Report - - Oxenhall Tunnel March 2015 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Oxenhall Tunnel March 2015


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member

Explored with his lordship, Lord Bertie of Bollockbrains (the oracle of tunnels,) and Clemo, a non-member and new tunnel pervert. Inspired by Spungletrumpet’s original report, was good to meet you the other week mate.

This week we continue our reputation for breaking things, by breaking things. Lost kit, sandwiches dropped into mud,broken wader straps and the fifth kayak puncture in four outings cemented that.


Located between Ledbury and Newent, construction was completed in 1798. The tunnel is 2200 yards long and goes underneath the M50 motorway. It had huge problems from the start and was always massively over budget and behind schedule. The budget kept spiraling out of control and when the horse powered pumps couldn’t cope, steam powered pumps had to be brought in- there didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel (sorry.) The fact it closed just 83 years later shows just what a waste of time it all was.

There was no towpath inside the tunnel, progress was done by ‘legging’ – lying on your back and pushing the barge along with your feet on the tunnel roof. Legend has it just south of the tunnel is ‘Legger’s Rest’ a unique arched recess built into the bank alongside the portal where apparently a team of men waited there until needed, helping the barges through for a small fee. Despite my best efforts in the overgrown shrubbery I couldn’t find it.

Access was nasty, the quarter mile hike down the canal path to the portal is totally overgrown and impassable. We resorted to a ten minute hike over the fields and gates running alongside the canal and then worried about the fifteen foot steep embankment drop. All kit was lowered down, organised and mickey taking resumed.
The kayak's had to be dragged twenty or so feet into the water before climbing aboard- the water depth varied massively from several inches to about four feet in places. Straight away its impressive- beautiful hand picked limestone parts giving way to brick lined sections, fantastic calcite deposits covering both sides of the walls for entire sections at a time, different types of rock visible, the more you looked the more you saw.

In way better condition than the widow making Sapperton Tunnel it still has its problems- some very definite cracks starting to join and a few bulges in the walls here and there. A single scaffolding pole almost at the tunnel end seems to be a half hearted nod at supporting the roof. As it’s now rusting and furrier than Mrs Slocombes pussy its any ones guess how long this solitary gesture can last. Thirty yards past that is the mother of all fall-ins completely blocking the tunnel.

The spring relief holes and chiselled out shelves for the navies candles add to the atmosphere, as does the tranquil setting and complete lack of graffiti, these places are far too difficult for the great unwashed to frequent and spray tag. The natural damage does little to dilute the romance. The work and effort needed to make this place is amazing. The only visible nod to recent human activity was the Geocache box found inside. Placed in 2011 it was full of random stuff- a miniature water pistol, string, a poem, a membership card, a pencil. I felt obliged to contribute so left the only thing with me i could spare, half of a cheese and onion sandwich. It may well save someone’s life one day so i feel i've done my bit.

All too soon we'd reached the end, (as the fall-in is eight tenths of the way through the tunnel it wasn’t worth going round to the other end) and so after a few pic's it was time to double back and start planning the next adventure. And order another puncture repair kit ...

The unassuming portal actually had four years of volunteer restoration done on it a few years ago.


Steeper than it looks access fun..

Starting off..

A few hundred yards in, water dripping down and the Calcite formations start

Leading to some beautiful sights..

Hand carved candle shelves

One of three natural springs we saw, the water was completely pure.

Natural stone meets five course brickwork and relief holes

Looking upwards at the only vent shaft we saw (two are documented.) Amazing build ups everywhere.

Looking right up inside and getting properly wet because of it...brickwork completely covered now.

The fall-in, stopping play for the day.

We sit and patiently wait whilst Bertie prepares the picnic, top bloke.

On the return leg we spot the Geocache box..

More tunnel porn, note the high tide marks

Always good to see the portal again..more cutaways which had a hinged covering over them at some point. Relief ports or some kind of storage?

Whats it's like with the torches turned off...

A Noobies View

I thought it would be interesting to get Clemo's opinion as his first first big underground explore was Sapperton last month, this being his second. Over to him...

" Last month I was told to bring the best torch i had, my fishing waders and £40- apparently we were going halves on a dinghy. He muttered something about going underground just before 'breaking up/ can't hear you mate' etc. Being a bit claustrophobic i spent the night imagining the worst but Sapperton was amazing. This trip was a lot safer and a fair bit more relaxed.

The journey there set the tone for the whole day, Huey dressed in period WW2 attire, insisting on shouting 'Grenade!' and grabbing the steering wheel every 5 minutes, doing nothing to settle my nerves. Nor did the still inflated kayak bungeed onto the car roof madly flapping round, our 4” x 2” homemade roofbars working loose. Meeting Bertie again helped, he obviously knew exactly what he was doing and before i knew it we were inside the tunnel- any worry about claustrophobia left, there’s plenty of space except where the canal floor has raised in some places, our heads almost touching the canal roof.

The calcium deposits were amazing, entire stretches of walls covered in them. Plenty of bats too and only a few bulging walls to worry about. No stale air or worry about gases either! A half hour gentle paddle brought us to the fall-in. The fall- in was huge and completely blocked the way so it was day over all too soon.
Never thought tunnels could be so good, when’s the next one? Massive thanks to both, cheers guys! "

Another cracking explore and day out, cheers to Bertie as always and Clemo for joining in.

Thanks for looking.

Bertie Bollockbrains

The Spice Must Stop
Regular User
Jolly good. My pleasure to put these crazy ideas into your head.

As you know, we have the next water adventure planned - lets hope your patched/sellotaped inflatable kayak copes with the open sea. Read this first it may save you

Still have no idea how you keep puncturing your kayak, my children have been using mine for years and not always with adult supervision and have never holed it.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thank you all, kayaking up and wading certainly adds to the adventure, as do the bulges and fall ins...is a beautiful place and very easy access.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Thanks again, never knew Geocache boxes were in places like this,almost worth looking into as another hobby.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Yeah,I didn't realise they did put them in some pretty extreme places...obviously the tunnels deteriorated since placing it and is more dangerous but even so,it's pretty cool it was so far in.

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