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Thread: Windsor Hill tunnels and viaduct, near Maesbury, August '09

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    Default Windsor Hill tunnels and viaduct, near Maesbury, August '09


    My best friend told me about these, her dad has lived only a couple of miles away since he was 15 and they had never found them before. Her dad must have moved to the area just as the line was closing. On our return, we discovered my mum had known about them for years, she had gone with my dad and sister over 20 years before. When they went, both tunnels were blocked off with big metal doors and there was no way in.

    The Windsor Hills tunnels were on the Somerset and Dorset line, or the "Slow and Dirty" as it was more affectionately known! It ran down to Burnham-on-Sea and is a journey well remembered by locals as it took them right down to the seaside, where many had never been before. The nearest station was Maesbury, which opened in July 1874. The station house is still there but is a private home now and the owners get p*ssed off with people poking around.
    The down tunnel dates from the time when the line was built but the up tunnel was added later on, in 1892 when the line was doubled.



    They were closed to all traffic on the 7th March 1966. The line was ripped up pretty much overnight as it had huge sentimental value and British Rail feared an attempt to keep the line running. There is a particularly moving video about the S&D, "All Change at Evercreech Junction". It really was a beloved line and the train drivers and workers all thought they had jobs for life and they really loved their work. Even just before the line closed, some houses along the way still didn't have running water and the only water they got was weekly and delivered by the train.

    Soon after it was closed, the down tunnel was used by Rolls Royce to test the engines for the Concorde. No evidence of this remains now.

    The Windsor Hill tunnels consist of two tunnels, an up and down. The down tunnel is a mixture of bricks and natural rock whilst the newer up tunnel is entirely brick-lined.


    The up tunnel is 126 yards long, the down is 239 yards. The up has a bend in it so unless you stand right at the side you can't see straight through.

    Ok, I am no master photographer, nor do I have an amazing camera so please don't expect the pics to be great, I also only took them for myself as I had no idea this place existed, if anyone is interested next time I go back I will try to get better ones!

    The up tunnel
    Entrance to the up tunnel

    Looking down the up tunnel

    From the side of the up tunnel, only from here can you see straight through

    There are bats living in the end of this tunnel. We didn't see any, which is probably a good thing as I have an overactive imagination and was already expecting monsters in each of the workers' cut outs!

    The down tunnel
    This one is very odd, my friend calls it the "slinky" tunnel and I could see why. It doesn't look that long from the end, then you start walking and the end seems to move further and further away. It really messed with my head and made me really dizzy so on went the torches!




    The signal box
    There was a 16-lever signal box, all that is left is the concrete base. It was closed in August 1948, having been built when the line was doubled up.
    Here is my mum changing the signal...(you may just be able to see some concrete edges)


    The viaduct
    This was a complete surprise, when you're walking along you really have no idea its there. This is the view you have on the approach

    Scramble down the side and you have this





    It was pretty hard to get decent pics of as it was summer and a lot of trees have grown up, I'll probably drag my mum back (drag, ha! She's a railway nut!) when I go home for Easter and try to get some better ones, and ones inside the tunnels.

    And on the way my friend an I detoured via a rather sad-looking pill box, I hope someone gives it some TLC.



    Its across several privately owned fields and tucked away from anywhere but I'm guessing it was built to defend the line only the trees that have grown up over the years stop you from seeing that.

    Hope that's all ok, again appologies for the poor photos but I thought it might be of interest anyway.
    Last edited by hnmisty; 13th Mar 10 at 13:55.

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    Here's a pic from "back in the day" of a train about to enter the down tunnel, going towards Shepton Mallet (or Sh*t and Smellit, if you went to my school. But that too has a historical grounding- Wells and Shepton were on opposite sides in the Civil War so its not our fault we're immature!)
    Last edited by hnmisty; 13th Mar 10 at 13:53.

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    That's a cracking piece of history and write-up, hnmisty. Not bad pics either. Some great finds there...even a pillbox!
    I noticed that there were two quarries on the map you posted. Is there anything remaining of them at all?
    "...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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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxylady View Post
    That's a cracking piece of history and write-up, hnmisty. Not bad pics either. Some great finds there...even a pillbox!
    I noticed that there were two quarries on the map you posted. Is there anything remaining of them at all?
    This might be of help Foxy
    http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mendips/more_in...es_history.htm

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    Nice one HNM -interesting history too :)
    Lb :jimlad:

    Think we're gonna need a bigger boat

    www.severallshospital.co.uk
    www.runwellhospital.co.uk

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    Nice find and explore, it's supprising how many disused tunnels are about. Thanks for sharing.
    Wayne

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    Thanks guys :)

    Foxylady- I've not had a poke around there, but I imagine its a giant hole!
    We've got loads of quarries around here, Fairy Caves mentioned on the site Oldscrote posted is a mere hop away. It was open to wander in as and when you wanted but last Spring the quarry owners put a big fence up. The entrance was blocked so kids couldn't get in with their motorbikes, but now the whole site is fenced. But fear not, I will be in there soon! (and won't leave a mark behind!). Loads of wild strawberries grow in there so there's no way they're keeping me out!

    They stopped quarrying as there is a massive network of caves all around. Some cavers found an absolutely amazing cave full of huge stalagmites and stalagtites but were unable to stop the quarrying before they were destroyed :( However, after that the quarry owner did at least call halt on everything and so there are still loads of caves down there, but the entrances are blocked off. There are openings all over throughout the wood if you know where to look (:))

    There is a quarry on the opposite side, but its very overgrown. When my mum and dad moved in there were Gyppos living in both quarries- one group tidy and the other group really messy. There is also an old lime kiln further up the lane. Plus we have an abandoned village, an old paper mill, a ruined cottage (which has been un-ruined therefore totally ruined by the wildlife trust who own the wood. They have turned it into what we call "the Bat Hotel") and a ruined "stately" home. I will get pics when I go home as they are fascinating.
    Here's some infor on the net
    http://www.bgs.ac.uk/mendips/localit...stmichael.html

    There are other quarries which have filled up with water. They are fenced off so the kids can't go in but every now and then someone rips the fence down with a car. There have been a a few drownings including one which was a bit suspicious- the kid couldn't swim

    Here are my local "haunts"

    ("A" is Fairy Cave Quarry)

    The Fosseway, a Roman road, runs right past my back gate. A few years ago a neighbour up the hill dug down a few feet to have some pipes put in and found the actual Roman part! One of our bridges is Medieval, and just up the road is a Cold War bunker which was built in case Bristol got nuked. It comes up for sale every now and again and is always bought by weirdos. http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/...rks/index.html
    Oh, we also have the remains of a canal that was never finished!

    Sorry for the overload, I get a bit over-enthusiastic sometimes! :D

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    Quote Originally Posted by hnmisty View Post
    The Fosseway, a Roman road, runs right past my back gate.
    Ha! I live just right at the end of The Fosseway!
    What a fantastic amount of interesting stuff you have there...just my kind of stuff. Look forward to seeing your other explores when you've been back home. Thanks for the additional info. :)
    Quote Originally Posted by hnmisty View Post
    Sorry for the overload, I get a bit over-enthusiastic sometimes! :D
    Me too!!!

    Oldscrote, that's a fab website link there...so much info! I spent a happy hour reading through that...then another happy hour trawling through the British Geological site.
    Cheers for that. :)
    "...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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    I come from the west country and I can drive a tractor.


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    Access to fairy quarry caves is controlled by the Cerberus Speleological Society whose H.Q. is just up the road.They will provide a leader for any EXPERIENCED cavers who wish to visit.They are probably the most beautifully decorated caves on Mendip. The ruined mansion is called Ashwick Grove and is a dereliction dream and well worth a visit.The canal is the remains of the Somerset and Dorset of which only the branch from Frome to Edford was ever completed,an aqueduct remains in Coleford and a packhorse bridge lies in a field opposite the Duke of Cumberland pub in Holcome.A lot else remains on the route.

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    Oldscrote, where are you from? Ashwick Grove (knew Grange wasn't right was but having a mind-blank) is one of my favourtie haunts.
    There were a few problems a few years ago of cavers blowing up some of the smaller entrances in the woods (the ones they could find) but they seem to have p*ssed off now. The caves with the massive stalagmites in were enough to stop the quarry from blasting any more rock, unfortunately they weren't in time to stop that very cave being wrecked.
    A farmer up the road filled in part of the canal in one his fields in the 60s. He regrets it now but never thought anything of it at the time. We suspect a tunnel to be in a different farmer's field but can't know for sure. My mum has spent quite a lot of time researching it. Canals and railways are a matter not to mention unless you have a LOT of time!
    Percy Lambert has written a good book about the area
    http://www.thisissomerset.co.uk/clev...l/article.html
    You can also still see where the old turnpike road ran. The father (or his father?) of the same farmer who we think has the tunnel on his land lived in the old turnpike cottage before it was demolished.

    Foxylady...I should walk down the Fosseway and finish up at your front door then! I am going home in just over a week and then shall get snap happy!

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