Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Berwick Tunnel

Berwick Tunnel
Shrewsbury Canal
7th July 2010

Berwick tunnel is something of a gem from this trip, ranking a close second to Longdon upon Tern Aqueduct.

Berwick Tunnel southern portal

The old maps clearly show the tunnel burrowing under a hill half a mile to the north of Berwick Wharf, and continuing in a north north westerly direction emerging near the hamlet of Preston.

Dr D had seen photos of the southern portal and therefore believed it to be findable. The map suggested the southern end was parallel with the end of a triangular field so we identified the field, and the hedge at the end and duly crossed over to the stand of trees which should contain the tunnel mouth. Beneath the trees there was.... nothing.

Inside the southern end of Berwick Tunnel

We scouted round and noticed that the land was rising a lot so we crashed and stumbled through the woodland and were on the point of giving the hunt up as a bad job, when Dr D nearly fell over the parapet and into the water below.

Sure enough, the southern portal is alive and kicking, with water trickling out and a barred doorway leading in. Naturally, the door was locked but the bars were wide enough to let us get  some internal photos, bouncing the flash off the surface to probe the depths of the gloom.

Berwick Tunnel northern portal

The records tell us that this was a winding tunnel, with no line of sight from one end to the other. This deficiency in construction led to an interesting solution when it was being used commercially. A white line was painted at the middle and the first boat to reach it has right of way - and the other has to be legged back out again. I can imagine this was cause for many arguments and fallings out!

We could find no trace of the seven air shafts shown on the map, but we did find irrigation pipes sprouting along its line, suggesting that whilst it may no longer usefully carry boats, it still serves as a water supply for the local farms.

Inside the northern end

At the northern end the portal can be found just beside the road into Preston, again bricked and barred but with an old stables next to it, it's roof gone and it's walls starting to decay into the ground.

Stable window - Berwick Tunnel

All in all a splendid find and well worth the hunt. Its just a shame that this still serviceable tunnel will not form part of the restored route, unless a way is found under the busy A5.


Halfie said...

Your second tunnel shot is so ... inviting!

Captain Ahab said...

Inviting? I wouldnt fancy being stuck down there.
The tunnel is very kinked and so although it isnt all that long there is no line of sight through. As far as I can tell it is all very much intact.