NAMHO Conference 2017 – Trip Schedule

Friday 23 June 2017

It is recognised that many delegates will be travelling considerable distances on Friday and will find it difficult to estimate their arrival time. In addition, some delegates who might be attending the lectures rather than the trips on Saturday and Sunday may be interested in some easy and non-technical trips on the Friday. Consequently, a trip schedule has been constructed that will allow considerable flexibility.

Apart from one trip into Godstone – Main Series, all trips will start and end by walking from Tunnel Road (East) in the pedestrianised Tunnel Road in the centre of Reigate.

Tunnel Road (East) will be open from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. As well as being an underground site itself, it also contains a range of exhibits related to the local quarrying industries and other aspects of local history.

Just inside Tunnel Road (East) will be a temporary NAMHO conference information desk that will organise and operate the other Friday afternoon trips.

In addition to Tunnel Road (East) itself, there will be at least three trips available Reigate. These are expected to be: Barons’ Cave, Nutley Hall Cave and Tunnel Road (West). Trips to each of these sites will be run according to demand on the day, but with the last trip departing no later than 4pm.

All are non-technical, dry, walk-in trips with no significant obstacles beyond steps and occasional low doorways or slight stooping in passages. No equipment will be required beyond helmets and lights (and even helmets may borrowed at Tunnel Road if required).

Between trips, delegates will be free to self-guide around Tunnel Road (East) and wander around Reigate. As well as the usual range of coffee shops, pubs and restaurants and other retail outlets of a prosperous small town, there are the grounds of the Norman castle and Priory Park.

Only delegates with BCA insurance will be permitted on trips into Nutley Hall Cave. All delegates will be welcome in Tunnel Road (East), Tunnel Road (West) and Barons’ Cave, where a different insurance system applies, as these sites are periodically open to the paying public under licence from the local council.

More background information on some of these Reigate sites is available at www.reigatecaves.com

Those on the Godstone – Main Series trip should have enough time to see also at least something of underground Reigate.

Code

Trip

Start time

Duration (hours)

Delegates (max)

U01/GMSER1

Godstone – Main Series

11:30

3

8

U02/REIGAT1

Reigate – Barons’ Cave, Nutley Hall, Tunnel Road (West) with self-guided Tunnel Road (East)

12:30-16:00

1 hour each trip

No limit

Saturday 24 June 2017

The travelling times between Godstone, Merstham and Westerham are relatively short (15-30 minutes if a sensible route is used) and it is intended that delegates should be able to fit two of the shorter trips into each day, even if lunch might need to be taken quickly in some cases.

The travelling times to Wartling Bunker and Snape Wood Ironstone Mine are rather longer and it will be natural for delegates to choose both of these together – as they are relatively close to each other and the timings have been chosen to allow both to be visited in one day.

Godstone – Larkins is in the centre of Godstone close to the venue for the lectures. The timing of this trip has been chosen deliberately to allow delegates attending lectures to visit a local sand mine on the Saturday at the end of the lecture schedule.

The two Sheldwich Lees Estate trips are identical, but will visit the various sub-sites in a different order to reduce waiting time on ladders.

Code

Trip

Start time

Duration (hours)

Delegates (max)

U03/GARCH1

Godstone – Arch

9:15

3-4

5

U04/GCART1

Godstone – Carthorse

9:30

3

8

U05/GMSER2

Godstone – Main Series

9:30

3

8

U06/MBGRO1

Merstham – Bedlams Groutings

9:30

3

6

U07/MBFEA1

Merstham -Bedlams Far East

10:00

5-6

6

U08/WARTL1

Wartling Bunker

10:30

2

10

U09/SLEST1

Sheldwich Lees Estate

10:30

5-6

6

U10/SLEST2

Sheldwich Lees Estate

10:30

5-6

6

U11/SNAPE1

Snape Wood Ironstone Mine

14:00

2-3

10

U12/GARCH2

Godstone – Arch

14:00

3-4

5

U13/GMARD1

Godstone – Marden

14:00

3

8

U14/MB1601

Merstham – Bedlams 1609

14:00

3

6

U15/WHCOM1

Westerham – Hosey Common

14:00

2-3

12

U16/GLARKI1

Godstone – Larkins

16:45

1

12

All start times are shown as the time at the meeting location already changed and ready to depart.

Sunday 25 June 2017

The Shenley Green trip has been offered on the Sunday afternoon in part because its location close to the M25/M1/A1(M) intersections may be convenient for delegates heading north at the end of the weekend. The timing has been chosen to for it to be combined with a morning trip at Godstone or Merstham.

Code

Trip

Start time

Duration (hours)

Delegates (max)

U17/GARCH3

Godstone – Arch

9:15

3-4

5

U18/GCART2

Godstone – Carthorse

9:30

3

8

U19/GMSER3

Godstone – Main Series

9:30

3

8

U20/MBGRO2

Merstham – Bedlams Groutings

9:30

3

6

U21/MBFEA2

Merstham – Bedlams Far East

10:00

5-6

6

U22/SGREE1

Shenley Green

14:30

2-3

6

U23/SGREE2

Shenley Green

15:00

2-3

6

U24/GARCH4

Godstone – Arch

14:00

3-4

5

U25/GMSER4

Godstone – Main Series

14:00

3

8

U26/GMARD2

Godstone – Marden

14:00

3

8

U27/MB1602

Merstham – Bedlams 1609

14:00

3

6

All start times are shown as the time at the meeting location already changed and ready to depart.

Monday 26 June 2017

Code

Trip

Start time

Duration (hours)

Delegates (max)

U28/MBFEA3

Merstham – Bedlams Far East

10:00

6-7

6

U29/WCDOV1

White Cliffs of Dover

11:00

5-6

12

All start times are shown as the time at the meeting location already changed and ready to depart.

NAMHO Conference 2017: Trip Descriptions

Descriptions of each trip are given below under a range of headings.

Difficulties:

This is a quick summary of the main technical difficulties involved in the trip. More detail is given in the “Other information” section.

Social media restrictions:

A considerable number of the sites involve agreements with landowners that permit access on the condition of “no publicity”. We must respect this.

At recent events there have been serious adverse consequences on some relationships with landowners due partly or wholly to postings on social media.

The need to avoid advertising the exact location and access arrangements of many of these sites has become more acute in recent years. This is because of the trend for social media to be associated with criminal damage and trespass on some sites.

In addition, there are legal issues over privacy when posting material involving other people or where the site is, as is the case for some of these trips, in private gardens.

For these reasons, the bulk of the trips have a “no social media” condition, so that delegates are not permitted to post material on any social media website relating to these trips. For the avoidance of doubt, this not only includes services such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, but also websites such as AditNow and MineExplorer.

Delegates on trips should expect to be required to sign agreements to this effect. These may involve the provision of financial indemnities in favour of the landowners for breaches of this condition.

Trips with exceptions from this general policy are those which are often open to the paying public and these are explicitly stated in the trip notes below.

Video restrictions

In general, attendance on trips require that that there is no video or filming. This includes the use of GoPro or similar devices.

To some extent, this is linked to the issues with social media outlined above. Experience suggests that video recordings have been particularly likely to cause difficulties – often because they inadvertently include scenes that are not the main focus of the trip. Some trip guides are also unwilling to be subject to video, film or sound recording.

Photography

For most trips, photography is permitted underground for private purposes only.

Above ground there are more complex issues relating to privacy. From a practical viewpoint, the main concerns relate to photographs that identify locations of entrances, or access or security arrangements. To avoid complexity we have found it necessary to prohibit above ground photography on most trips, except where otherwise stated in the trip notes below.

In all cases, photographers will be expected to have consideration for other delegates in the use of flash or bright lights and in maintaining good timing of the trip.

Duration of trip

This is an indicative duration and includes the time to walk to and from the site from the meeting point.

Location

This is the location of the meeting point, rather than the location of the site itself. The time given to reach the location from the NAMHO campsite south of Godstone is approximate only, but reflects the time to get there by road in normal traffic conditions, including the time to park.

More detailed maps and descriptions of the location of the meeting points will be available at the information desk at the NAMHO campsite.

Description

These are merely outline sketches of the history of the site and an indication of what can be seen.

Further information

This is intended to give some idea of conditions that should be expected underground, together with the equipment requirements.

Unless stated otherwise, all underground trips require:

  • Helmet
  • Helmet mounted light
  • Spare light
  • Oversuit, or other outer clothing that can get grubby
  • Wellies or boots. Where SRT or wire ladders are involved, any lace fittings must be such as to not get trapped in the equipment used
  • Gloves

In addition, many trips are more comfortable with kneepads.

All trips involving lifelines also require a karabiner and either a harness or a suitable load bearing belt.

All delegates are assumed to be familiar with and able to use their equipment without supervision: this is particularly relevant where SRT is involved.

For those more familiar with the colder and wetter mines in the North and West of the UK, it should be noted that in general the underground sites involved here tend to be dry and relatively warmer and with less air circulation. Clothing should be chosen accordingly. It may be noted that locals tend to wear cotton boiler suits rather than waterproof oversuits and very rarely use wetsuit socks.

Godstone – Arch

Summary

Difficulties: An approximately 17 metre (55ft) entry/exit pitch by SRT/wire ladder. Stooped walking and some limited crawling, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 3 – 4 hours

Location: Quarry Road, Godstone, RH9 8DQ (15 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

This is a reasonably extensive firestone (for building) and hearthstone (for cleaning/colouring hearths and doorsteps) underground stone quarry. It is relatively little visited. Perhaps in consequence it is in the most unspoilt condition of the main Godstone systems.

Its history is similar to that of the nearby Godstone Main Series system. However, its use as a mushroom farm was much later than the other nearby sites. It was in use in the 1950s under the leadership of Colonel Noel, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

As a result of this more recent use, the “ridge beds” of rotting manure and straw are much more in evidence in Arch than in the other quarries.

Later, the quarry was used as a dump for fly-ash to a considerable depth and further altered by the development of the A22 Caterham bypass.

Other information

There is a 15 minute walk-in. The main obstacle is the entrance/exit shaft, which is formed from concrete tubes of approximately 1 metre (3 ft) diameter. It is usually rigged with a rope to abseil down and a wire ladder to climb out (with lifeline), but either SRT or ladder is possible and delegates should bring full SRT kit. Once underground, there are no further climbs or descents or exposed locations and technical equipment can be left close to the foot of the shaft.

Near the foot of the shaft, there can be a short distance of slightly raised carbon dioxide levels, but this has become less common with the recent improvement in the draughting arrangements.

Underground, the typical height of passages is around 5ft 6in/168cm, but some are lower, so that stooped walking is required. There is some crawling and kneepads are recommended. The passages are generally dry and cotton boiler suits are adequate. Any standing water or mud will be shallow.

Access is controlled by the local council. Trips are limited in size to 6 people (including the guide) and a disclaimer form in favour of the council will need to be signed by each member of the group before entering.

Godstone – Carthorse

Summary

Difficulties: Some limited crawling, stooped walking, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 3 hours

Location: Quarry Road, Godstone, RH9 8DQ (15 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

This is a reasonably extensive firestone (for building) and hearthstone (for cleaning/colouring hearths and doorsteps) underground stone quarry. It is relatively little visited and in good condition.

Its history is similar to that of the nearby Godstone Main Series system. However, a distinguishing feature was its use in the Second World War as a bonded warehouse and as a secure store for specimens from the Royal London teaching hospital and the Natural History Museum. These specimens included some exotic items that are understood to have included either some radiological samples or the skeleton of Joseph Merrick, the “Elephant Man”. The damp atmosphere underground was not ideal for this purpose and deterioration to labels and wooden containers probably caused more damage than the Blitz would have inflicted. There is still some evidence of glass stoppers of jars and broken glass from these scientific samples.

The site may have been more successful as a bonded warehouse, although records exist of some theft by military personnel. Inscriptions on the walls still show where particular types of spirits were stored. More generally, the walls have numerous carved inscriptions – typically from the first half of the 20th century.

Some passages in the system have some well-developed calcified formations, despite having perhaps only 100 years or so to form. Access to some of these requires some agility to avoid fouling taped-off floor level formations.

Other information

The walk-in is short. Access is through a small ground level gated entrance. Underground, the typical height of passages is around 5ft 6in/168cm, but some are lower, so that stooped walking is required. There is limited crawling. There are no climbs or descents or exposed locations, so no technical equipment is required. There are no unavoidable squeezes. The passages are generally dry and cotton boiler suits are adequate. Any standing water or mud will be shallow and either boots or wellies will be adequate.

Godstone – Larkins

Summary

Difficulties: A short climb on step irons, stooped walking, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 1 hour

Location: Meet at the Village Hall in Godstone that is being used for lectures: Bay Path, Godstone, RH9 8DT (15 minutes from NAMHO campsite). The trip is designed to suit those who have attended lectures during the day.

Description

Godstone has had a history of sand quarrying that continues into recent years. Previously, some of the workings have been underground towards the centre of Godstone under various business premises. Some of the more extensive of these were even surveyed for their potential as shelters from nuclear fallout in the early post-war period.

Larkins is a small underground quarry close to the centre of Godstone.

Other information

The walk-in is short. Access is through a manhole cover down a short shaft with climbing irons before a set of steps cut into the sand. A belay belt for a lifeline is recommended.

The passages are generally of comfortable height, but delegates should expect to be in contact with sand and an oversuit or other appropriate clothing is recommended.

Godstone – Main Series

Summary

Difficulties: Some crawling, stooped walking, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 3 hours

Location: Quarry Road, Godstone, RH9 8DQ (15 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

This is the most extensive of the surviving underground stone quarries in the Godstone area. Parts of it have been lost over the years at the northern (down-dip) end, due in part to occasional flooding causing roof collapses.

Some passages are believed to date from the 17th century and quarrying for firestone and later hearthstone continued into the early 20th century. Subsequently, the mine was used by mushroom growers in the inter-war years and there is abundant evidence of their activities, including the remains of the wooden frames on the floor, metal water pipes, extensive areas of whitewashed walls and various graffiti. Delegates should also see a variety of underground transport remains, including old plate rails of the type used by the Croydon, Merstham & Godstone Iron Railway, one of the earliest public railways in the world dating from 1805. An unusual feature that can be appreciated is a large fossil in the roof: known affectionately to local cavers as “Flipper”.

Delegates with a detailed knowledge of TV programmes may recognise some passages that were featured in Michael Portillo’s ”Great British Railway Journeys” and in several episodes of “Raiders of the Lost Past”, where it stood in for subterranean Russia and (bizarrely) a cave system in the tropical forest of the Philippines.

Other information

The walk-in is short. Underground, the typical height of passages is around 5ft 6in/168cm, but some are lower, so that stooped walking is required. There is some crawling, so kneepads are recommended. There are no climbs or descents or exposed locations, so no technical equipment is required. There are no unavoidable squeezes. The passages are generally dry and cotton boiler suits are adequate. However, towards the northern end there can be mud and sometimes some water underfoot. Wellies or boots are preferred, but wetsuit socks are not required.

Godstone – Marden

Summary

Difficulties: Some crawling, stooped walking, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 3 hours

Location: Quarry Road, Godstone, RH9 8DQ (15 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

This is a relatively extensive underground stone quarry. Parts of it towards the eastern side are being progressively lost to roof falls.

Marden has a similar history to the nearby Carthorse and Main Series quarries. It started as a firestone quarry for building stone, but later became a hearthstone quarry, continuing until the late 1940s.

During World War II, the whole of the system was converted into a bonded warehouse store and evidence exists of this use.

Other information

There is a moderate walk-in along a track past the Godstone Vineyard and into woodland. The entrance is a short crawl through concrete tubes. Underground, the typical height of passages is around 5ft 6in/168cm, but some are lower, so that stooped walking is required. There is some crawling, so kneepads are recommended. There are no climbs or descents or exposed locations, so no technical equipment is required. There are no unavoidable squeezes. The passages are generally dry and cotton boiler suits are adequate. Any standing water or mud will be relatively shallow and boots or wellies are adequate.

Merstham – Bedlams Bank

Summary

Difficulties: Ladder, crawling, stooped walking, care needed for roof-falls

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: Far East 5-6 hours, 1609 Graffiti 3 hours, Groutings 3 hours

Location: Rockshaw Road, Merstham, RH1 3DE (20 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

This is an extensive, complex and old underground stone quarry. It was lost and forgotten until the current entrance was revealed by the floods caused by the violent storm of Derby Day, 31 May 1911. The western end has been seriously curtailed by the construction of the M23 motorway. The passages towards the eastern end are extensive and undisturbed in modern times: some recent discoveries of passages have been made that may not previously have been visited since before the widespread use of tobacco.

The passages are of an unknown date, but some indication may be gauged by the absence of the types of 18th/19th century clay pipes often found in the Godstone mines. There is some interesting graffiti: both the “1609 Graffiti” and “Far East” trips will pass a script chalked up two weeks before Midsummer Day 1609. The “Far East” trip will also involve apparently more modern workings with extensive drawings of labyrinths and swastikas and various inscriptions dated in the 1720s. Some passages also have evidence of the use of ox-drawn sleds to remove stone and the remains of an ox still exists in a remote and very rarely visited passage.

The trip to the Groutings involves fewer historical features, but ends in the almost surreal scene of a bright white slippery surface of grouting pumped in by the constructors of the M23, apparently initially unaware of the futility of the exercise, given the 10 miles or so of passages involved.

Other information

The walk-in is short. Entry/exit is by a wide 15ft/4.5m shaft. This is normally descended with a raked builder’s aluminium ladder, but may also be rigged with a vertical wire ladder. Lifelines will be provided and delegates should bring suitable harness or belay belt and karabiner for this purpose. Once underground, there are no further climbs or descents or exposed locations, so that no technical equipment is required beyond the entry/exit shaft.

Underground, the typical height of passages is around 4ft 6in/137cm, but variable, so that all but the shortest will experience lengthy stretches of stooped or bent-double walking. There are many, usually short, crawls and kneepads are recommended. There are no unavoidable squeezes.

The passages are generally dry. There can be some mud, especially towards the Groutings, but except in unusual weather conditions there is usually no standing water.

The dry conditions in Bedlams, coupled with the energetic nature of traversing low passages mean that heat exhaustion is perhaps more likely than hypothermia. Cotton boiler suits are preferred over waterproof oversuits. Wetsuit socks should be avoided and a layered approach taken to clothing. More than the usual supply of drinks may be required – especially on the longer trips.

Reigate – Barons’ Cave

Summary

Difficulties: No material difficulties beyond steps and an uneven sandy surface

Social media restrictions: Social media permitted

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Photography permitted

Duration of trip: 1 hour

Location: Meet at Tunnel Road (East) in Tunnel Road, Reigate, RH2 9AY (40 minutes from NAMHO campsite, inclusive of parking time)

Description

In the centre of Reigate is a motte and bailey castle constructed shortly after the Norman Conquest by William de Warenne, the Earl of Surrey. Under the motte is Barons’ Cave. Its name derives from the local legend that this was where the barons met to plot against King John, ultimately leading to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Although this is clearly incorrect, the story itself is of some vintage and forms part of the history of the cave. The date of construction of the cave is unknown, but graffiti in it dates back to 1644 and Camden appears to describe it in 1586.

The original purpose of the cave is also uncertain. The main passage linking the centre of the motte to the (dry) moat may well have been a postern gate or sally port for the castle. The upper chamber is not shown on maps in the 18th century and is likely to have been dug to extract sand, in common with many of the other cave systems under Reigate. The lower chamber is very unusual and was clearly of some importance, with much care taken in its construction.

In more recent times, the cave was used as an air raid shelter for the local school and it was also occupied by the military, who also erected the nearby “dragon’s teeth” anti-tank traps in the castle grounds.

A feature of Barons’ Cave is the range of graffiti carved on its walls. These vary from animals heads (with horses predominating) to carvings of people and the usual range of names and dates – with the 18th century predominating.

Other information

A light is required. The cave is most suited to dim lighting (it is normally largely lit by candles on public open days) and the guide may request that any bright lights are switched off if no appropriately dim setting is available.

Helmets are not strictly required. No other special equipment or clothing is required.

Reigate – Nutley Hall

Summary

Difficulties: No material difficulties beyond steps and an uneven sandy surface

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography permitted

Duration of trip: 1 hour

Location: Meet at Tunnel Road (East) in Tunnel Road, Reigate, RH2 9AY (40 minutes from NAMHO campsite, inclusive of parking time)

Description

The Nutley Hall pub in the centre of Reigate closed in 2013 having had a colourful and varied past. The front bar was relatively small, but the more extensive rear rooms had been used as, inter alia: a doss house, a boxing ring and venue and a relatively upmarket restaurant. Its high point in its history, was of course when it was the site of the regular monthly WCMS meetings.

It has now been converted into flats, but it retains its original frontage, including the unusual pub sign of a basket of sand being winched up a shaft. This reflects what is underneath the structure, for behind the bar was a shaft and separate curving staircase cut into the sandstone that led down to a small system of pillar and stall workings to excavate the sand beneath. When the pub was converted into flats a condition of the planning permission was to enable continued access by WCMS to these workings.

Although small, it is a nice and characterful example of the type of small scale sand workings to be found under many of the buildings in the centre of Reigate. There is a fair amount of graffiti carved into the walls – typically dating from around 1900.

Other information

A helmet and light is required. No other special equipment or clothing is required – although delegates may reasonably expect to get some sand on their clothing.

Reigate – Tunnel Road (East)

Summary

Difficulties: No material difficulties beyond steps and occasional low doorways and passages

Social media restrictions: Social media permitted

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Photography permitted

Duration of trip: At choice of delegate. Self-guided at any time between 12:30 and 4:30pm

Location: Tunnel Road, Reigate, RH2 9AY (40 minutes from NAMHO campsite inclusive of parking time)

Description

Tunnel Road itself is now pedestrianised. However, it was once part of the main turnpike road linking London and Brighton. The tunnel itself is (following the collapse at Beaminster) the oldest surviving road tunnel in the UK and dates from the 1820s.

Inside the tunnel on the eastern wall are the entrances to Tunnel Road (East). Parts of the system formerly had uses varying from an air-raid shelter, public toilets and a wine store. Aspects of this history are still apparent.

Contained in the chambers is a range of exhibits many of which are related to the local quarrying industries and other local history exhibits. One unusual item is a first century roman tile kiln that was excavated nearby and is being reconstructed by WCMS.

Other information

Tunnel Road (East) has electric light, so that helmet lamps or other lights are optional. However, helmets are required. Delegates without helmets can borrow them for this visit from the WCMS information desk at Tunnel Road (East). The site is often open to members of the public, so that no special clothing or equipment beyond helmets is required.

The town centre is busy and parking can be difficult. Nearby long term parking (pay and display) can most reliably be found in the multi-storey car park at Bancroft Road, RH2 7RP. Free parking may be found on streets, but will involve a walk into the centre of Reigate (minor roads to the north of Holmesdale Road are perhaps the easiest option).

A WCMS information desk will be open on the Friday afternoon just inside Tunnel Road (East). Other underground trips in Reigate will start from here.

Reigate – Tunnel Road (West)

Summary

Difficulties: No material difficulties beyond steps and occasional low doorways and passages

Social media restrictions: Social media permitted

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Photography permitted

Duration of trip: 1 hour

Location: Meet at Tunnel Road (East) in Tunnel Road, Reigate, RH2 9AY (40 minutes from NAMHO campsite inclusive of parking time)

Description

Tunnel Road (West) is the largest and most impressive of the sand quarries under Reigate. It is most likely to have been excavated from around the 1820s when Tunnel Road was itself excavated. Part of the system collapsed in 1858, giving rise to the “sunken garden” in the Castle grounds above. The contemporary account suggests that the event fortuitously occurred during a break for rain in a cricket match taking place above. Delegates will see that further work has been required to limit the effect of this collapse with block walls even within recent years. It is perhaps possible that the experience led to the later underground sand quarries using pillar and stall type excavations under Reigate to adopt a rather less ambitious size of passages and chambers.

Subsequent to its excavation, the system has had a variety of uses. For at least a century parts of it have been used as a shooting range – an activity that still continues. Part of it was once the venue for the town band to practice (history does not record whether this was a comment on the quality of their music). At some point during the late 19th/early 20th century, some chambers were used as the dumping ground for barrels of used bottles and evidence of this can still be seen. During World War I, the easy access to the railway system led to Tunnel Road being closed and underground chambers being used as a store for explosives and other material for the Woolwich Arsenal. In World War II, the proximity to Reigate station led to it becoming a significant air-raid shelter and evidence of this use can still be seen with floors levelled for the installation of bunks and the construction of a brick stairway for a second exit. A large carving on one wall presumably dates from this time: it is recognisably intended to be of Hitler.

Part of the system was once used as a store for Meads to store wines and spirits. This part is no longer normally accessible, although decorative ironwork advertising their trade is still prominently visible in Tunnel Road itself. At one time, the system also extended close to some bank vaults: delegates will not be surprised to learn that this part is definitely no longer accessible.

Other information

Tunnel Road (West) has electric light, so that helmet lamps or other lights are optional. The site is often open to members of the public, so that no special clothing or equipment is required. Helmets are not required.

Sheldwich Lees Estate

Summary

Difficulties: Fixed ladder (for denehole and for ice house), wire ladder/SRT (for second denehole, if visited), some walking involved. Care needed for roof falls.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography permitted, above ground photography permitted at ice house and chalk quarry

Duration of trip: 5-6 hours

Location: Meet at the village green in Sheldwich Lees on Lees Court Road ME13 0ED (75 minutes from NAMHO campsite inclusive of parking time)

Description

This is an all day trip to a range of underground sites on the Sheldwich Lees Estate and the surrounding area near Faversham. It is run with the kind permission of Lady Sondes.

The initial site is a denehole located in what is now a private garden. This is accessed by fixed ladders down the original shaft to access a small network of chalk tunnels. These show some of the classic features of deneholes, with “benches” at the ends of high arched passages in the chalk. One passage appears to have been walled up with a mix of chalk blocks and brick.

Elsewhere on the estate, delegates will be able to visit a large icehouse, where ice was collected and stored over winter months for use in food preparation and storage in summer, and an estate chalk quarry with both surface and underground workings and an unusual subterranean limekiln.

Subject to obtaining appropriate permission, the intention is to visit another nearby denehole. This is again in private grounds. This is accessed by SRT/wire ladder down the original shaft, at the foot of which is a classic “cloverleaf” type development of passages. This is in an unspoilt condition.

Depending on time, visits can be made to the gunpowder works around nearby Faversham. These include a rare preserved incorporating mill at Chart and the gunpowder works at Oare (now a wildlife park). Explosives from Oare and Faversham were used extensively in UK mines.

Other information

The first denehole is equipped with fixed ladders to descend a total of around 10 metres (35 feet). The main ladder is not vertical. The ice house is also equipped with a fixed ladder. A lifeline will be provided and must be used, so that all delegates intending to descend must have appropriate equipment. A helmet and light is required. Although the denehole is small in extent, delegates are likely to get covered in chalk stains. The floor, especially the debris cone at the foot of the shaft, is slippery. Delegates should choose their clothing and footwear appropriately.

Access to the icehouse will involve walking of distances of the order of up to a kilometre (2/3 mile) each way, mostly on public footpaths. The quarry area is an easy walk-in.

The second denehole will involve wire ladders/SRT and delegates will be expected to bring full SRT equipment and be competent in its use if the intention is to descend.

The gunpowder works near Faversham are open to the public and no special equipment is required.

Shenley Green

Summary

Difficulties: Wire ladder/SRT. Care needed for roof falls.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 2-3 hours

Location: Meet near Rectory Lane, Shenley, WD7 9AW (90 minutes from NAMHO campsite). A more accurate meeting point will be communicated to delegates booked on this trip.

Description

This is a rarely visited chalk mine in excellent condition on private grounds. The passages are of an impressive size with bright white chalk.

The area has a long history of brickworks, claymills and limekilns. It appears that the chalk mine that is now accessible dates from the 19th century and was developed after a neighbouring earlier mine partially collapsed, leaving a hole that is now filled by a substantial pond.

From the entry shaft, a series of passages radiate. One passage links to another set of passages radiating from a second main shaft. A third shaft exists, which may once have been a well associated with the neighbouring cottages.

Some graffiti has been carved into the walls and generally dates from the late 19th century. Much of it is hard to find without assistance. Later graffiti has been written high on the roof with a carbide lamp in the early 1900s, up to the closure of the mine around the start of World War I.

Contemporary newspaper accounts suggest that in the 1870s the mine was at least partly used for growing mushrooms. One unlucky family had a series of incidents, including severe injuries to a son when the rope broke while he was being lowered down the shaft and the father being found dead in a ditch, apparently thrown from his horse while engaged in transporting mushrooms into London.

The mine is now a bat hibernaculum with natterer and daubenton bats predominating.

Other information

One shaft will be rigged with a wire ladder with a lifeline and SRT rope. This shaft is approximately 12 metres (40 ft) down to a large debris cone. Once underground, there are no further significant obstacles.

The passages are dry with no standing water and a cotton boiler suit is adequate. There are no crawls and kneepads are not required.

The mine has recently been researched and surveyed by KURG and it is anticipated that members of the relevant KURG team will be involved in this trip.

Snape Wood Ironstone Mine

Summary

Difficulties: The northern mine is entered through an inclined plastic tube. Those of an exceptionally large cross-section, or who suffer from claustrophobia, may find this tube uncomfortable. The southern mine (if entered) is wet: depending on weather conditions, it may vary from 0.75 – 1.5 metres (2ft 6in – 5ft) deep, or more. Either mine can easily be avoided if desired. Care is needed against roof falls.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 2-3 hours

Location: Meet at the Snape Wood Forestry Commission car park at Brinkers Lane, immediately to the east of the railway bridge. Approx postcode: TN5 6NP (60 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

From Roman times until the Industrial Revolution, the Weald was a most important area for iron working, producing military goods, nails, horseshoes and latterly cannon. The ironstone was typically dug from opencast sites, but also from pits accessed by shafts of perhaps 10-15 metres depth. The iron was then obtained at bloomeries using charcoal from the local forests and water-powered bellows at the “hammer ponds” in many of the valleys.

Although the opencast pits may still be seen as depressions, very few mines indeed are now accessible. An unusual exception is at Snape Wood. The nearby town of Wadhurst had long been associated with iron. Indeed, Wadhurst church is exceptional in having around 30 iron tomb slabs from the 17th century, indicating the simultaneous ubiquity of iron and shortage of local stone (a visit is recommended). When the railway was being built south of Wadhurst through Snape Wood, a seam of ironstone was discovered when excavating a railway cutting. Ironworking in the Weald had ceased more than half a century earlier, so the ironstone here mined here in 1857/8 was sent by rail up to Staffordshire.

Other information

Depending on the route taken, there is a walk of up to about a kilometre (3/4 mile) to the mine on tracks and footpaths through woodland.

The mine on the northern side of the railway is accessed by an inclined plastic tube with an in situ ladder to provide purchase as hand and footholds. Once underground, the passages are generally relatively dry and are mostly of comfortable walking height. Perhaps 200 metres of passages can be readily explored.

The mine on the southern side of the railway is something of a collector’s item, as it is one of the rare mines in the south east where wetsuit socks (or in wet conditions even a wetsuit) could be justified, as the passage usually has deep muddy water. However, only a relatively short adit can be visited and it has few visitors. Depending on time, this may not be visited.

Neither mine has any exposed climbs or descents, and no technical equipment is required. Kneepads are recommended. This is most naturally visited with Wartling Bunker.

Wartling Bunker

Summary

Difficulties: The building is derelict. Some floors have rotten wood above significant drops.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming – except when firmly underground

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 2 hours

Location: Meet at Wartling, East Sussex (80 minutes from NAMHO campsite). The exact meeting point will be sent later to delegates on this trip.

Description

There has been an RAF Ground-Controlled Interception (GCI) radar station at Wartling, near Pevensey, since World War II when it saw much use in tracking V1 “Doodlebugs”.

In the early 1950s, the United Kingdom’s radar defences were comprehensively upgraded at huge cost to counter a new generation of Soviet nuclear-armed bombers. Under the so-called ROTOR plan, a large new R3-type bunker was built to protect the approximately 200 operators and technicians required to run the radar systems. A large hole was excavated using draglines, the bunker built inside and then reburied. It is this bunker that is the main focus of this trip.

Above ground, various related installations remain, some of which have had conversions into residential use.

Subsequent to decommissioning and then abandonment by the RAF in 1976, the bunker suffered from vandalism and neglect. This most notably involved the loss of waterproofing, with consequent flooding. Since then, a group of enthusiasts has worked to waterproof the bunker and remove more than 20 million litres of water that had leaked in. In 2016, the Ops Room floor dried out for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Other information

The site is totally derelict. Wooden floors, some of which overlie deep drops, cannot be trusted. Delegates will be required to sign a waiver in favour of the landowner and organisers to hold them harmless in the event of injury or death.

The trip will be led by members of the group involved in conserving the bunker.

This trip is most naturally visited in combination with Snape Wood Ironstone Mine.

Westerham – Hosey Common

Summary

Difficulties: Stooped walking and crawling. Care needed for roof falls.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography only is permitted

Duration of trip: 2-3 hours

Location: Meet at the free public car park on the east side of the B2026 Hosey Common Road south of Westerham, just south of the junction with French Street. Approx postcode: TN16 1TA (25 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

Ragstone is found in the area around Maidstone and Westerham and has been used in the past as a building stone. The Romans used it to construct the defensive walls around Londinium and it was later used in the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral and Rochester Castle.

Little is known about the ragstone at Hosey Common, but the mines are believed to date from the 17th century. The ragstone of the area was used to construct, inter alia, Westerham church.

There is a series of separate workings on the side of a shallow valley. These were generally worked on a pillar and stall principle and originally had passages up to around 2 metres (6ft 6in) high. Stone was moved out of the mine by sledges, as marks of sledge runners have been found by excavation. Outside, there is evidence of earthworks to construct cart tracks. At some later stage, the passages were partially filled by waste rock, perhaps indicative of the need for greater selectivity in only extracting the better quality stone.

The workings are now an important bat hibernaculum.

Other information

The ragstone mines are a short walk from the meeting point through broadleaved woodland. Although there are some full-height passages, the bulk of them will involve stooped or bent-double walking or crawling. Kneepads are strongly recommended. The passages are generally dry and a cotton boiler suit is adequate. There are no climbs or descents or exposed locations and no technical equipment is required. Helmet and lights are required.

It is likely that delegates will be able to choose their own route through each set of workings. Care will need to be taken by delegates to consider the risk of roof falls.

White Cliffs of Dover

Summary

Difficulties: The character of the trip is of a walk with a series of short underground trips. The difficulties can involve a mix of: fixed ladders, stooped walking and crawling and care needed for roof falls. However, each individual trip may be avoided if desired.

Social media restrictions: No social media

Video restrictions: No video or filming

Photography: Underground photography permitted at all locations. Above ground photography permitted at Fan Bay Deep Shelter.

Duration of trip: 5-6 hours

Location: Meet at a patch of grass at the south western end of Seaview Road (where it is an unmade road) near St Margaret’s at Cliffe. This is within 300 metres of South Foreland Lighthouse. Approx postcode: CT15 6HP (100 minutes from NAMHO campsite)

Description

Dover has a long history of defensive fortification, some of it subterranean. However, a particularly intensive phase of development occurred in the early years of the Second World War, when a large number of underground structures were built associated with the coastal artillery batteries along the cliffs.

Much of the construction work was done by members of the Royal Engineers who had often been miners or quarrymen in civilian life. Many of the structures show characteristics in common with mid 20th century mines: the colliery arching from Guest Keen & Baldwin of South Wales and evidence of the use of compressed air picks of Holman Bros of Cornwall and tramway systems from Hudsons of Leeds. Even some of the graffiti has connections with mining or quarrying – whether linked to the 172 Tunnelling Company or the 691 (Penmaenmawr) General Construction Company of the Royal Engineers.

The intention is to visit a range of these sites with different characteristics and purposes. It is anticipated that one site visited will be Fan Bay Deep Shelter with its associated 15 ft World War I sound mirrors. This was excavated, restored and opened to the public by the National Trust in 2015 with the assistance of KURG. Jon Barker of the National Trust led this project and is expected to be giving a lecture on his experience at the NAMHO conference.

Other information

Some of the sites visited may involve a short, but vintage, fixed ladder where, in view of the effects of corrosion, a lifeline will be used. A karabiner with load bearing belt or harness is therefore required.

Some of the sites involve a short squeeze, or crawl, or climb to enter and gloves, kneepads and boiler suit is recommended.

The distance walked is likely to be of the order of 2-5 miles depending on conditions on the day.

An excellent tea room is available at South Foreland lighthouse.

For non-National Trust members, an entrance charge may be payable to enter Fan Bay Deep Shelter.