Friday, May 27, 2005

The Tunnel of Crabwood

My knee appears to have miraculously healed itself after being out of action for a year. I can’t recall any encounters with anyone who potentially may have been a faith healer in the past few months, so I’m going to have to chalk it down to the realms of mystery.

My run took me to a spot in the woods I’d completely forgotten about. When I was younger, it was common knowledge amongst us kids that there was a mysterious network of tunnels under Crabwood. The entrance to this tunnel was quite strange: seemingly dug out of the soil and chalk, it was just about big enough for a man, or daring 11-year old boy, to clamber into and thus could easily be mistaken for a badger’s set. But once you crawled about 5 foot in, there was a 6 foot drop from which point the tunnel was more than tall and wide enough for a man to progress along without being on all fours. Now, me and three mates – despite what we boasted to other gangs of would-be explorers – never had the guts to venture too far into this tunnel: after 15 feet or so there was a sharp corner and none of us ever dared see what lay beyond it, out of sight of the tunnel entrance, source of light and only known exit. This was probably wise but meant we never discovered what the tunnel was for or just how big it was. Rumour had it from our rivals that it went on for hundreds of metres. I remember being really stumped as to what it’s purpose was, but as 11-year olds I guess we didn’t question too hard something which looking back now I still think was a pretty odd thing: it was just grown up stuff. And then I got a bit older and a bit lazier, and was of the opinion that there were far more important things to be doing than clambering about in the mud, and duly forgot about it.

And so, tonight whilst running I stumbled across the site of the tunnel again, and found the entrance had been comprehensively filled in and was now totally overgrown. My curiosity once more lapping at the sides of the pail of my mind, I am now going to conduct a furious internet search.

**** 1 Hour later****
Ok, I've found just one solitary mention of the tunnel on the whole interweb (which at least confirmed I hadn’t imagined the whole thing). A brief entry on http://www.darkplaces.co.uk/, a website for people who like going down holes and stuff, was listed on Google, and finally my childhood memories, the validity of I had begun to doubt, were confirmed.

" north of Winchester, you go up a gravel track called lanham lane into the woods going up a steep hill. In the field to your right is an underground reservoir which I think is still in use. Towards the top of the hill you'll see some big radio and tv transmitter aerials. A few metres after a left turning on the right hand side of lanham lane is a hole in the ground left by the roots of a fallen tree from the oct 87 hurricane (unless it has been filled in now). You can get into the tunnel through a hole in the bottom of there. The tunnel itself is probably about half a mile long and is cut out of the solid chalk, the height of the roof varies enormously, sometimes cut out of the chalk and sometimes concrete slabs laid at surface level about 20ft high. The tunnel runs parallel to lanham lane which goes towards crab wood. There is a pipe (presumably water to or from the reservoir) running along the bottom of the tunnel. the hole from the tree leads onto a ledge, not directly to the tunnel floor so shuffle carefully along because there is a drop of about 5ft from the ledge down to the floor of the tunnel. The walls are rough so its easy enough to climb up and down from the ledges to the tunnel floor but dont twist your ankle on the pipe as you drop down! "

So I’m guessing now the network of tunnels had something to do with the reservoir, and that perhaps our ‘entrance’ to them had accidentally been created by an uprooted tree. So that means the tunnels are probably still there…

At least now I've added to the internet's documentation of the Crabwood Tunnel: maybe some fellow explorers will google their way here one day.

9 comments:

george said...

yes i have been in the tunnel at crabwood as a boy.we used a torch and candles,but i was not aware that there was more than one tunnel.it was possible then to exit the end nearer to crabwood if you followed the large black pipe.i thought the reservoir was built some time after we discovered the tunnel but may be wrong.

JLovely1979 said...

Interesting. My Dad, who is 65 next week as often told me of a Tunnel that's opening starts at Crab Wood and brings you out at God Begot House in town. He used to play in said Tunnel as a child in the late 50's/early 60's but never ventured far into it. His Father told him if it was followed it would link up with the Tunnels under Winchester Town Centre that were used by the Monks many years ago.

Anonymous said...

I went in this tunnel about 1995 and it was as you described and even had a ladder in it to get to the ground level from the platform. I found it as a small hole just under a tree. After reading this today 30th May 2012, we went there to find it but whilst there is real evidence of the tunnel being there, I can't find a way into it

Anonymous said...

These comments brought back many memorys of the many times me and friends in the mid sixtys went through this tunnel with a candle for light many a time we would get to the other end to find itfilled in and claw our way out with bare hands.

Anonymous said...

There is another tunnel towards the end before Farley mount , is this the same one? Could you tell me in more detail how to find your entrance if it's still there?

Anonymous said...

WOW! i was a border at what was Montgomery of Alamien back in the mid 80's, and we knew of these tunnels and I too went down them as an 11 year old. I don't remember the 5ft drop though.

Anonymous said...

Is this near the Sarum road end of Lanham lane or the teg down end ? Seems like there are two reservoirs near each end.

I looked on google earth and there seems to be a linear feature running parallel east of Lanham road, NE of Crab Wood.

Derek said...

I have often thought about this, and just found this post by searching for 'underground tunnel north of winchester'. The tunnel was indeed there and I went right through the whole length of it (400 - 500 metres I would guess) several times. One end of it was just next to the fork in the lane, where one track (now called Clarendon Way) goes south towards Kilham Lane, and the other carries on to meet Sarum Road near the Crabwood crossroads. The other end of the tunnel was in a gap in the hedge to the right, further along Lanham Lane to the West. The entrances were at the bottom of conical chalk pits about 6 feet deep, and were just about big enough to wriggle into. The bottom of the tunnel sloped down quite steeply, and the ceiling was horizontal, made of concrete. But periodically you came to a vertical wall with just another small slot to get into the next section and the pattern would repeat, maybe four times before getting to the lowest point. About half way, the slope would ascend on the same pattern to the exit point. There was a ceramic water pipe along the floor for the whole length. It seemed an enormously elaborate structure with no purpose that I could think of. I often wondered who built it and why. When I checked a few years ago the entrances had been filled in and grown over. Occasionally I wondered whether I dreamed or imagined it!

Anonymous said...

I went to the very end as a boy. There was about six of us that did it around 1980/81. We used our bicycle lamps to see where we were going. I remember a black pipe being exposed at various lengths along the tunnel and at times the ceiling was quite high with small round vents drainpipe size so there were light shafts. At other points you would have to wriggle through small sections. The had caved in. The entrance was near the Scott/Cub camp at Pinsent Woods on the corner of Lanham Lane and Clarendon Way. In order to get into the tunnel you had to lay on your back and go feet first under a concrete ledge. It was a gentle slope then you could stand up. Immediately you had the choice of either going over the top of the initial section or crawling underneath through a small tunnel whereafter it opened up again and you could stand upright. I believe the whole entrance has been filled in now.