Report - - Beer Belly - Stockport, Nov 2012 thru Jan 2013 | UK Draining Forum | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Beer Belly - Stockport, Nov 2012 thru Jan 2013


Choose life, choose tunnels
Regular User

The watercourse detailed in this report is known as Hempshaw Brook, a tributary to the river Mersey and, up until the 1840s, the main source of water for the Southern parts of Stockport.
It extends southwards and upstream, from the site of the 1967 air crash located in the deep cutting of Carr Brook, Stockport.

There is evidence that it runs some distance, stretching as far as Stockport Grammar School, some two Kilometres away.
Historical maps dated mid nineteenth century, depict the brook being fully exposed, revealing open reservoirs, one being cited in Carr brook and another approximately one hundred meters upstream, but as the years progressed with the increase of industrialisation, almost the entire brook was placed under culvert.

One notable, and well documented, site on the brook was Hempshaw Brook Brewery. It’s name taken by the location of the brewery to the brook and associated reservoir to its eastern wing. Constructed in 1835, Avery Fletcher, owner and worker, dammed the flow to produce the reservoir for the use in the brewing process. By 1872 the brewery had expanded and built over the reservoir.

Heading further downstream from the brewery, the brook navigated its way through open land, meeting up with Brown House Fold Brook and onto Carr Brook.
Carr Brook was the location of numerous mechanised mills which harnessed the potential power of the brook. The valley of Hempshaw brook is also known as Hopes Carr, taken from a Mr Thomas Hope, it was he who acquired the first mill in the valley, Stockports second silk mill after Park Mill, and went on to create further mills, Middle and Higher mills in the late 1790s

Given the topography of the valley, it is clear why mills were built here. The brook could be manipulated to form reservoirs, the first of which is documented as being 1759 with the formation of Lower Carr Mill and its associated cylindrical sluice gate, the stone built basin which now feeds Tin Brook, Its name taken from the Tin and Iron workers that were once located on the edges of the brook. One notable site being Victoria foundry located in Lower Hillgate.


Appearances, in alphabetical order and credits where due......T'is a bloody good team this is!

Alley - Photos and accompanying report, captain sensible
NinjaM - History and motivation
SoundLightGo - Photos and lid lifter
Spark on the water - History and lesser quality photos, 2nd lid lifter

So, this report has taken a while to compile due to the different challenges in exploring each section. We’ll start with the southern end of the brook and follow it downstream. Hempshaw Brook is thought to originate in Hazel Grove. So, when I saw a hole in the road at the right location, I jumped on in. Flowing north under the A6, this tiny culvert is of the right age and probably its source or a tributary.


It is then culverted in two foot RCP until it reaches Hempshaw Lane Brewery. Where once it filled a reservoir, it is now encased in a pretty little brick tunnel. It was a tight squeeze but somehow we managed to get three people in here. Two of them were planning on staying dry but that didn’t happen.


This section is fresh and clean with lovely brickwork, softened at the edges by water and time . The brook runs clear - its colour here comes from rusty deposits stirred up by my knees. The water’s edge was lined with tiny water snails. The hole in the roof is the very one through which pilfered beer was dropped.


From here it heads under St Marys Way, in larger RCP, opens out for a short stretch, then goes back underground, through a low concrete box, to Hope’s Carr. Disturbing the water here released black sludge with a strong chemical smell.


I had ventured down Tin Brook - the southern culvert from Hope’s Carr - several times. Who wouldn’t? It was wide open and warm and inviting. I had vague plans to look into the northern culvert but its low brick arch spewing smelly, dirty water was kind of unappealing and gave no indication of the awesomeness within. However Sparkont’water and NinjaM went for it and discovered what is, for me, the best water tunnel in town.

They didn’t tell us what to expect. Just.. “I think you’ll like thisâ€. SoundLightGo and I wadered up and waded in. Spark and NinjaM smiled and said nothing. It began with a brick tunnel with murky water flowing out and a faint smell of petrol. Then we heard the unmistakable roar of falling water. It was loud and I began to feel a little nervous.
As we waded upstream the water got thicker with silt. Then deeper. As it rose above knee level the pressure crushed my waders to my legs: a scary but comforting, grasping hug.
It widened and a silted up hole appeared on the right. “It’s a sandstone tunnel!†Spark and NinjaM just nodded. I lifted my torch and curving ahead was a soft, dirty, colourful tunnel.


Looking around we noticed familiar red sandstone; green moss; high water tidemarks; sedimentary layers; opportunistic wildlife (shiny black spiders and sand coloured water snails); antique debris and even older craftsmanship. I was pretty happy so far but then...

Rounding the next corner we were faced with an incredible sight - jagged columns of gleaming mineral deposits. From a distance they resembled a gaping shark’s mouth with layers of teeth, from within an alien rib cage, both beautiful and grotesque.




At times the silt was too deep and thick to wade through so we scuttled clumsily along the surface, backpacks scraping all sorts of debris from the ceiling.


The noise grew louder until we had to shout to be heard. The air was wet with spray as we reached the waterfall.


The pool was deep and cold. SLG and Spark attempted to get spray-free photos whilst I acted as a floating back light. I think I had an easier time.



Just to gauge how wet it is down there!


We clung to the edges of the pool, toes just touching the bottom, to take a look behind the falls. A smaller brick tunnel, filled with sand and pieces of wood, continued south, then east. A flat out wriggle around the corner confirmed that it was blocked ahead. Its origins remain a mystery... for now.


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