Ramblings relating to a recent tendency I seem to have developed to go out exploring places!

Out and about again..

Lots more exploring of late – some re-explorations, some expansions, new discoveries and future plans.  I’m not quite sure what has prompted this odd behaviour but it’s getting me out and about and helpful for project Fatty, so I’m not complaining!

Having visited Mum and Dad’s new house and had a MASSIVE mixed grill I headed out for a long walk to work off some of it – I ended up off down the old railway track, this time I found a way through to the Netherfield Lagoons near the end of the railway line.  This does hark back to childhood, my Dad used to often take Rich and I down there (when it was just abandoned industrial land).  I got down as far as the River Trent.

Looking back to Gedling from Netherfield Lagoons

I must revisit and find some old haunts – I ended up on some rather sinister open railway crossings whilst idly looking for some old tunnels we used to use to shoot Dad’s air rifle.  I didn’t find them so eventually started to head back in the direction I’d come – the walk ended up being around seven miles and a fairly brisk pace, I was flagging a few times as my body came to terms with activity and the monumental amount of dead animal it was breaking down.

A new discovery for us was a joint mission with Cat – we headed out for a jaunt to Gedling Woods, this too was working off the excesses of Dad’s 60th birthday party where much buffet and drink was consumed.  It started with a wander through the streets and alleyways and eventually we found ourselves at the top of a steep hill and at the woods – we lapped the woods, then lapped the meadows near Carlton Le Willows school before heading back – finding some mystery footpath which eventually dropped us onto the railway track.  We ended up with a four mile walk.

Looking towards the River Trent from the top of the meadow at Gedling Woods

Then another rediscovery – my previous tunnel antics had awakened the interest of some friends so I’d agreed to act as a guide for another visit.  So Rich, Phil, Chris and I went for a wander in the old tunnel again – it was a good laugh.  I have other folks interested too, perhaps I should set up a business.  I was reading about the future development plans for the site – there should’ve been 700 houses there last year, I guess the recession is biting, it’s doing me a favour though!

Hopefully the development continues to stall, whilst the industrial part of the site isn’t that pretty, and most of the nature reserve will be preserved, it would be a shame to have a new big estate right on our doorstep and the inevitable closing off of the tunnel which will be really close to where the housing is planned to be.  We had a few amusing ideas regarding the tunnel, perhaps more on that later.  I await my next party to tunneldom with excitement!

The ol’ ‘torch under the face’ routine makes me look a bit like my mate DanR!

Then a future plan – thanks to Mike observing our exploring antics on Facebook he’s alerted us to an abandoned half-demolished asylum that is ripe for some wandering about for strange middle-aged men – so in that spirit we’ve made plans to do so on Sunday afternoon/evening when there’s apparently no security there.  I shall take the camera, of course.  There’s a couple of embryonic thoughts of sites in Nottingham to look at too.

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Underground, overground, wombling free..

Lambley Lane crossing over the disused railway line

So, having been exploring the Gedling Pit site and as an offshoot ending up going underground, I was pondering the feasibility of hooking up with the old Great Northern railway line that ran through the tunnel in the other direction, getting a different view of areas I’m very familiar with.  Effectively the line actually very nearly connects Cat and I’s current home in Gedling with my old house in Netherfield.

Burton Road from above

It’s really easy to get onto the Railway line at the back of the park on Lambley Lane – and it’s pretty much open, and quite widely used, I encountered a few dog walkers, some kids who ran away from me before reappearing to ask me where the track led, a couple of blokes using it as a shortcut from the shops.  Walking from the pit site you get to go over a few of the small bridges that I’ve driven under countless times, past the former Gedling Railway Station and then over the bigger bridge near the bottom of Shearing Hill crossing Burton Road.

Alongside the Recreation Ground there’s an attempt to block the way off with fences where the old route crosses the active railway lines, but the fences have been ‘adjusted’ and you can get through, you go past the allotments, and the route arcs towards Victoria Retail Park and under the Colwick Loop Road before terminating at Victoria Road on Netherfield with a substantial fence and no gaps that I could  find.  Shortly after this crossing the line rejoins the main and still-active line near Netherfield Station anyway, so it’s not too frustrating to have come to an end at this point.

Surprise little wood…

So I turned back and decided to head through a well-worn path off to the side which took me to a path that leads through to Netherfield, to the right there was an idyllic woodland that occupies the space between the Railway Line, the Loop Road and the Allotments – very pretty, with paths all over it none of which seem to lead anywhere in particular.  So, I headed back to the path to Netherfield, took that and meandered in and around the Loop Road before ending up back at Burton Road Recreation Ground.

The spire of All Hallow’s Church in Gedling

Then it was a case of walking back home on the road route, which meant I could see glimpses of where I’d been from a more familiar position of the roadside, it also meant I could walk back through Gedling itself which through familiarity is sometimes easy to take for granted – it’s a place with many lovely things about it, even All Hallows Church – a temple of oppression – is ridiculously idyllic.  The until-now unnoticed information board near there taught me a few things, including a revelation of J.R.R. Tolkien being a visitor to the place.

So there you go, an overground ramble close to home that shows you familiar sights from unfamiliar angles – in a way I’m really kicking myself that I’ve never troubled to find these things before.  All the pictures I took are here on Facebook should you want to have a peruse.

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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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