Report - - Bourne Culvert - Bournemouth - January 2013 | UK Draining Forum | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Bourne Culvert - Bournemouth - January 2013


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The River Bourne is a small river in Dorset, England. It flows into the English Channel at Bournemouth, taking its name simply from Middle English bourn or burn, a small stream, and giving it to the town at its mouth.

The Bourne comprises two main tributaries totalling just over 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) of waterway; of this total length 5.7 kilometres (3.5 mi) is culverted and 7.5 kilometres (4.7 mi) is open stream. Its drainage catchment is some 14 square kilometres (5.4 sq mi), about 70% of which lies within the Borough of Poole.
The stream is fed from a number of sources but there is little documentary evidence and the actual origins of some are unknown. The head of the stream consists of three culverts emerging from below Ringwood Road; it is believed that one drains Canford Heath, one is fed from the Bournemouth and West Hampshire Water works at Francis Avenue and the third is supplied by road run-off. After flowing across Alderney Recreation Ground the stream is culverted for 2.4 kilometres (1.5 mi) and re-emerges at Coy Pond Gardens. The stream is also fed by natural seeps and flushes, and there are 62 documented surface water discharges to the watercourse.

In the upper reaches, the catchment boundaries are approximately defined by Ringwood Road to the west, Wallisdown Road to the north and Ashley Road/Poole Road to the south. In the lower reaches, the catchment width gradually narrows towards the outfall at Bournemouth Pier. The overall fall between the highest levels in the upper catchment to the Poole Bay outfall is approximately 60 metres (200 ft), giving an overall gradient of approximately 1:100 which is considered to be steep.

Reaching Bournemouth, it flows through public gardens, known as the Upper, Central and Lower Gardens. It goes underground at The Square (which divides the Central Gardens from the Lower Gardens) and again just before it reaches the beach immediately east of Bournemouth Pier, so that its mouth is no longer visible.

I've never really seen the fascination of drains and going into one never really appealed to me. I got a message from fellow local explorer Evil Genius saying that he'd seen there was a culverted section of the River Bourne which might be worth a look. Now as it was a mere 10 minutes from my house, I thought it would be rude not to have a look at least. So, after work one evening, I donned my wellies, grabbed a torch and went to see if I could find it. I'd been scanning Google Maps all day and had 2 points where I thought it might be. As it happened, I was wrong on both counts but using a little brain power, I'd soon located the entrance which wasn't far away. I went inside and ended up walking quite a way in awe. I took a few iPhone snaps and headed back to the car.

Fast forward a couple of days and Evil Genius is knocking at my door nursing a hangover ready to go and do a proper explore. It's only small but we still managed to spend 3 1/2 hours down there and I learnt that if I'll be doing this again then I need to invest in something that's going to keep me a bit drier than wellies. We made our way to the entry point and had a choice of 2 directions. One was a wider brick archway but not much head clearance and much deeper water, deep enough for me to get a soaking and I knew from my previous visit that it didn't lead anywhere interesting so we opted for the upstream route.


The first section you enter is a couple of storeys high and reinforced by concrete buttresses


Looking back towards the outfall


Continue on and round a bend and the boring concrete changes to a lovely red brick tunnel at the top of a couple of steps. The water was really pushing through this part and it was pretty slippery underfoot.




Along the way were various pipes coming through the sides of the tunnel, some were flowing with water, some not!


Every so often it would open out into a section with a manhole cover above



The brickwork then changed into the boring preformed RCP so we followed this as far as it would go passing a few more openings for the manholes. We eventually arrived at another brick tunnel and this time it was pear shaped. In the distance we could hear rushing water and were keen to find out what the noise was.


We reached the end of the tunnel and the noise of rushing water that we could hear was about 6 pipes all converging together. We couldn't go any further unless we were crawling on hands and knees because the pipes were much smaller, maybe I'll don my wetsuit when the weather gets better and see where they lead.




I've got a new found respect for those who go draining. It's not something you really think about until you've done it yourself but these environments are really tricky to photograph and light, they just seemed to suck up the light from my little P7 so I think something bigger is needed for the future. I'll definitely get out there and do some of the bigger stuff, I really enjoyed it and I know this is just a tiny one in comparison but it's great to see the infrastructure that was built brick by brick which will one day be replaced with the featureless RCP which is a great shame.



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
It seems like such an exclusive club of people who have ventured into these culverts! Do you know if they're still accessible? Great post and top photos!

This comment is only two years late :D


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
This is a great report, the size doesn't matter, I admire anyone that does this so that people like me who are too scared to do it get the enjoyment. Many thanks.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
It certainly is, I was in there half an hour ago!!
I've been trying to find the secret to this place for months. As long as you can still get in there then it makes the hunt for it just as fun!

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