When it snows, go in Drains. A few Gentlemen and I decided to participate in COTS in December 2010, having seen a few delightful pics of the system online. This section of Collossus of the South was everything I was expecting it to be, more impressive even than Hastings’ Stinger storm drain, with a deliciously different feature; the plughole that leads down from the Victorian sections.
I arrived in Brighton with Chris, after a relatively easy journey down the A24. We sat in a chippy eating delicious curry sauce covered chips waiting for the others, who joined us just as we walked out of the door. The snow was pelting it down and I had concerns that the melt would be occuring and populating the tunnel. The temperature of -2 was sufficient to ally all fears and after checking the lid for Lower, we decided we’d need to come more prepared and trekked off to Lower COTS, the concrete storm tunnel built in the 1990s.
Lower COTS was dry, the water was just running in the gully at the bottom, and the 5 of us spent the next two hours getting in each others photos, nicking each other’s lighting kit, using flashguns at all the wrong times, and Danny getting naked.
I liked COTS. For all it’s concretey goodness, it felt just like the Antwerp Premetro, another similar sized tunnel. We stuck around at the plughole taking pics and contemplating the return trip with ropes and bicycles. We needed to go back and do it properly, on a clear day with no snow sat on top ready to fill up the tunnel – something that had us cautious.
The drive home took a good 5 hours, rarely hitting more than 30mph thanks to the snow. No regrets at all though, this was an excellent first trip to COTS.
In November 2011 we met up with Mike, whose work had provided us with the access in 2010. We ascended at the same spot having been given a drive along the seafront with each lid pointed out to us, and then walked from Hove to the Marina, where we exited.
Not each exit is the same – several have plugholes similar to the one at the entrance, however there is also this beautiful step arrangement spiraling to the lid. The tunnel itself gets sludgier and more slippery the further you go, and at the end there is a chamber with various machinery, any flow dropping into a pit where I assume it is taken away to be treated.
We’d hoped to access Upper COTS, the Balazgettian brick sections running through the hills of Brighton, but as we couldn’t access this from Lower, we walked the entire length of this tunnel – 2.9 miles in total, it seems a lot longer when you’re in there, and longer still when your waders are chafing!
At the top of the shaft at the end, there is a control centre – sat on top of a high set of enclosed stairs leading up, it’s an odd thing to find in a sewer system, I’m used to brick, brick and more brick, with the occassional rusty cog or two at a penstock. These modern concrete sewers are a different breed to the ones I’m used to in London – the architecture is considerably different and although not perhaps as impressive as vast brick chambers, the size is stunning and the means to access are more comfortable. At Deep Ochre, there is a 30m ladder which leads straight down – somewhat tiring after a hike whilst carrying kit.
This was a great return trip to COTS. I have been advised there is an additional section more recently completed, which will have to be found. Upper continues to elude me, (Or I continue to elude it?), and there’s always reason to head to Brighton. Thanks must go to Bekah for putting me up, and Mike for all his work in identifying access – this wouldn’t have been possible otherwise!