Monthly Archives: May 2012

Letters from the Underground..

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!

Photos of this expedition are here, and a (pretty shonky) video is here.

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Given the weather is so warm I opted to pop out for a walk after work today instead of a run, craving some degree of exercise having missed out on Tuesday football and indulged in a lot of celebratory food and drink at my works’ ‘Best of the Best Awards’ dinner last night (I was pipped to the post in my category – Boots is a veritable haven of awesomeness when it comes to folk who do great stuff for charities and community schemes, so it was always going to be competitive).

Looking out from Mapperley Tunnel

Anyway.. I decided to take the camera with me this time, and head into the old Gedling Pit site again.  I even chucked a head-torch in my pocket incase the whim took me to revisit the Mapperley railway tunnel.  I did revisit it, the torch was nigh on useless – a high power torch will be the way to go should anybody want to venture further down there.  So I continued an aimless meander and eventually found my way to the top of the old pit slag heap – this has grassed over and been planted with trees and is a nature reserve.

A defensive Lapwing circles me warning me away from its’ nesting site

There were echoes of the Terns on their island up north when some shrill cries accompanied a bird who started doing quite close laps of me warning me away from their ground nesting sites.  I retraced my steps a little and found a way without going too close by, it turns out they were Northern Lapwings – they have a degree of protection under EU law as their population has dwindled somewhat – so it’s great they’ve found a good habitat so close by to home.

From the top of the slag-heap as was (okay, it is more charmingly known as Wicketwood Hill now if my phone’s map application is to be believed) you are afforded a lovely panoramic view of Gedling and beyond over the floodplains to the Trent.  There’s an easy way down to the top end of Lambley Lane too making it less faff to get back home compared to the meandering route I’d taken to get up there – it looks like you could get down to Spring Lane too – I must admit, I’m quite enjoying the childlike exploration of the local wilderness, I’m going to do some more of it.

Where we live we’re blessed with lots of lovely parks and countryside to explore around – as well as the echoes of old industry or transport that I find fascinating, whether it be abandoned railway routes (the railway line that ran through the Mapperley Tunnel through to Woodthorpe loops right through our estate and through Gedling down Shearing Hill (I think there used to be a station there years ago), over the bridge and round through Netherfield, very close to my first house on Godfrey Street – it originally would’ve headed off to London to the South, through the tunnel and onward in the other direction would’ve taken you to Daybrook.

Gedling from on-high

The new Victoria Station in Nottingham (which is obviously now a big ugly shopping centre) rendered the route superseded, of course, the tunnel succumbing to subsidence didn’t help either – although the suburban network of tunnels that are now inaccessible replaced the route for a while.  I wish they’d open up all the tunnels for would-be explorers – the magnitude and ambition of their creation is phenomenal even by today’s standards, when you consider when they were built it becomes even more amazing.

Anyway, enough of my statto-like nonsense – it all started by going out for a walk, and I’ve taken in a degree of bird-watching, industrial reminisces and old railway routes.  I might as well get the anorak and leather-bound notebook right now, hadn’t I?  Having wandered more around the site of the colliery in the route to get up the hill, it’s amazing how little remains of what obviously was at one point a very heavily developed site with lots of infrastructure.  It is kinda nice to see nature gradually taking over, though!

I’ve uploaded more pictures to Facebook, and a funky panoramic thingamajig from the top of the hill which I really like 🙂

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The fat of the land..

“Revenge is sweet, and not fattening”

Hmm, since I wrote the last blog post (or maybe some time in between the last two blog posts if I think about it) I’ve shed about a stone and a half.  I’ve never really been bothered by body image, my general default setting is overweight but reasonably fit through regular football – but I guess the ravages of age combined with a continued “If I want it, eat it” policy finally caught up with me when I had an ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ moment when vacating the shower a few weeks back.

That said, the picture my friend Chris took of me with the ridiculous tall Levellers fiddler Jon Sevink does, on reflection, look like a picture of a normal sized but skinny guy with a short fat man.  Worrying!

The only time I’ve actively been on a weight-loss drive was a crash-course to shed some pounds before a Sky Dive.  Only to find that they never even bloody weighed me so I could’ve easily got away with it!  This time around with the ubiquitous nature of Smart Phones I’ve brought technology to the heart of the process, because let’s face it, if I get to do that it’s more likely to motivate me!

Strange really – it’s the age old tried and tested formula, eat less – in my case – I’ve made tentative starts in taking up running, but I’m not very fond of it early doors, but in a typical week I’m pretty happy with my exercise levels.  It’s the taking the time out to consciously note what I’m eating that’s been quite illuminating – the App I’m using (MyFitnessPal) will scan barcodes or let me ‘quick add’ calories (and indeed, strike them off for exercising).

Levellers fiddler Jon Sevink, an average height man, with a short fat bloke.

I’ve been generally eating under 1000 calories a day net of exercise (with a few significant blips for nights out or special occasions) and after the initial shock-factor am actually not finding it too bad.  The first couple of weeks were tricky, particularly balancing getting lunch right on football days to give me the right fuel levels – but I think I’m just about there.  Of course, a mild stomach infection or minor case of food poisoning probably fast-tracked a few pounds off as well!

In other news next week is a swanky awards dinner at work at which I’m up for an award for being a ‘Community Hero’ at work – which is mostly very humbling and flattering, and a little bit awkward – because, well, contributing to charitable endeavours or community projects isn’t something you do to snag awards.

Further forward in time I’ve booked tickets for the Levellers playing an Acoustic gig in Buxton with Cat – since it’s a sit-down venue it makes it a bit more sedate than a typical Levs gig, which I can make up for at the Splendour Festival in Nottingham a little beforehand, and more-than-likely at Rock City in November too.  I’ve also booked tickets to see the Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Jesus Jones in Birmingham just before Christmas which is rather exciting.

To return to topic, so to speak, I plan on keeping up project weightless for another stone or so, I think – that will put me comfortably in the normal BMI range (another 5 or 6 pounds will put me at the top end of normal).  Then I’ll probably just lapse into old habits and balloon into a big fatty again!

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Another head hangs lowly, childhood slowly taken..

Ha, I was lamenting not posting anything on here for a while, started writing something, deleted it – then for the second time today the subject matter of first discoveries of the Internet cropped up.  I suppose I’m privileged in a way to have spent my formative years without the all-pervading online monster – although many would argue (quite reasonably) that I’ve made up for lost time in spades.  Somebody posted on the LTLF forum asking for people’s first experience of the Internet, this was my (probably quite hasty on reflection) response…

My first experience of ‘the internet’ was visiting Nottingham University with my A Level class. By that point we were using our modems to access bulletin boards rather than the internet proper. I remember ripping CDs to mp3 to upload – indeed, I suspect I uploaded more than I downloaded, which is a strange reversal these days.

Thankfully the bulletin boards (I can’t even remember what they were called now!) were all on Diamond Cable numbers so they were free to call after 6pm and at weekends.

The internet proper followed, still via modem – I’d run an extension cable from my room to the phone point in my parent’s room – which malfunctioned occasionally, so would cause the phones in the house to ring. Awkward at 2am! Also it was a nightmare if someone picked the phone up when you were mid-download!

Gradually we’d end up round people’s houses sharing connections around networks (usually Pip’s house!). God, people who’ve only known broadband don’t know they’re born!

Fuck all that shit though, I can remember ordering public domain disks for my Amiga from mail-order catalogues or sometimes picking ’em up at Car Boot sales! There was something better about that, copy disks at your mates house and trading, watching demos like Jesus on E’s or State of the Art, reading disk-based fanzines like Grapevine. Jolly Roger’s cookbook?

Ah, anyone who didn’t spend hours mastering the intricacies of X-Copy III hasn’t lived!

It really is amazing thinking back to the advances in home and office based computing in my relatively short adulthood – the instant nature of information exchange, exacerbated by mobile technology keeping us plugged into email, Facebook or anything else at all times.  Scary.  And quite cool, because I am a geek, after all.

In other not random reminisces I’ve not really been up to much – anyone in or around the Forest match on Saturday might’ve noticed a bunch of unruly pirates in attendance, I was one of those.  I’m glad the football season has finished, to be honest, this one has been draining in the extreme.  Forest have graciously (sic) frozen season ticket prices, which on reflection is probably sensible, with the sad passing of former-owner Nigel Doughty and his estate seeking to dispose of the club then barring an unlikely billionaire take-over Forest will need their fans more than ever ongoing.

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