The eastern portal of the Greywell Tunnel has, not unlike those temples lost in South American jungles, steadily receded from view as vegetation has accumulated over time (below left). The Canal Society has intended to do something about this for a while, and we eventually got there recently to sort it out (right).
The Greywell Tunnel is around 1200m long and extends under Greywell Hill in a westerly direction. It marks the beginning of the last 5 miles, the now derelict (and in some places, obliterated) section of canal that once wound its way into the centre of Basingstoke. The tunnel has long since been impassable since collapses occurred towards the western end in 1932 and again in the 1950’s. In addition, it is now famously one of the most significant bat roosts in Britain. Both of these factors make it highly unlikely that the tunnel will be ever navigable again.
The portal is one of several Grade II listed structures on the Canal, which also include at least 14 bridges (one of which – Langmans Bridge in Woking, for reasons not immediately obvious – is also a scheduled monument), two or three houses/cottages and a couple of pubs. Odiham Castle is also Grade II listed and a scheduled monument.
The Society has held the view that because of its listed status and also it was a centre-piece of the Canal restoration in the 1970’s, the tunnel portal has long been badly in need of some attention to rescue it from the damaging effects of root penetration and the like.
Not only has the brick facia now been cleared (above right), but the adjacent banks have also been cut back, such that the arch is now visible from the towpath at a distance. Clearance was continued along both banks as far back as the derelict Lock 30 (about 100m away, below right), which has again been exposed.
In addition, we have also replaced the fence over the arch, and have laid a path with steps from the towpath down to the tunnel entrance. We are grateful to the local landowner who allowed us to use his grounds for burning cuttings.