Site Name: Greywell Tunnel - Basingstoke Canal
Sub Brit site visit April 1975, March 1976 & September 2004
[Source: Nick Catford]
The last recorded regular commercial traffic through Greywell Tunnel was to and from the Nately Brickworks which opened in 1898 producing 2 million the following year. Traffic must have been considerable but the venture was short lived with the works closing in 1901.
Greywell Tunnel - the west portal about 1920
There are now five ponds above the western end of the tunnel; it is the pressure of water from one of these that caused the collapse; a tree fell through and was left standing upright through the roof of the tunnel. The blockage was initially only partial and the tunnel was still passable for canoeists until the early 1950's. A further collapse has now left the tunnel blocked with soil up to the roof although the material appears to be soft and could, in time, be cleared and the roof repaired. Despite the collapse the brick lining between the collapse and the western end appears to be in sound condition.
At the eastern end, the tunnel can be navigated for 800 yards up to
the collapse and each summer there is a boat trip along the tunnel to
check the condition of the brick lining. At other times there is no
access following the discovery of bats hibernating in 1995. It has now
been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a locked
gate has been installed inside the east portal to conserve the tunnel
as a winter hibernation and breeding habitat and stop unauthorised access.
Photo:Greywell Tunnel - the east portal in 2004
Photo by Paul Naylor
The present limit of navigation is the winding hole (a wider piece of canal where boats can perform the equivalent of a three point turn in order to go back the way they came. An indentation in the bank allows the bows of a narrowboat to be held whilst the prevailing wind blows the boat round. Hence the unusual pronunciation - winding hole.) immediately west of the Whitewater aqueduct although the 600 yards up to the eastern portal was been dredged in 1987 to clear the spring heads and improve the water supply. The portal was renovated by Hampshire County Council in 1975 to mark European Architectural Heritage Year.
Click here for a full account of A J Harmsworths last trip along the Basingstoke Canal and through Greywell Tunnel.
See also: Little Tunnel - Basingstoke Canal
Click on thumbnail to enlarge
[Source: Nick Catford]