The morning after the Manchester meet I woke (too) early in the Travelodge, with a sore head and a vague plan to go solo and investigate some Manc derps. However, checking my phone I found an invite from @Alley offering a tour of a tunnel in Stockport. This sounded like a much more appealing plan, so after a hurried hotel breakfast I made my way through the early morning Manchester fog over to Stockport. A wider invite on the forum for company had mainly gone unseen by others, who presumably took the opportunity for a lie in on a Sunday morning, so in the event it was just me and Alley who wadered up on what turned out to be one of the sunniest starts to the year.
History (abridged and adapted from Alley’s book ‘Subterranean Stockport’)
Stringer’s tunnel was built in 1791, named after John Stringer who leased a mill on Newbridge Lane.
This tunnel was used to fill the reservoir that provided power to Stringer’s mill, and a neighbouring mill owned by Abraham Howard. When Jesse Howard took over Howard’s mill he ended up using so much water that Stringer could only power his waterwheel at night time. Stinger’s mill, as a result, ended up going bankrupt and disputes over water continued between Howard and the new owners, resulting in dividing walls and new tunnels.
The tunnel was originally constructed using brick but was lined with concrete in 1957 - 58. This pic of the tunnel from 1956 shows a workman inspecting the original brick arch...
(Pic from http://old.stockport.gov.uk/sia)
The very first bit of the tunnel is littered with bottles and crisp packets dropped from above. Treading in the shallow water here releases bubbles of smelly gas, but this soon stops as you move further. The tunnel changes shape as it winds along its full course, expanding at points from 6ft to 9ft. However it often feels much shallower due to the buildup of mud and silt settled on the floor. It’s this mud that makes the going so hard, sucking your feet down and not willingly letting you have them back without a fight.
The best technique I found was to take the biggest strides possible, but you basically have to give up any idea of fast progress and just enjoy the fact that you are dragging yourself through a crazy tunnel.
This picture shows a shaft leading to Vernon park. Alley providing expert lighting here from afar...
This shaft leads up to New Zealand Road and is about 20 metres high.
We paused every now and again for a to give our legs a welcome break, discussing the important things in life (eg. ‘What is the difference between a LED Lenser P7 and P7.2?’)
Some nice mineral buildup in this section, from a steady drip drip drip through the top of the tunnel...
Somewhere around here we could hear running water in the distance. This was confusing as there was nowhere for water to flow into the tunnel, aside for some leakages earlier on. The outlet certainly wouldn’t make this noise. Every time we heard the loud but distant flow we would stop and listen as the sound of rushing water lasted for approximately the duration of a toilet flush, and then stopped. The source of the flow eventually became clear - it was us! As we reached this bit I noticed that our movement through the tunnel was displacing water and causing it to flow over in into the gulley formed by the mud. Mystery solved!
This marks almost the end of our journey: an RCP where Howard’s reservoir would once have been located. Heading through here led to a proper full on stoop and more and more water, leading further into the distance. After going as far as we could follow the RCP we returned the way we came...
Thanks to Alley for her info, patience and for saving me from lonely derps on a sunny Stockport Sunday.
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