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GES011 - Embankment Utility Tunnels

Following a solo trip to some utility tunnels in the Farringdon area, I was intrigued by an item I read in a book on London's subterranean tunnels and tubes. They included a tunnel which followed the Thames and popped up in a statue near the palace of Westminster.

I teamed up with GE077, and we set about finding a way in. This proved to be not so easy, as for obvious reasons, it's rather secure. However eventually we had a breakthrough, and popped down below the pavement. Amusing a trio of American tourists, keen to get a tourist photo of the chaps disappearing into the pavement.

It's not an easy descent into the tunnels, there was no nice set of steps, instead it involved precariously dropping off pipes and cables. Eventually the cars above because a distant rumble, and the eery ambient noise of the tunnel filled the ears. It was then a trip West to Westminster. Quickly i realised why it was worthwhile wearing a helmet, as my head clanged against a cable holder hanging from the ceiling. As seen below.

Eventually after a fairly long walk, we came to the end of the tunnel, and found an old steel ladder leading up above us. It lead into the base of the statue of Boadicea.

GE077 sits at the top of the ladder, taking in the vast base pedestal

At the opposite end of the statue was a door, through which we could see revellers coming off a docked boat at Westminster Pier. Ideas of popping out the door were thwarted.

As we descended the ladder, a round pipe lead off to one side, intrigued we crawled off down it, only to be met with the disappointment of a dead end. Maybe next time.

As the tunnels reach their end, the number of cables peters out. Just the two largest of the pipes being left, and they disappeared into a wall.

Ever wondered about those intricately designed manhole covers in the pavement, well they are vents for the utility tunnels below.

These side exits, like in sewers, gave us hope of an easy exit, but alas, all the lids we've ever found in our wanders around the utility tunnels of London, have a distinct sealed nature. Unlike in the sewers, work at utility tunnels only happens in one location.

Just time for a rather camp-ish duo photo, and then a clamber back up to the surface world.

TRIP 2

Following on from our previous trip, GE077 was keen to go back, and had already been with GE007, but were thwarted by a locked door. We all agreed to go back and with a bit more knowledge, aimed to go beyond the door. The first identified lid was very much locked, but the second one was very much doable. So we all popped down, and were in a square passage, following the Thames down to Temple tube station area.

the end of the tunnel, we came to the door that the other two had met before. GE077 worked some magic, and we were through. The wires pattern was similar to the previous set we'd followed on Trip 1. Large thick pipes on the floor, and thinner wires above. Some black & white for a change.

It 039;s a mad world of wires spilling all over the place like waves crashing against rocks on the coast. A metal bridge provides a way to squeeze between tunnels.

Here trays carried cables, and the ceiling changed from brick to concrete. We also heard the familiar sound of tube trains clattering around somewhere nearby.

The mass of wires was overwhelming in places, and required careful maneuvering to continue passage. My tripod attached to the side of my backpack, continually got trapped in the mass of cables.

Every now and then the tunnel would dip down to a lower level, and bounce up again to the previous level. This enabled passage under a sewer or tube track or something else demanding preferential treatment in this subterranean jungle.

Back out of the tunnels that went north from the E tunnels, this was the junction with the tunnels we'd spent the last couple of hours exploring.The passage down on the left is the tunnel we'd been down, behind the camera leads down to the tunnel we'd explored in Trip 1. The tunnel on the right leading from the camera leads to the square tunnel where we made entry.

We also found a map of the tunnels, just lying about on a large pipe.

There aren't too many clues as to where you are in a utility tunnel. futile attempts to hold a gps phone up to various grills proved fruitless. This was the only clue we found as to where we were.

And with that, it was back up the square tunnel, and out into the cold air and view of the Thames.