The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

The River Fleet – August 2010

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The River Fleet is the best known of  the ‘lost’ London rivers, being the one that was most central to the City of London. We’d dipped our feet in the waters of the Tyburn, Counters Creek and the Westbourne, but hadn’t really given much effort to The Fleet. I couldn’t say why. Danny had identified a set of lids which may have yielded, and the first we tried set us into the River. We headed downstream.

Being subject to the tides of the Thames, we were aware that the lower sections near the outfall would not be accessible at the time we entered the system, and as such, stayed in the upper sections until the tide would be at it’s lowest.

Advice that we’ve recieved varies from “The whole river is tidal”, to “It’s only the bit by the outfalls that’s tidal”, and as such, we decided to play it safe by finding out for ourselves. Lots of advice gets handed out with regards to drains, usually “Don’t do it, it’s not safe!”, but these environments are places where you can quite happily go with the knowledge of how they work and when the tides are down.

The brick stairs above were an interesting feature; a dead rat bounced down them while we walked. a £10, five million candlepower searchblaster came with us, and lit the place admirably. Shame it only lasted for about half an hour!

The river inexplicably split somewhat further from this point, after passing through a modern RCP. Workers lights hung on the walls and most likely, works had been occurring that day. There was no mist on the bulbs or power lines, and none of the usual drain grot you find hanging on the walls and rails.

The split ran for about 100 metres and dropped us close to the outfall. The relief was flowing heavily and having felt we’d had a successful time in the river, we decided to call it quits for this night. We intend to return to visit the outfall and lower section, and of course the upper. We may have hit just 10% of the river.

On a side note, earlier in the evening we checked out potential access to the Acton Storm relief, a relatively recent sewer pipe designed to take the strain from Counters Creek. A split square had a broken bolt and when we lifted it, the two parts disconnected and fell down the shaft. Each piece weighs 24 Kilos and to carry them up the ladder is hard work, but we did it!!!

Written by Winch

August 17th, 2010 at 10:15 am

Posted in Drains

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6 Responses to 'The River Fleet – August 2010'

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  1. Nice work you guys… can’t believe you were able to lift that lid back up the shaft!

    Loving the contrast in the last shot btw.


    18 Aug 10 at 12:00 pm

  2. I told you to watch out for those split covers! Good work retrieving it tho. I last did that in Sydney in 2001. Nearly gave myself a hernia lifting it up the shaft.


    19 Aug 10 at 3:26 am

  3. Butter Fingers.

    I am curious about your adventures into the Acton Storm Relief. When you say its new, i take it you mean under construction? The tunnel cant be complete yet unless they are way ahead of schedule, it was still in pre planning in 2009. Quite interested to see pictures on this one too as the original idea put it at around 4m in diameter:D.

    If not do you possibly mean the 70’s Acton flood relief? which is a slightly smaller and smellier affair 😛


    19 Aug 10 at 3:55 am

  4. We had a couple of lids to test but none led us into anything large enough to walk/stoop down. One was a ladder down a narrow shaft, straight into the pipe, and another was a slightly larger chamber, maybe 20ft further down. Not sure what we actually accessed, but it wasn’t worth pursuing from the lids we used.


    19 Aug 10 at 8:53 am

  5. This was 2007/2008 work that I hoped would turn something up – no pay out evidently, possibly due to mixing a couple of different info sources and ending up with the location for one system, whilst actually hoping to reach the other.

    19 Aug 10 at 3:24 pm

  6. […] many years of epic exploration by drainers like Otter and Jon Doe. While we enjoyed exploring the River Fleet, The Tyburn and The Westborne sewers, I was especially fond of the Rubix junction in Brixton, in […]

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