So I’ve been out exploring again, and this time with some kindred spirits! Thanks to my tendency to advertise my thoughts and planned activities on Facebook I was able to lure Doug and Dave into joining me on my re-visit to the Mapperley Tunnel – this time with a torch powerful enough to see where we were going.
Having retrospectively done some working out on a map, I reckon we made it half way through the tunnel before turning back – after the second ‘Pepper Pot’ (air vents that above the ground resemble brick-built table accoutrements) the tunnel is partially backfilled with earth and rubble. We did labour on for a while but with the ceiling increasingly getting lower and uncertainty about how much further we could get we eventually gave up I think somewhere under Woodborough Road/Plains Road itself.
So, the start was the slightly awkward process of meeting each other at the old entrance to Gedling Colliery – once our band was complete it’s a fairly short yomp through past the waste disposal site and into the woods to eventually get to the spooky site of the tunnel entrance, a valley strewn with fallen trees, a long-discarded car, some disposable barbecues that were new since my last visit (and we think we know the culprits for).
Anyway, new torch out – it’s small, but it’s mighty – and lit the way admirably, ably assisted by a couple of head torches and Doug’s LED monster. It was quite boggy underfoot at times, and any adventurers need to watch out for holes in the floor at intervals. To either side frequent alcoves, and often really quite pretty sediment formations due to the water that clearly pervades through nearly all the crumbling Victorian brickwork.
Yard markers are painted on the walls to help you keep track of distance (of course, we didn’t notice this ’til the way back), and so effective was the torch on wide-beam mode that we passed straight under the first of the two air-vents you can access easily without noticing the pool of light on the floor. Fortunately we spotted it on the way back! The second air-vent you can’t miss, because a veritable mountain of detritus has been thrown down it over the years, resulting in a floor-to-ceiling stack of crap.
We clambered around this and almost immediately there’s a ramp of rubble and earth where the backfilling of the tunnel began. As the ceiling of the tunnel got closer and closer, and the beams threatened to knock out even Dave, we eventually (and slightly reluctantly) called it a day and started to head back. Post-exploration mapping and estimation makes me think we made it around half way through the total tunnel length, putting us underneath somewhere close to the junction of Mapperley Plains and Gedling Road/Arnold Lane.
It’s partly sated my strange fascination with the place – although having seen the progress we made, and learned from a friend who went to Scouts at the Weaverthorpe Road Scout Hut that as kids they excavated their way into what seemed an open-looking tunnel at the other end only to be scared by some disturbed foxes. So I can’t help but idly wonder whether or not the backfilling of the tunnel was never total, and with a degree of scrabbling and a lot of crouching it could be passable. It wouldn’t be comfortable, though!
So, we headed back – more leisurely and more sightseeing. Amusingly we encountered further evidence of the erstwhile barbecuers outside, a school planning from Arnold Hill, my old stomping ground, belonging to a child called Niall Beckett (who apparently has a bit of a thing for a girl called Chelsie, and a catalogue of excuses for not doing Physical Education). Further down the tunnel back towards the entrance we found a Science workbook belonging to someone called Sam Harvey.
The reason we could make the link was other papers outside again featuring a lot of writing about Chelsie! Funny to think that the last time I went any distance under the tunnel I was attending Arnold Hill School.
Another pleasant stroll through the woods and we parted company at the entrance to the Colliery Site feeling suitably pleased with ourselves – with plans to find other sites that might bear a good old explore (the big old warehouse near the BBC building in Nottingham is very high up in my list – and now I have found some kindred spirits it might just motivate me to make good on these impulses I have!). For reference here’s my map of where the tunnel is and how far we managed to get before getting a bit fed up of bending over too much!