Apr 242015
 
The Greywell Tunnel portal and canal banks after recent clearance

The Greywell Tunnel portal and canal banks after recent clearance. The fence has been replaced, and a new path with steps down to the arch has been laid

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.

How it looked in November 2014. The keystone is just about visible here

How the Greywell Tunnel portal looked in November 2014. The keystone is just about visible here

Nearly done

Clearance nearly done

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.

The plate above the arch, now repainted and legible again

The plate above the arch, now repainted and legible again

The re-exposed, derelict, Lock 30 which was constructed originally to ease boats entering the Greywell Tunnel with an extra foot of water

The re-exposed, derelict, Lock 30 which was constructed originally to ease boats entering the Greywell Tunnel with an extra foot of water

308. Greywell Tunnel. Eastern portal. 1975

The tunnel portal looking somewhat decrepit before restoration (1975), and…

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.

… after restoration, in 1976

The Basingstoke is supplied by chalk springs, which provide usually clear water, which is seen here exiting the tunnel mouth

The Basingstoke is supplied by chalk springs, which provide unusually clear water, seen here exiting the tunnel mouth

272. Last attempt. At tunnel mouth

The last attempt to reach Basingstoke by boat in November 1913 evidently attracted local interest in Greywell village. AJ Harmsworth’s boat Basingstoke can be seen entering the tunnel. It seems that excessive vegetation over the portal was a problem then too.

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