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Thread: Hook Norton and Swerford Park railway cuttings and tunnel portals, May 2008

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    Default Hook Norton and Swerford Park railway cuttings and tunnel portals, May 2008


    This is a section of the abandoned railway line that once connected Banbury and Cheltenham, closed in 1964. Today it forms a nature reserve owned by the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust and though it's not the most exciting site you'll ever see it's more worth a visit than the average abandoned railway because within a short distance it has not only a tunnel but the remains of a viaduct. For me it's a return to my roots, though it's the first time I've been to this particular site I cut my exploring teeth on Beeching-era railway remains in the 1980s. It was chucking it down when I was there so I got rather wet and the photographs were a little hurried to avoid the camera getting wet.

    This site is split into two subsites, the cuttings north and south of the tunnel. Access is easy enough from the local minor roads and the wildlife trust have even provided small lay-bys for parking. Into the north site first, scrambling down the steps into the cutting by the road bridge. The vegetation on this side of the site has been left to grow, and the cutting is heavily overgrown with mature trees and an impressive array of ferns and smaller plants in on the trackbed. Walking up the cutting towards the tunnel you reach an area where the cutting side has collapsed in a landslip. Past the landslip and there's the northern portal of Swerford Park tunnel. Sadly it's well secured. The disused tunnels database has it listed as 490 yards long.



    Next to the northern tunnel portal stand the remains of a permanent way shelter.



    Returning down the cutting and under the bridge, the trackbed emerges from the hill onto an embankment. This ends abruptly at the site of a viaduct which once carried the railway over the valley of the river Swere. All that remains of the viaduct are the stone piers which once supported it, the iron deck having been removed for scrap soon after closure. It's an impressive sight, the line of piers being higher than the surrounding trees.





    The southern cutting is a very different site from its neighbour. The wildlife trust have managed this one by removing excess vegetation to create a meadow habitat so there are none of the large trees of the photographs above. Instead there are wide grassy slopes covered with wild flowers. A short walk up the southern cutting brings you to the other tunnel portal, yet again securely closed.



    This is not an A-list explore, and it certainly won't take too long. But it's an easy walk with no accessibility worries and is worth a quick detour if you are visiting Hook Norton for the brewery tour.

    There are more pictures of Swerford Park tunnel, the cuttings and viaduct on Dereliction in the Shires.

    A Flash Earth link to the tunnel is here:

    http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=51.98....3&r=0&src=msl

    Last edited by batroy; 6th May 08 at 06:58.

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  3. #2
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    Looks like a nice place for a rambel:)
    Aversos Compono Animos

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    Thanks mate, shame the tunnel has been blocked off. Looks very wet down there!
    Oops! I don't think I should have done that!
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    Quote Originally Posted by cardiffrail View Post
    Thanks mate, shame the tunnel has been blocked off. Looks very wet down there!
    As far as I could see it wasn't a "wet" cutting or tunnel as such, the standing water was all pretty shallow and the result of the fact it was chucking it down. Anyway, four tunnels in the county, two are blocked(the other being Horspath), one's still in use(Oxford Woodstock Road) so the odds of number 4(Chipping Norton) being open are not high. Some point I'll give it a look and you'll see the pictures.

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    lovely spot. Visited it a few times when i lived near there. From memory there's another tunnel further down the line just NW of Chipping Norton. Think it's blocked up as well though.
    Some days you wake and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it's just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble

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    What a delightful place! The stone pillars of the viaduct are a bit scary...very interesting, but scary! Good stuff! :)
    "...If we lose our spiritual bond with the land they'll be nothing left of us as a nation..." Phil Rickman.

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