Report - - Oxenhall Canal Tunnel, Gloucestershire. April 2011 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Oxenhall Canal Tunnel, Gloucestershire. April 2011


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Visited with Urbanity and VWdirtboy.
Sorry it took so long for me to get round to posting it!

As people may have guessed from previous reports, there are a few of us who are really into underground boating. Some might regard it as an obsession.

I'd mentioned this trip to Urbanity a while back. It seems to be one of the more forgotten tunnels but it is probably one of the prettiest.
I had no real photographs of my previous visit to the site, so a return was in order and a motley crew was assembled.

Some of the photos are Urbanity's.

Anyway, the history:

The tunnel is 2192 yards long and was part of the Herefordshire and Gloucestershire canal. When the route of the canal was planned it was decided to divert it via Newent. It was thought that the coal mines around the town had the potential to be as productive as the neighbouring Forest of Dean area and a suitable transport infrastructure would be vital. Sadly, the mines in the area were generally pretty crap and the canal cost much more than originally anticipated. It was generally unsuccessful, closed within a few years and was leased to the Great Western and West Midland Railway companies with a view to using it for rail traffic. Some of the route was converted to railway, but the railway engineers didn't want to touch the tunnel with a 6 foot barge pole.

The tunnel itsef caused many problems and left a lot of people out of pocket. 20 shafts were sunk to aid its construction. The huge ingress of water was a major issue and steam pumps had to be used, increasing costs consideraby.

Today, the tunnel is in fairly good condition. There are some brick lined sections but much of the tunnel is bare rock. The mineral-rich overburden has given rise to some beautifully calcified sections.
The North portal is not accessible because of the deep silt. In any case, a large roof fall a little way inside the North end makes passage impossible. This leaves the South portal and around a mile of tunnel to be explored.

Just inside the entrance the water gets deeper.

Once you are past the first brick lined section the calcification becomes very pretty. The obvious tide mark shows the level the water used to be at before the aborted attempt at restoring the canal in the late '90s.

We eventually made it to the roof fall. There was evidence that somebody had been digging there, but there was no way through. The water in the tunnel was too deep to use tripods (even bodged ones) so we took advantage of the chance to use longer exposures while we were on dry land!

(Photo by Urbanity)

Looking back along the tunnel just above water level. The tunnel is completely straight and daylight can be seen coming from the portal in the far distance.

Maybe it was time to put some more air in the boat and head back towards the entrance?

(Photo by Urbanity)

Back through the gorgeously decorated passage:

(Photo by Urbanity)

Eventually making it back onto dry land.

I'm not usually one for blurring faces, but Urbanity was most insistent. It turns out that one of his current ASBOs forbids him from "Travelling on any vessel which could be regarded as a 'floatation device', inflatable or otherwise, in the company of any person wearing any kind of caving or diving equipment."
It must be very hard for him to keep out of trouble. :rolleyes:

Thanks to Urbanity and VWdirtboy for the company. Many laughs were had and much cake was eaten!

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