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Farleigh Down Tunnel
(Monkton Farleigh, near Bath)
(Monkton Farleigh, near Bath)
Blatant quote from http://www.nettleden.com/venues/farleigh-down/
I persuaded the wife to travel to Bristol with me, on the promise of going shopping at Cribbs Causeway Shopping Mall.......Well, after leaving a little late, spending more time than thought underground and taking far too many pics, she only managed an hour in the mall!"As part of the war effort a large stone quarry in Monkton Farleigh was converted in to an ammunition depot, the depot was situated under a hill top, a mile away and 450 feet above the old quarry stone yard sidings on main GWR line at Ashley, this was the main source of the ammunition. Sidings existed on the site since 1881 when a tramway from the quarry brought stone down the hill for shipment on the GWR. Alternative means of transporting the ammunition was required due to poor road access, this was because by road it was a 4 mile journey through winding lanes between the depot and the sidings.
In November 1937 a 300 meter long platform was constructed complete with a narrow gauge tracks to carry the ammunition wagons. Plans to lay a tunnel in to the depot were laid down however the depot needed to be brought in to use so in the meantime work started on a 1.8km long aerial ropeway which carried the ammunition from to a from the sidings up the hill to a large loading platform near District 20 of the depot. This allowed the depot to be brought in to use while the tunnel was being constructed.
The tunnel was designed to handle 1000 tons of ammunition each day, it provided a secure route for the ammunition in to the site and it was practically invisible from the air. A 30 foot deep slopeshaft was sunk at the sidings which became the start of the tunnel which connected at quarry floor level in the depot on one of the main haulage ways. The tunnel is at a constant gradient as it travels up the hill to the depot.
Half of the tunnel was bored nearer the top of the hill where it met a depth of roughly 180 feet below ground, half way down the technique was changed and a trench was opened in to this square box sections of tunnel were laid and re-covered. Most of this section of the tunnel was barely underground, some of it was even partially above the surface level and had to be disguised by forming gently sloping mounds of earth over it.
A conveyor belt was installed in the tunnel which could transport the ammunition at 250 feet per minute, at the siding’s end of the tunnel was an underground marshalling yard where the ammunition would be loaded on to narrow gauge carts and then taking up the slopeshaft to the platform aided by a mechanical tram creeper. The ammunition could then be moved from the carts in to railways carriages for distribution.
The aerial ropeway to the depot continued to be maintained after the tunnel came in to action. This was in case the tunnel’s conveyors ever broke down and a backup was needed. Approaching D-day with high flows of ammunition the tunnel and the rope way was used to handle the massive amounts of ammunition required for the invasion of Europe."
On with the pics and the tale of the day.....
I know this tunnel has been done several times, but thought it would be good for my first underground explore as the access is really easy. I have ordered a new SLR camera, but this unfortunately did not arrive in time for this trip, so I now have a perfect excuse to go 'shopping' again! Excuse the quality of the pics - I started with the Fuji point and press, and ended up resorting to the Sony Ericsson camera phone as this seemed to capture far more.
I have learnt from this explore that although the lighting was OK for me, I really need more for a proper explore, for taking decent pics, and to encourage the wife to come a little further! I did come prepared with two halogen torches and two camping battery powered lanterns, but I think I need some extra serious candle power!
We arrived on site thanks to the google mapping from Collingwood, and the directions of the SatNav controlled unnervingly by Homer Simpson (doh!). All credit to Homer, we arrived bang on at the estimated time at the exact spot indicated by Collingwood - we parked, and almost excitingly jogged (well me anyway) down the track to the old ammunitions platform (passed several skips and evidence of soil spoil being levelled on the site which confirms earlier reports).
After the 100 odd mile drive I was glad to find the platform exactly as per the pics from previous reports with no attempts to secure the site.
After dragging the wife away from the 'real' railway tracks, waving at the passing commuters, we descended the well-documented steps into the darkness, past the famous ghost......Not a fan of graffiti, but top marks for that!
The wife came about 200 yards up the tunnel with me, but decided to stay there while I explored to the end. I warn anyone who wishes to do this explore that the gradient is 1:8, and although this looks nothing when your in a tunnel with nothing to reference to, by the time you have travelled just over a mile you are certainly ready for a drink! The tunnel is perfectly straight, and is a perfect steady gradient. It seems to go on forever until you finally reach the end! Allow 20 mins there, and 20 mins back!
Apologise for the amount of photos - blame this on the excited newbie (me)! Mods, if you feel it is too picture hungry, feel free to remove the dead wood!
The famous decent......
Ladder leading under the platform......
Here he is - the infamous ghost!
Half way up the tunnel it turns from a square concrete "cut and cover" type tunnel into a proper excavated affair......
Too late now?
One of maybe a hundred smashed light fittings......
Just to prove I did exhaust myself and reach the end! The draught here is amazing! There is a little hole through into what look likes it could be the cellar of a building - the wind is whistling through it! A good thing really! There is evidence of rubbish (fairly recent) being dumped just at the hole through the end wall, so I would be interested to know where this is! It is cut off cables from a recent fire alarm install by the looks of it.
A bit eerie - fog on the way back!
And we're out of here (a quote from the film 'taken' I am reliably advised by my brother!).....
And finally, evidence of some recent predecessors! A cardboard box on the access road!
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