Monthly Archives: August 2021

Links for the 28th of August

The Victoria Tunnel

The Victoria Tunnel runs beneath the streets of Newcastle, from the Tyne up to the Town Moor. It traverses not only space, but time, through nearly every corner of England’s history: built to transport coal in the Industrial Revolution, on the site of an old Roman spring, it was used during the second world war to house those fleeing German bombs. It was even considered for use in the cold war, before the government realised that some musty old coal tunnels would probably not provide the greatest protection against a nuclear blast.

And now you can go down it. In 2007, Newcastle City Council decided to refurbish the tunnel and open a small stretch of it — the rest is either unsafe for sending humans down or currently in use as a sewer — up for public tours. Entry is via a side street along the Ouseburn, where the guides will cheerfully show you a map and some old photographs of the entrance. Once you get inside the tunnel itself, hard hats and torches are compulsory, and covid restrictions are still in full force. This was both a benefit and a malefit: yes, the tour was shorter than it would otherwise be, and masks get quite uncomfortable when you’re wearing them for an hour in a dank, dark tunnel, but on the other hand, our small group of family and friends got the place practically all to ourselves, without having to be shepherded alongside other members of the public.

The water from the ancient Roman spring is directed through a side channel, to avoid it getting all over the tunnel floor. Sometimes it even works!

The tunnel is just barely wide enough to fit three people side-by-side, and if, like me, you’re of a certain height, bumping your head on the roof is practically guaranteed. By every blast door, there’s a plaque about what’s above you, and how it factors into the tunnel and the city’s history, stories with which the guides will gladly regale visitors (including some rather grim tragedies).

Coming back out the entrance, i felt more informed about this wonderful county’s industrial history — just in time to pop over to a gentrified vegan “superfood pub”. The wonders of modern life.

Information for prospective visitors

  • Tours can be booked on the Ouseburn Trust’s website.
  • Price: £9–11 per adult depending on the length of the tour; £4 per child
  • Address:
    Victoria Tunnel Entrance, Ouse St., Valley, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PF
    — just next to the CrossFit gym.
  • Accessibility: The tunnel was built in the 19th century and without accessibility in mind, so is not wheelchair-accessible. The Ouseburn Trust do, due to the pandemic, offer a virtual tour.
  • Getting there: The Q3 bus from the centre of town stops nearby; otherwise, getting there poses a bit of a hike, due to its location.

Links for the 20th of August

Links for the 14th of August

High Force

Nestled amongst County Durham’s moors and Pennine peaks lies England’s mightiest waterfall. The waters of High Force tumble over 22 metres and 300 million years of stone, down into the plunge pool below. The falls were formed where the river Tees meets the Great Whin Sill, a tough slab of igneous rock covering much of the north of England.

When the water level is high enough, the force splits into two streams, one going the other way around the rocks — after storms, it can even overflow the plateau entirely. Alas, despite recent showers, my group were not so lucky.

The Raby family, owners of the estate, charge £2 to see the view from the base of the falls. The falls tower over any mere human who dares navigate down, demanding one’s respect and attention… and making it unmissable that, at the top of the falls, there are several people who walked their on their own via the Pennine Way, not having to pay a single dime. Drat.

Information for visitors

  • Address:
    High Force, Forest-in-Teesdale, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 0XH.
  • Getting there: Public transit connections are few and far between this far into the countryside, so your best bet is to take a scenic drive via car through the Pennines and the nineteenth-century village of Middleton-in-Teesdale.
  • Price: The Raby estate charges £2 to access via the bottom, but the top can be freely accessed by a hike along the Pennine Way.
  • Opening times: 10:00–16:00.
  • Accessibility and facilities: The trail is not, to my knowledge, wheelchair-accessible. The site contains toilets and a hotel for anyone wanting to stay the night.