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Report - - Clapham Storm Releif & South Western Storm Sewer, London - November 2020 | UK Draining Forum |

Report - Clapham Storm Releif & South Western Storm Sewer, London - November 2020

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28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Clapham Storm Relief, or more commonly dubbed "Lucky Charms Drain" makes up just one of the many underground sewer networks across the capital, and was constructed during the late 1800s. During the 19th century, Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed the modern-day sewer system, in response to the great stink, which came from the Thames, being that it was used as one large open sewer.
The storm relief itself was designed to serve the surrounding Balham and Clapham sewers, with interception points throughout the network. However, only a certain section of it is actually walkable given the density of some of its tunnels.
Similarly to this, there's the South Western Sewer, and although it's significantly larger in size, it too was built for the exact same purpose as the rest of the sewer networks, to carry all things unwanted far from people.
This however, is something of a maze, as it connects with various other networks via small off-shoots and passages. The South Western Sewer, aliased as "Rubix Drain" connects with the famous River Effra, which is now long buried beneath the streets and converted into a sewer. In fact, Rubrix Drain is nothing more than an overflow network for the Effra, where it's sourced from, hence the multiple connecting passages.
However, despite how robust the Victorians built these drain networks, certain sections can obviously be seen as re-patched, which presumably, would've been done sometime in the 20th century judging by the concrete.
Despite the occasional leakage, these networks are more than certainly a credit to the Bazalgette's ingenuity and the craftsmanship of 18th-century bricklayers, and are all still very much a huge part of London's wastewater and rainwater disposal systems.

Construction Of London's Sewers - 19th Century


The Explore:
Starting with Clapham Storm Relief, myself and The Riddlers thought we'd take advantage of the rather unseasonal weather, and take a wander down into this well-trodden South London sewer, just so we could finally take a look around what looked to be quite a photogenic split in the two passages.
Admittedly, this particular drain wasn't exactly the largest, and by no means the most impressive network I've seen, but I figured it would make for something of a warm-up to Rubix, being the lengthier of the two. So, after whacking on the high-vis vests and doing our best to look as if we were meant to be there, the manhole lid was soon popped, and before we knew it, we were in.






The Obligatory Selfie


As said, this wasn't a patch on Rubix by a long shot, but nevertheless, it was certainly worth a runabout. Once we'd emerged onto the surface, it became apparent that nor I or Riddlers had kept an eye on the time, and it must've been getting on by the time we'd even dropped into the manhole to begin with. I knew that Rubix was a whole evening's worth in itself, and so we both thought it best to call it a night at the point we were at.
Our original plan was to return in a couple of weekends time, but with both our schedules forever changing, I returned with @James Cross, @james nichols and a non-member a short time later. I'd known about which manhole we needed to access Rubix for a good while, and given its area of heavy footfall, the high-vis vests came out once again...
So, after a bit of waiting and timing, we all bundled down the access point into total darkness, having been too eager to even think to get a torch ready!
Finally, after some fumbling around, light was resumed, and it was time to see what this network had to offer in the time we had, and it wasn't long before we hit the first junction.




The tunnel in the above shot remained much the same for an unaccounted amount of time, and with no sign of any alteration, I soon had the camera gear packed up before the inevitable happened, (that being slipping over a total of 8 times).
However, despite my initial hesitation to continue down this infinite slip hazard, we finally got to the junction with the Effra.




We continued on once again, this time slipping over near to 10 times. Neither myself, @James Cross, @james nichols or our mate Scott could seem to stay upright for little more than 5 minutes at a time, despite being stone-cold sober. I noticed a strange grey algae-like growth on the base of the tunnel, unlike anything I'd seen in Lucky Charms Drain a few days earlier, and so I put that down to our multiple falls...
This tunnel seemed even longer than the previous one before the Effra junction. However, we still continued on, and after once again an eternity of trudging and slipping, we reached this rather modernised concrete tank.




By now, it had become apparent to all three of us that the rest was best left to the proper fanatical drainers, which we'd established that were far from. At that point, we must've been inhaling the sewer air for a good couple of hours, not to mention being somewhat covered in the scuzzy waters from our multiple falls.
However, with me being me, I wanted to press on just that little bit extra further down the brick-lined tunnel just to see if anything did change while the others hung back. Unfortunately, there appeared to be no change, and I could already predict a repeat of the last two tunnels coming up. And so, I grabbed one more backlit shot instead.


It was time now for the god awful long walk back, and needless to say, many more slips and trips soon followed. Perhaps an upgrade in wellies might be in order for us. Fortunately, I did, however, manage to climb up a ladder near to the point of my final shot and make a note of the manhole so we can pick up where we left off at a later date maybe. So who knows... a return trip may or may not be in order (definitely not anytime soon mind!). I've since read a few other reports online from sections further into the network going as far as Thornton, and it's got to be said, there definitely are a fair few photo opportunities to be had down there.
All in all, 'twas certainly worth the sewer stained jeans and bruised knees.

- Thanks For Looking -


more tall than ginger tho.....
Regular User
Nice one llama - better here than sewermen.......Yer coulda gone for a paddle in lucky charms btw. It's very silty and gravelly so you'll not slip. If you'd walked up the big pipe it'd have saved yer getting out to do rubix :thumb


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Nice one llama - better here than sewermen.......Yer coulda gone for a paddle in lucky charms btw. It's very silty and gravelly so you'll not slip. If you'd walked up the big pipe it'd have saved yer getting out to do rubix :thumb
Ahhh I see, yeh I don’t know an awful lot about drains, they’re not really my sorta thing to be honest but just thought I’d take a look at this one. Cheers though fella

Calamity Jane

i see beauty in the unloved, places & things
Regular User
Nice job, fab photos as always. No one ever mentions slips & falls, nice to read about your experience to. I bet youve got too many bruises to count ;)

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