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Report - - The North Downs Irrigation Tunnels, Medway - August / October 2020 | Underground Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The North Downs Irrigation Tunnels, Medway - August / October 2020


LashedLlama

Sauter Les Frontières
28DL Full Member
History:
The North Downs, also known as the chalk spine of Kent, has a long history of water supply going back centuries. The downs itself, stretches all the way from Farnham in Surrey, right across to Dover in Kent, and is of course entirely made up of a chalk base.
The chalk itself has a greater resistance to weathering and slumping than the various other clay types it's normally associated with, causing it to form steep cliffs where chalk ridges meet the sea in places such as Dover.
Because chalk is well jointed together, it can withhold a large quantity of groundwater, which in turn creates pockets of water underground, almost like natural reservoirs. As seasons change, the water which becomes stored within the chalk is slowly released through tiny underground channels, making what's known as a natural spring.
It's believed that this particular tunnel was mined sometime in the early 1800s for agricultural use, as with the natural spring being directly between two farms, it would've been convenient as an irrigation system and water source for the surrounding fields.
According to historical documents, four underground reservoirs were constructed in and around the two farms in order to store water which came from the spring, however, none of these were built to connect, and only one was mined out to lead to the spring.
Today, the irrigation tunnel leading to the source lays abandoned, but with water still seeping from the chalk, the main reservoir is still subjected to an increase in levels depending on the season. Whilst the 3 others remain at a stagnated level.


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The Explore:
After a little more research into this particular system, and given it's close proximity to the "Medway Gap" where the River Medway runs through the break in the North Downs, I soon located the surface blockhouse, and had my waders at the ready. Unfortunately, I'd been in something of a rush that day, and hadn't charged my torches sufficiently enough to last the length of the explore... (bloody amateur!) and had no choice but to call it off.
And so, I returned the following week with good mate The Riddlers to see it properly, and this time with all sources of light fully charged. We arrived at the blockhouse, and jumped straight down the ladder and into the tank, which Is believed to of been reconstructed sometime in the 1920s.


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We pressed on into the tunnel entrance that can be seen in the wall of the main water storage tank, and this is where it became interesting, as the tunnel on the left simply led to a dead-end, but must've been constructed for one reason or another.
Now, following the tunnel on the right, we soon found ourselves at the base of the first well shaft, and it wasn't long after that things seemed to go on for a little longer than expected.

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With the general design and layout of the tunnel being somewhat unvaried, I decided to put the camera away and pressed on. Neither I or Riddlers were expecting the tunnel to go on for as long as it did before reaching the second well, and I'm still not quite sure of the purpose of the plank-like features sitting just above the water level, although it certainly slowed down the journey having to step over one every 3 metres. Then, finally, we reached the second well shaft, that being considerably taller than the first.

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Now, after making our way around the edge of the well, we continued onto the unlined section, which revealed the natural chalk. Then, almost instantly, a trickling of water could be heard, and it became apparent that we could only have been a matter of metres from the original water source that once fed the crops in the fields above.
We soldiered on a little further than expected once again, about 60 meters give or take. Then, we finally reached the end, and the 3 gaps in the chalk where water had been escaping for thousands of years finally came to light.

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So, after having reached the source of the natural spring, we had the joy of retracing our steps all the way back to the storage tank again. However, we were both now happily satisfied we'd reached the end at long last, and saw all that this network had to offer.
After a long trudge back through the unlined section, brick-lined section and water tank, we resurfaced back through the main hut at ground level, and called it a night. I knew right there and then, that if the location of this place got out to the masses so to speak, it would soon end up much like any other disused tunnel network in the area... graffitied, smashed, litter sprawled everywhere etc, and so both myself and Riddlers decided to keep it hush.
I returned a handful of times in the months that followed with good mates @Sprackles, @lpphevs and @Slippin_Jimm, and we all agreed to keep the entry point between ourselves, and so far, we all have!

Linking back to what I mentioned earlier regarding the three other reservoirs, I only managed to locate one, and if truth be told, I'd assume that the two others would be much of a muchness, and so last week, myself and @Slippin_Jimm went off to grab a couple of shots of the two-roomed reservoir.


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And that, was that! It just goes to show, when you think you've rinsed an area of its tunnels and hidden spaces, there's always something new that'll come to light. From a personal side, I've spent nearly all my life living just half an hour from Medway, and assumed I was well and truly done with it, however, this place has left me wondering... what else could still be hidden beneath the surface of Medway that I don't yet know about.

- Thanks for looking -
 

lpphevs

Wasteland Wanderer
28DL Full Member
Great report there nice to see them all together -genuinely a fascinating and mysterious piece of history. That water was premium shit, better than any bottle of Evian I've come across - probably the last to drink from that spring in a good 100 years or more. Who knows how old that tunnel is. And to think the local village was historically known for having residents who drank from the spring that lived twice as long as the average - to good health :brew
 

LashedLlama

Sauter Les Frontières
28DL Full Member
Great report there nice to see them all together -genuinely a fascinating and mysterious piece of history. That water was premium shit, better than any bottle of Evian I've come across - probably the last to drink from that spring in a good 100 years or more. Who knows how old that tunnel is. And to think the local village was historically known for having residents who drank from the spring that lived twice as long as the average - to good health :brew
Absolutely mate, that was probably some of the freshest water I’ve ever had the privilege to sip from ahaha
 

Hidinginplanesite

28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
North downs are lovely ! Nice photos Sam I’m gonna assume you used long exposure to make the water look cloudy/Silky!

mate I lived in Medway for about 19 years ! So much is hidden around here.

njce little find though ! I only seen one other explore post about these and I think they took there kids to it too .
 

LashedLlama

Sauter Les Frontières
28DL Full Member
North downs are lovely ! Nice photos Sam I’m gonna assume you used long exposure to make the water look cloudy/Silky!

mate I lived in Medway for about 19 years ! So much is hidden around here.

njce little find though ! I only seen one other explore post about these and I think they took there kids to it too .
Ah yes I did give A.H the heads up on this, it’s a nice gem :)
 

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