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Report - River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014.

Discussion in 'UK Draining Forum' started by Ojay, Nov 30, 2014.

  1. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
    Staff Member Admin

    Nov 24, 2008
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    River Fleet CSO, London 2012 - 2014


    (Sorry it's pic heavy, look away now)

    Google lost rivers/drains of London and the first indexed hit is almost certainly the Fleet

    It's hardly surprising, as it's old and epic as far as London's main drainage goes

    More so if you actually invest some time properly exploring anything other than the stretch around Farringdon Road that is :p:

    That said, despite how awkward the Fleet can be it's certainly a rewarding one, especially if you throw the Fleet's storm relief in as well for good measure

    I'd like to acknowledge some of the very few masters who have put some legwork into the place over the years; JD, Stoop, Siologen & the Otter

    I've tried to include the more significant bits of the system (including the Fleet Storm Relief),
    having traversed the majority of the system now over the last few years and more recently with Adders and The_Vicar

    To make sense, I'll start it from the upstream, although we spent much of the earlier trips piss balling about on the downstream sections, but hey

    Kentish Town is where we got as far as, before it got ridiculous in terms of stooping and getting dunked in London's finest nuggets

    We entered the upstream section in Camden via a number of access points

    One comedy gold moment as I almost catapulted Mrs Brown along with dog piddles across the road on one occasion


    On the last trip we headed North from Camden through Kentish Town, already covering the other bit's and now Siologen had us intrigued with the staircase of doom

    The flow was pretty rapid on this stretch, it took all our effort remaining vertical :D


    Along the way, this overflow; Here it connects with the High Level Storm Relief according to the 1934 LCC map


    A single sided weir to a spillway & drop shaft, with the overflow pipe further below




    Eventually, we could hear "the rumble, the roar of nearly the ultimate sewer staircase of death"

    And then it came into sight


    Soo'ah staircase of doom!


    I needed a shower anyway :rolleyes:



    Once up, this junction


    The middle pipe is filled with stagnant crap, looks like it's still occasionally used though!


    The right hand sewer, a fast flowing 4ft egg, I went 10m and turned back as my lungs weren't in agreement with it's steamy content


    On the left, the Fleet Mainline continues North towards Hampstead Heath


    The sizeable RBP now becomes a slightly smaller, slippery egg for a good distance..


    A number of connections along the way, some of which were truncated, others breathing some dubious vapours





    We continued further upstream until we hit a wall, that's right a fucking wall!

    Where did the Fleet just go ? ;)


    Of course we did traverse some ridiculous diameter pipes in order to chase it further but eventually gave up with the shrinking shit fest




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  2. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
    Staff Member Admin

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    It's a good job we'd already looked at the rest of the Fleet at this point, or I might have had a different opinion of the place if this was all it had to offer :rolleyes:

    The next leg of the journey wasn't that eventful with regards to features for some distance

    On the night in question we managed to slip in just as the semi finals before Brazil V Germany kicked off

    Great for access, but a total suicide mission for traversing a sewer with hindsight, especially with the amount of washing machines now belting out

    ..and then came half time, Good fun though :eek:

    We headed downstream, having limited choice in terms of when we could explore the upstream bits, and far from ideal to say the least!

    So, with work and adverse weather getting in the way, we just had to steal what ever opportunity came along, and with drains isn't always the best option..

    Anyway we carried on down this slippery brick egg, in anticipation of something decent turning up, even a useful lid would have sufficed


    A short downstream section was draped in rags and wipes, it now started to get a bit more inviting


    We continued downstream a good distance through some peak flows before we managed to locate a suitable exit, if something should go wrong


    Further down we encountered this 'orrible st00pfest



    It took some encouragement from Adders for me to bother with this, seriously I was up for heading out to the nearest off licence on this particular jaunt

    We eventually washed up at the first interaction with the fleet storm relief

    That's right, another CSO almost identical to the one depicted further up, except this was slightly larger

    I yearned for a Kronie at this point, instead I reached for my Nigon for some more snaps and whilst narrowly avoiding the bloody thing landing in the fresh again

    The lens cap decided to leap off the Samyang and into the soup much to the amusement of Adders

    There is a clip on the GoPro somewhere gathering dust of this event, more a reminder of how actual clumsy I am these days!


    10.jpg 11.jpg

    It's also at this point 2 branches of the storm relief merge below


    We trundled down the upper reaches of the fleet until we reached the the Mid Level Sewer No.2


    - Jon Doe

    The thing with interceptors, although you wouldn't want to end up down one, their bark is often worse than their bite, and with a little care easy enough to pass

    This ones a little more awkward, as the invert favours the mouth of the interceptor, making the flow even more ridiculous at this point in the proceedings

    The handrail which proves useful also runs short of the manhole, making the stride across more interesting

    I only managed the one pic as it just wasn't worth the associated fuss for imminent death :eek:


    As always after an interceptor, the pipe remains dry a short distance and free of any flow until the system gathers momentum again from other connecting sewers

    Here a brick junction, the first real feature we came across after a couple of smaller side pipes dumped their contents


    We pushed on further downstream towards the mid section of the system, eventually arriving underneath St. Pancras

    (1850's Tunnel Section)


    Brick quickly turns to concrete, much has changed here as the Fleet was diverted in 2004, as construction was undertaken for the Eurostar rail link

    Ahead, a 7ft RCP leads to a much larger concrete box section


    Either side of the sewer was a raised spillway,
    beyond which an extended 5ft RCP overflow which connects to the original Victorian brick storm relief a short distance away


    An interesting change in scenery for sure and good to finally see, although the 1800's brickwork was a welcome sight once again


    Downstream, a bricked up spillway which once connected to the Fleet Storm Relief, since modified to accommodate the 2004 St. Pancras diversion works upstream


    Further down, another trunk joins the mainline

    (It can just be made out on the left)


    ..Downstream continuation

    WARNING, do not stand in front of this side pipe for too long..

    That's right, a minute earlier it let rip whilst Adders was playing catch up :D


    Further down a later edition of side pipes join in the shape of shrinking RCP's

  3. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
    Staff Member Admin

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    The next significant feature we happened upon was one of the better examples of a CSO

    The engineering invested into this incredible example of an overflow is something to behold!


    4 large arches allow any spill-flows when at capacity to enter the brick overflow chamber below & beyond


    A large drop shaft leads to the relief sewer below


    Also notice the smaller diameter brick overflow (mid right of the shaft) on the above pic ^

    It's a continuation from another overflow weir from the North East branch of the fleet as seen in the pics below



    The overflow on the right inter-connects to the afore mentioned drop shaft (see above) ^^^

    We'd heard tales of sudden thunderous sounds of water, whilst I was taking the above shots, we witnessed the same phenomenon

    Although on a later trip to the very same section, this time below in the storm relief a couple of months later I think we solved the mystery..

    As it was getting late we headed for the nearest exit, discussing plans to return soon and carry on with some other bits & pieces within the system

    The last feature I managed to capture before we retired for the evening was a section around Kings Cross where the Fleet mainline passes underneath the rail lines

    Here, you can see the iron section implemented to strengthen the sewer


    Next up is the downstream section, we originally dropped ROY in here at the ML1 a good few years back now, whilst we sat and drank Kronies


    It's quite photogenic and ridiculously feature packed considering the shortish distance it covers (approx 2km)

    Also, it lends itself as probably the easiest traversable section of sewer the big smoke has to offer,
    and explains why it tends to be a bit of a tourist trail as far as wannabe drain0rs go..

    (Only joking, I'm beginning to sound like Speed now) :p:

    Anyway we dropped back in at the point where the Mid Level Sewer No.1 intercepts the sewage away to Beckton, under the watchful eye of J Bizzle


    As always the line is dry after an interception, however within this stretch of the Fleet, you don't have to walk too far before a spaffing pipe and flow resumes


    We continued a good distance via the extended brick arch, before the sewer curved beyond Mount Pleasant and stepped under Farringdon Road


    Beyond which a 7ft RBP, heading downstream beneath Farringdon Road


    A sizeable stretch of RCP and other related gubbins has been added as it passes by Farringdon Station,
    presumably strengthening due to the ongoing Cross Rail works and associated infrastructure




    (The last stretch just about visible in the background on the below pic)


    Approx 200m later, the various attempts at strengthening and seismic measuring equipment bolted along it's length due to the works above ground came to an end

    The mainline is once again back to it's original brick construction, this time in the form of a large extended brick tunnel


    Eventually we reached the "Split"


    In all the trips I've had down here, I've never been happy with my pics of this, the last time I was with The_Vicar I went for an un-expected swim trying to light it up :eek:

    At around 150m (ish) long the Farringdon Split does exactly what it says on the tin..


    A connecting passageway and manhole shaft


    Furthermore, venture up the other stretch of the split and you'll be afforded access to the Fleet Storm Relief once more


    We dropped into the downstream stretch of the relief briefly (a.k.a Wrens Cache),
    and having since covered the system, grabbed a few more pics before carrying on with the sewer


    Here, a diversion down a set of stairs ahead of the oak dam boards; at capacity the excess flow heading down to the outfall chamber (see further below)

  4. Ojay

    Ojay Admin
    Staff Member Admin

    Nov 24, 2008
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Anyway, back in the mainline...

    Surface drains and a number of smaller sewers connect along the way, one of them this unassuming 4ft egg


    A convoluted route via the Ludgate Hill sewer and others, eventually lead to the Pauls Wharf Sewer

    My account of that can be found here >


    As far as I was concerned, the Fleet just kept giving

    Sure we've all seen the pics before, but the size of this brick chamber at the downstream end of the split was nothing short of amazing

    The engineering/workmanship that has gone into these systems never ceases to amaze me

    Naturally I spent a good few minutes looking around before even contemplating pics, And the best was still yet to come!


    From the far end of the chamber, the Fleet mainline now takes shape via an 8ft brick arch on it's penultimate trip towards the embankment


    Further down it's final interaction with the Fleet Storm Relief, just behind this series of arches, some kind of collection tank


    The flow had picked up considerably, a mahoosive brick section designed for serious storm flows takes over, beyond which, the Low Level No.2 Interceptor



    Beyond the L.L.2 is the outfall/end chamber, a seriously tidal affair; get it wrong here and yer fucked!

    You wouldn't want to be in here, when

    a.) It rains

    b.) Father Thames rolls in

    Starting with the primary outfall chamber let me explain why..


    A two tiered double decker affair, home to a whole host of turds, crabs and tidal fudge

    Each level has 2 smaller passages used to convey storm flows to each of the 4 flaps as and when required

    Lower Section



    Looking down from the top deck

    It's been said before, but the amount of water during capacity required from the Fleet Mainline to call them upper flaps scares the shit out of me!

    Now tell me you'd wanna be in here when it rains and the tide rolls in :p:


    A further set of ladders lead to some defunct penstock winders in a small room above


    At the far side, a small archway that leads to a narrow walkway and series of passages below the streets...


    Further down; LHS Fleet Storm Relief, RHS Low Level Interceptor No.1


    We first checked out the L.L.S No.1, a set of ladders from a smaller penstock room lead to the sewer below


    The flow was pretty sketch and certainly wasn't something we planned on walking in :eek:


    Our low tide window was approaching so we braved the steps down towards the outfall chamber


    As it's tidal we had to wait for it to drain out, this takes some time

    It doesn't look much when it's filled to the brim, but when you stand on the top gantry watching it retreat,
    you soon get an idea how unforgiving this system could be


    Once the tide had receded, we headed on down into the cavernous outfall chamber which serves the Fleet Mainline & Fleet Storm Relief


    It's thick with tidal fudge and remnants of previous spill flows from the mainline sewer, and crabs, lot's of them!


    Everyone likes a decent set of flaps :D


    The 4 larger valves (flaps) in the background serve the Fleet sewer when at capacity

    The 2 smaller ones to the left serve the Fleet Storm Relief, a separate system built in 1875 to further alleviate the system

    Beyond the low ceiling in the end chamber as seen further up ^^ is the final overflow to the Thames resides, in the form of 2 brick arch tunnels

    I'd been previously warned by GE about NOT passing a certain point in here

    Even before I even reached that point, the meter was singing away to the dangerously high methane levels that were now kicking up underfoot :eek:

    I got as far as the 'drop off' point grabbed the one pic and quickly retreated back to the main chamber

    In the distance you can just about make out the final valves, beyond which the River Thames under Blackfriars Bridge


    (WARNING, DO NOT, go beyond the silver lined section beyond where the yellow brick ends)

    Aware of the time, I went for a quick look at the smaller outfall chamber which serves the storm relief..

    Beyond the 2 smaller arches in the main chamber are 2 further valves which control the rate of flow at capacity,
    the amount of water required to shift them beggars belief


    The others had now left and I was alone on this particular trip as the tide started to roll back in, time to GTFO!



  5. GAJ

    GAJ Mr Muscle
    Regular User

    Feb 27, 2012
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Rather bloody awesome mate :thumb

    Good to see such a comprehensive view on a place most people only see a relatively small section of. I have to admit, having been in 4 times, I still didn't see half of what you guys got round to. Well worth the effort & long hours in the soup :thumb
  6. Adders

    Adders living in a cold world
    Regular User

    Feb 19, 2009
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Bob on that mate, shows the place well! We had some interesting times down there for sure.

    Bring on the rest of them. ;)
  7. slayaaaa

    slayaaaa 28DL Regular User
    Regular User

    Jul 10, 2014
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Was an awesome read, thanks for spending the time to type it out, thoroughly enjoyed it. :)
  8. fb

    fb big in japan
    Regular User

    Feb 12, 2011
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Excellent read and good work!
    And why can't you head down that final section in towards blackfriars bridge? Just cos it's gassy and minging or does it drop off at a big step or something?
  9. Lenston

    Lenston Bajo Tierra
    Regular User

    Mar 9, 2013
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Top dollar as usual mate, it looks a great day out :thumb
  10. The Lone Ranger

    The Lone Ranger Safety is paramount!
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    Feb 25, 2010
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Very nice that, good to see another epic drain report :thumb
  11. Oxygen Thief

    Oxygen Thief Admin
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    Oct 17, 2005
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Thanks for documenting this ...finally :rolleyes:

    Two amazing write-ups of the fleet in a matter of days. It's somewhere I choose not to go, so these comprehensive reports are appreciated.


    Seriously, it fills up to the top with ming? Gross.
  12. Adders

    Adders living in a cold world
    Regular User

    Feb 19, 2009
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Both, but it's the drop that's worse as your legs sink into Thames goo that does not want to let go, like quicksand. Being stuck there with the tide coming back in wouldn't end so well.
  13. raisinwing

    raisinwing 28DL Regular User
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    Aug 30, 2011
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Epic stuff guys!
  14. Nickindroy

    Nickindroy A Porky Prime Cut
    Regular User

    Feb 20, 2012
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Not bad that, our kid. First rate write up and pictures as always. :thumb
  15. Squirrell 911

    Staff Member Admin

    Jul 24, 2006
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    Re: River Fleet CSO, London 2011 - 2014

    Nice one dude. I see London sewers don't bother to spiral the fresh before it drops down but rather it cascades down.
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