GES274 - London Power Tunnels - Wandsworth
I'd already been into the newly contructed Power Tunnels a few years ago at Eade Road site, when we found a TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine). In order to access the tunnels 30m under London, we'd precariously climbed down a box crane.This time it was the Wandsworth site. (Image taken from Tunnels Online)
I'd past the construction site in Wandsworth a number of times. While on a walk along the river, I decided to take a closer look at the site. Sometimes I amuse myself by trying to work out how to infiltrate a site, without actually going in. Roll on a few months, and it looked like the site wasn't being used much, so I teamed up with GE035 to take a look. The access method worked like a charm, and we dodged bounce beams and cctv to get in via an unusual route. As we looked over the edge of the hole, there were no stairs or box crane. Just a dodgy cable ladder, not designed to be used for the purpose of climbing. Game over, we walked off.
I thought about it a bit more, and GE035 had recently been on a rope training course, with an ex-army explorer. Our minds came together that this would be a great opportunity to play with ropes, so we set about a return trip.
On returning, nothing had changed on the site. GE029 came along with his 40m rope. After a bit of umming and arring, we settled on where to anchor the rope, and fed it into the hole. There were numerous pipes around the pitch site, mostly connected to power and drainage. We were careful to avoid them. GE029 went first, and shot down the rope, bouncing all over the place. Safely at the bottom, GE035 went next.
Most importantly the Go-Pro was checked and film rolling. Then the descent...
A spec at the bottom, he'd made it.
I used GE035's stop, as I didn't fancy a figure of 8 descent of this height. Trying to use the cable ladder proved unwise, the rope felt awkward as well. Finally down, a look back at the night sky.
This mainly being boring RCP (Reinforced Concrete Pipe), I wasn't planning to explore much. There was a train here to make things a little interesting.
The RCP continued with tracks and walking grills either side, as before in North London. I didn't fancy going far, just under the Thames for the lolz.
We'd only walked 5 minutes or so, when we came across a workers area. They were pulling up the tracks. This is looking back the way we'd come in the below pic.
Thinking this was now going to be a boring walk in an RCP, I happened to spot something ahead that looked a bit like a bicycle wheel. It was!!! Now this was going to be 100 times as fun!
Clearly after spending 100's of millions of pounds on building the tunnels, it seemed only right that they'd give the workers some of the cheapest, poor condition mountain bikes to get around underground on. Still, they worked, and I set off for a ride. Mimiicking the famous Italian Job scene with the minis, and riding up the walls. Although it proved impossible, as at a certain point the bike just slipped down the pipe wall. I then spotted a second bike further up, so GE029 hopped on as well. After fannying about for a bit, I gave the bike to GE035, who set off for a spin with GE029. I headed back to the hole to the surface, as I was a bit worried about the unsupervised rope above.
10minutes walk and I was back to the trains near the hole.
The train tracks curved in the base of the hole. One day where I'm stood and the hole above will be filled in. The tunnel going off to the left, heads off to Wimbledon where it terminates. The right tunnel where we walked, heads to North London.
I popped into the tunnel to Wimbledon, and another train without carriages sat there.
Looking the other way, a few more carriages were dotted about.
And with that I went to clip onto the rope. GE035 and GE029 had emerged from the tunnel. As I tried to clip in and start to climb, the rope appeared to continue to come down, way more than I was used too. It was then I realised this must be dynamic rope! Dynamic rope has a lot more give in it, to allow for falls. The downside is that it's 'much' harder to ascend on, due to the bounciness. With GE029 helping to pull down the rope, I went up a little way, and then proceeded to climb up the cable ladder, still clipped onto the rope in case i slipped. There wasn't much room between the wall and the cable ladder, so I could only get the tips of my feet on the 'rungs' and my hands had to be claw like in order to grip. With a short rest half way up, I made it out in 5 minutes, although it felt like a lifetime. The featureless walls give no sense of scale. I then watched the others safely ascend. We packed up and left, a good night out.
N.B. In the summer of 2016, the access to the vent shaft was sealed up.