The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

Holy Brook – November 2010

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‘Gimme Shelter

It’s that other thing in Reading we just hadn’t done. Holy Brook has largely been ignored on the assumption that it probably wasn’t much good, it definitely wasn’t very big, it wasn’t a drain, it wasn’t a sewer, it was just a bit of a trickle that got in the way and so was covered at some point. Nevertheless, these things do need looking into.

I met up with Gorbotch, we kitted up in our waders, outside my house. That was wierd. We then walked the 10 minutes or so to the point we made entry, which was as simple as lowering ourselves in.

The upstream end looked like there was more cover, downstream clearly opened out again after no more than 20 metres, so we splashed our way up the tunnel, with the waters splashing around our knees.

The tunnel was about 2 metres tall, arched, stock-brick and most likely built at some point in the 1800s. It wasn’t hugely elegant; it didn’t have the style of London’s Victorian brickwork. [No Bazalgette in ‘Ding].

We walked through some modern box culvert sections, as well as vaulted brick. The surface was full of bricks and waste, including several cans of Special Brew. After a short while the tunnel opened up again, running past the backyard of a local Indian.


The light shining slightly upstream of this pic is the skylight into a lingerie shop that we dubbed ‘The Gloryhole’ mainly because it’s views into a shop full of underwear.


After this unusual feature, the height dropped to a mere 4 foot, but eventually it opened out to a section we referred to as the air raid shelter, a section of corrugated metal that resembled an Anderson Shelter. This was hard to walk on, and due to the circular nature of the base of the tunnel, it was deeper too. My waders were breached. This section felt familiar, quite a lot in common with some of Dover’s deep shelters.

The Air Raid Shelter

This opened out after a short while to an old brick section, which led to the tallest section of the culvert and the eventual opening out again in the rear of the Oracle shopping centre.


We walked back and agreed to see the other end of the culvert by The Blade, which was just an open section and a concrete box culvert, eventually feeding back into the Kennet and Avon Canal.


We both enjoyed Holy Brook; there’s a lot of different types of culvert there and for such a short stretch (half a mile), there’s no repetitive boring sections.

Written by Winch

November 18th, 2010 at 11:19 pm

Posted in Drains

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4 Responses to 'Holy Brook – November 2010'

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  1. […] inflatable boat down the river with me, taking in some of Reading’s other watercourses too. Holy Brook stretches for a couple of kilometers and although not as open, offers a cosy excursion for those […]

  2. I’ve kayaked down around here a few times. I’ve heard rumours that it leads under the Abbey ruins somewhere?

    Great photos!


    14 Mar 13 at 3:29 pm

  3. It skirts the outside but I don’t think it goes under the ruins themselves – thanks!


    15 Mar 13 at 10:09 pm

  4. Very nice, I want to do. In Abingdon so not to far. 2 things between home and Reading tomorrow if still into this. not underground tomorrow, a lot easier, old buildings.I found another, a newspaper piece, he did another way but all I can find is the not nice way. another underground jolly in reading. Wont say to much on here. any chance of a email. got an idea. Realise this was 11 years ago and you might not even be here now.

    2 things in reading, your thing and another similar. Just want to see if point you went in is what I would pick. Google and streetview is your friend. All details in business page for drone or a bit on YT. or this I guess, filled in email. Says it will hide it, not to you maybe.

    Daniel Glover

    16 Jul 21 at 10:47 am

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