tunnel system seems to still function effectively and during wet weather some sections of tunnel have been observed carrying large volumes of fast moving water so as to fill the tunnels to the roof. It may be possible for a seemingly dry tunnel to flood with water fairly rapidly.

    Most of the known tunnel sections appear close to the ground surface but the wells can be deep and further unexplored underground structures could be found, at this point apart from the possible regulatory aspects of the system with regard to the water table no human controlable features have been observed but in nearby Delph Hill close to the site of another early reservoir, the above ground control mechanisms for underground sluices and valves were present until recent years. Today, the housing building for the controls can be seen but the old valve wheel and shaft has rusted away.

    First proper post - comments gratefully received :thumb

    munki
     

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