Monday, May 29, 2017

(One of the) Two Tunnels Greenway

The other day we decided to walk along a part of the Two Tunnels Greenway (or Two Tunnels Shared Path) that runs from Bath, along the route of the Somerset and Dorset Railway, through Devonshire and Combe Down tunnels, Midford Station and possibly on to Wellow.
By good fortune we had chosen a beautiful day and, after enjoying a particularly tasty lunch at the Hope and Anchor pub, in Midford, we set off towards the other end of Combe Down Tunnel, and back.
Here, then, are some photos that I took during the walk.
Before heading towards Combe Down tunnel we first took a brief walk along part of the 168 yard Midford viaduct - S&D Bridge Nº 18. Apparently it is possible to walk or cycle all the way to Wellow and, next time, we do plan to cycle this entire section, if it is possible.
A stunning view from the viaduct at Midford, looking north east.
Midford platform, looking south and, I believe, there are plans to reconstruct some of the buildings that would have been here although I do not know how close these plans are to fruition.
This is the stunning view that is afforded you when you stand on Midford platform. If you look closely, to the left, you can just see a part of the viaduct that once carried the line from Hallatrow to Limpley Stoke. Passenger services on this line ceased in 1925 and the track between Hallatrow and Camerton was lifted in 1930. Goods services continued between Camerton and Limpley Stoke until final closure in 1951, after which the line briefly came back to life again for the filming of 'The Titfield Thunderbolt'.
Midford's Long Arch Bridge (Nº 17) looking towards Bath. The length of this bridge was governed by the oblique angle of Tucking Mill Lane which descends over the S&D at this point. It is 37 yards long, which means that it is too short to be designated a tunnel.
Looking south, back towards the Long Arch Bridge. A small goods yard was situated to the left here and much of it is still visible today, including what must be the base of the old crane. It was necessary for the yard to be located some distance from the station due to the station's position on a narrow hillside ledge.
This is Midford Castle, just visible behind the trees. It was built in 1775 for Henry Disney Roebuck from designs by John Carter and is in the shape of the 'clubs' symbol as used in playing cards (♣). It was famously sold to the actor Nicolas Cage in 2007 for £5 million who then sold it two years later. I am not sure how much time he actually spent there!
This is a view, again looking south, over the 110 yard Tucking Mill viaduct - Bridge Nº 16. The viaduct was widened in the 1890s in anticipation of track doubling but the cost of doing this was never justified and could never have even been contemplated through Combe Down and Devonshire tunnels.
A view from the viaduct, looking east. The small fishing lake below is owned by Wessex Water and is only accessible via footpath or cyclepath. It is a haven of peace and quiet here and is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Another view of the lake - with fish clearly visible!
The viaduct from down below, beside the lake - and doesn't she look magnificent. Apparently a proposed Combe Down station would have been sited just to the north of this viaduct, on the down side of the single line, between the viaduct and Combe Down tunnel. A proposal that was, obviously, never realized and it is difficult to imagine such a station ever attracting too many passengers, to be honest.
A closer look at the small lake and its idyllic surroundings, making it hard to imagine its close proximity to urban Bath.
A final glimpse through the trees of just some of the viaduct's eight arches.
Our first view of the southern end of Combe Down tunnel - Bridge Nº 15. This tunnel is 1,829 yards long and, from the south, the ruling gradient is 1 in 100 up. This changes to 1 in 50 down just 400 yards short of the northern portal.
Getting closer to the tunnel now and, very soon, we would swap the warm, dry conditions outside of the tunnel for the cool, damp conditions inside. In railway days this tunnel was the UK's longest unventilated tunnel while, now, it is the UK's longest foot / cycle path tunnel.
Just inside the tunnel and you can see a slight bend ahead ...
.. before the tunnel straightens and disappears into the dimly lit distance.
This photo was taken just before the northern exit and is looking back towards Midford. From this it can be seen that the tunnel curves slightly at each end with a long straight section in the middle.
Here is the northern portal of the tunnel, taken from the picturesque Lyncombe Vale, another idyllic location that belies the fact that Bath Spa station, for instance, is only about half a mile away. Moger's Bridge 1 (Nº 14, a rail-over bridge), is just visible immediately before the tunnel entrance.
This is Moger's Bridge 2 (Nº 13, a rail-under bridge), looking towards Bath. It is situated not far from the northern portal of the tunnel.

Continuing through the attractive Lyncombe Vale, towards ...
... Devonshire Tunnel. At only 447 yards long, it is much the shorter of the two tunnels but was no less intimidating for southbound train crews who faced a daunting 1 in 50 climb through the narrow, unventilated bore. Both of these tunnels had a clearance of just 12 inches between the roof and the top of many a locomotive chimney. So you can only imagine the noise, the smoke and the heat that would be generated by locomotives pounding up the grade.
For us it was, sadly, now time to return to Midford, leaving Devonshire tunnel and the rest of the journey into Bath for another day and, hopefully this time, on two wheels rather than on two feet!

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