Secret places

Tunnel Estate

Gayhurst tunnel

The Monday Photo

Most people don’t realise when they drive through Gayhurst, but there’s a tunnel hidden under the road. Built before 1793, it gave foot access to part of the grounds of Gayhurst House, on the other side of what’s now the B526.

Through the tunnel there was a Chalybeate (heavy iron content) spring, and a bath house which I think is much enlarged now. Chalybeate springs were once thought to have health-giving properties.

The spring is still there but the two boat houses on the Great Ouse are, I’m told, now gone. The bath house sat in open parkland, but the spring and boat houses sat inside Gayhurst Spinney.

The tunnel runs under a causeway, built to raise the 1709 turnpike above flood water. We don’t know if the causeway came first, or if it and the tunnel were built at the same time. This tunnel is just a quarter of a mile away from one of the biggest walnut trees in the United Kingdom.

The only other tunnel I can think of in North Bucks is under the canal aquaduct at Old Wolverton; also close to the Great Ouse. That’s it, unless you know better.

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The Cold War Post on Your Doorstep

Whitchurch ROC postCold War concrete.

Overlooked by houses and just next to a bus stop in Whitchurch is this strange piece of concrete. It’s a remnant of the Cold War.

Built in 1957, it’s the entrance to an underground observation post, to be used if we ever came under atomic attack. Under the locked hatch is a shaft and a fixed ladder that leads down to the three man post.

Over 1,500 posts were built across the UK, all spaced around eight miles apart. Some still remain. In the event of the Soviet Union attacking, volunteers of the Royal Observer Corps would man each post and report the direction and intensity of atomic blasts.

When the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 there was no more need for these posts, and they were all closed.

What’s There Now?

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The Fort in the Woods

A post from my occasional series, Tales From the Edge.

Right on the edge of Bucks, on a wooded hilltop between Woburn Sands and Bow Brickhill, is Danesborough Hill Fort. It's well worth a visit. Rampart at Danesborough Camp

 

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The Old Turnpike and the Roman Road

In 1722 the new turnpike from Aylesbury to Buckingham opened. We know it as the A413.

The old route ran from the centre of Aylesbury along Akeman Street until it turned North and went between Quainton and Oving. Part of it ran along a minor Roman road. I went to have a look on Sunday.

The bit of the Roman road that’s still metalled (just) is called Carter’s Lane. To get to it, go East from Quainton and turn left at the crossroads. After a quarter of a mile, take the turn on the left.

You are now on Carter’s Lane, it’s both the old turnpike and the Roman road. It’s single track and very bumpy, and perhaps not as arrow straight as you might expect.

Tractor in LaneThe tractor in Carters Lane

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Underground in the Cold War

ROC post Bucks entrance shaftThe entrance shaft. The top of the shaft is about three feet above ground level, so the post is about 17 feet below the ground (I estimate)

In the mid 1950s, the threat of atomic attack by the Soviet Union was taken very seriously by the British government. The Royal Observers Corps were given the job, if an attack took place, of reporting nuclear bomb explosions and of monitoring radioactive fallout. Three men at a time crewed the post.

1,563 underground posts were built all over the UK for the ROC, and many still exist. This one is somewhere between Winslow and Aylesbury. I’ll not be more precise, as these posts tend to get vandalised or the contents are stolen. This post closed in 1991.

There are a few restored posts. Here is one, with a cutaway diagram of the post.

The posts were built to a standard design, although the hatch at the top of the shaft isn't always hinged on the same side, and some were built 'handed'. That is, to a mirror image plan. I have no idea why; can anybody enlighten me?

If you want to know more, there are at least two books on the subject. They are Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers by Nick McCamley, and Cold War - Building for Nuclear Confrontation 1946-1989 by Wayne D. Cocroft and Roger J. C. Thomas.

Anyway, here’s some photos I took last year.

ROC post Bucks bottom of shaftThe bottom of the access shaft. The device on the right is a hand pump for emptying the sump, where any water that got in would collect.

ROC post Bucks main roomThis is the main and only room. The entrance shaft is at the far left, and off the  shaft but not visible in this photo, was the chemical toilet.

ROC post BucksThe view from the door.

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No Man's Land, in Bucks

 Sometimes writing this blog I find things I never expected. Nomansland next to Watling Street in Milton Keynes is just one of them.

Last week’s post on Woughton on the Green was meant to be a very short post on Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Oak in the village, but it got completely out of control and became a look at changes to the village over the life of the tree.

During my research I had a look at the old parish boundary. Before Milton Keynes came along, there was a very minor lane from Woughton on the Green to the V4 Watling Street. (you can still follow much of it on a modern map, or on foot)

Nomansland and Watling StreetNomansland today. This was where a very minor lane joined Watling Street, a couple of miles from the nearest village. It's now in the middle of Milton Keynes.

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