The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

The Stinking Fleet

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January 2011

As ever the routine was followed. Park up, kit up, get down. We entered down concrete steps into an overflow chamber which had a drophole into what I assumed was the Fleet Storm Relief: from this we could climb into the sewer ‘proper’. The water was shin deep and although not bearing an overly heavy flow, was noted.

Overflow chamber

We trudged along the narrow tunnel, which had a very uneven surface beneath. In some places there was gravel and silt with which to gain extra footing, although when this ceased, it became very easy to slip. The path was sufficiently slippery as to need stabilising by pushing back on the curved wall to my left, upon which residues had collected.

A roar ahead signalled a feature of sorts, the flow building up to push us along as points, though never reaching further than our knees. We eagerly checked manhole exits for easy-lifts, however few were forthcoming. This only added to the feeling of being entombed.

The Fleet is a stinking tunnel. The odours are not pleasant, the water is regularly deeper than many other London sewers and the fact it’s slippery makes it something of an accomplishment to navigate from top to toe without losing your footing and doing the drainor dance (Arms out, lean forwards, lean back, slide feet, do a little twist)


We reached the source of the roar, a tunnel diverting into the Mid Level Intercepting Sewer. Handrails appeared on the right side and as we got closer to the steep drop, it became evident that the drop combined with the flow of water was capable of inflicting a serious injury on anybody inept enough to fail to cross past the weir. (we saw a young ratty washed to what we assumed was his death)

Past the weir was a dry section, dry except for the few stray turds that had breached, along with several strings of toilet roll and the odd tampon. The waters returned shortly after as several small flows emptied into the main line of the river, and ‘sewer surfing’ was possible again. The surface is so slippery, the water flow just about sufficient to push you along the brickwork if you turn yourself perpendicular to the tunnel.


At St Pancras, the tunnel had been reinforced in 2004 for the building of the new Eurostar terminal,  with modern concrete box sextions installed. The overflow chamber is an interesting example of creative use of box sections combined with cast concrete.  This point is assumedly where the original overflow to the storm relief tunnel was – with trains now running over the tunnel, who wouldn’t want to make sure it wasn’t going to cave in?


From this point the tunnel reverted back to the original brick, with various reinforced sections underneath the Euston Road. These looked like iron, and were crumbing away in some places. Dan took a swim and we left at the next convenient point, scaring a group of girls as we climbed out of the ladder. We must return!

Back to the Old

Written by Winch

January 27th, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Drains

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One Response to 'The Stinking Fleet'

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  1. I will endeavor to spend even more time playing in the water should we make a return.

    28 Jan 11 at 8:07 pm

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