28DL Full Member
Most of this drain was covered likely in the post-war period along much of its length, and was created from the historic river which runs all the way to the River Thames. Originally it was a ditch running through fields, as much of greater London was surprisingly once rural in nature. However, as developments occurred, sections were covered, although some still remain open to the outside air. The first sections to be covered in the Victorian Era were those running under railways, visible as the brick arched sections which ran under a railway line and train station in the photographs and on the 1896 mapping below. The railway junction section was quite far off the east branch and was a really rewarding piece of brickwork to get to. The rest was likely covered throughout the 20th century as more above-ground development took place.
Joined by @LashedLlama who nicely sussed out this gem, we ventured into a culverted section of the River Ravensbourne running under Bromley. The access wasn't too shabby with some local knowledge. The first section was a wide and not too low concrete post-war section, complete with cave spiders and detritus hanging from the ceiling, half of which seemed to end up in Llama's iconic barnet - fortunately I had a hat on. After following this several metres we eventually came to an opening in the river passing under a railway bridge. Having popped out, we were greeted with the moonlight and a train passing overhead - a pretty cool sensation. We were now outside society, crawling on the fringes under the town like rats. We travelled under this smaller nice brick bridge and continued into the drain. We eventually reached another open section, coming out into someone's back garden converted into a kind of mini-jetty with hanging bird feeders. Being careful not to disturb them, we got some cracking shots with an illuminated church and crane in the distance. Every open section seemed to transport us to a new viewpoint of the town from the inside.
Rather than following this open section of the main river, we then took a junction off to the more cramped, treacherous, and less-explored East Branch. It popped out into another open section this time next to a flyover, civic office of some kind, and railway station. We ventured back into the depths, eventually coming to a really nice large brick tunnel. Our backs and calves thanked us as we could finally stand up straight. This large tunnel spanned under the railway. We then continued into the depths as the branch narrowed, divided down the middle by a wall. This was really cramped and quite claustrophobic, with us having been stooping and walking for several hours now. We now found ourselves in what can only be described as an endless underground coffin, with no end in sight and no place to stand after around 45 minutes in this particularly narrow section of hell hole. After having pushed a long way, the sense of entombment started to kick in. Realising the only way out was slow and at least slightly painful on the muscles, I was fairly sure it wasn't going to lead to anything more interesting. It could have continued as a non-descript pipe for absolutely miles, which later examination from Google Earth seemed to verify. Llama was very much keen to keep pressing on, but I think this was the sensible limit even for the braver folk without any sign of the tunnel ending. I think we reached close to under the old gas works. We eventually turned back after some convincing and some colourful language at the narrowness of the tunnels, having to squat through most of this section. We made it out alive at about 2:30am.
You can just make out the light of the train passing above.
The impressive brick railway junction tunnel
One of the few shots taken in the so-called 'coffin tunnel'!
31.3 KB Views: 0
94.2 KB Views: 0
112.4 KB Views: 0
111.7 KB Views: 0
115.4 KB Views: 0
95.1 KB Views: 0
184.1 KB Views: 0
124.6 KB Views: 0