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Rhondda Tunnel 3443yds, SS904971
Back to 6th June 2010. South Wales.
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West End
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The west end of Rhonddha is well and truly buried. We had a good wonder round but didn't find any definite signs of either the portal or the airshaft (which was alleged to be an apparently pointless 10m from the portal). We did find a bleedin' great girder sticking up out of the grass for no apparent reason. It could be the marker of either the portal or, more likely, the capped and buried air shaft - or it could have nothing at all to do with the tunnel! Note; You can see the fire-break gap in the trees on top of the hill in several of these pics. According to the 1:25,000 OS Map, this runs directly over the top of the tunnel.
East End
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The famous three trees. The equally famous drain pipe. Up the pipe! Ah! What have we here..?

Raring to go.

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The first stage of the descent is about 12-15 feet. Looking back up from the first level... ...and down the second descent. About 20 feet this time... ...and looking back up from the bottom. This is trackbed level. The famous drain again. This time with only 5m to crawl instead of 250. My size 9 included for scale.
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Half way through... At the other end. Inside the east portal. (Big file - 1.2MB). John muckin' abaht! There are 5 intact black insulator pots up on the walls. Is that oil?? We're rich!
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Looking west... There is a very loud noise of gushing water for the first 150yds which drowns out all speech. Water is pouring in through the roof and walls in many places in this section. There is also a narrow drain which is flowing fast and is obviously in good condition. This also contributes to the cacophany of watery sounds. Can't really see it in the pic but there is a one inch diameter hole in the mortar with water pouring through. Water always sounds much worse than it actually is inside tunnels and can be quite scary to the uninitiated! The tallest and most phallic stalgmites I've seen in my 222 tunnels so far! They are quite unstable and could easily be knocked over. We left them to grow. The roof is ribbed for part of the first 150yds. All the water is is in this first section. The rest of the tunnel is dry.
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There is a short signal post in a refuge about 200m inside each portal. This is the one at the east end and presumably carried a short modified distant arm for Blaen Y Cwm box which was about 300yds outside the tunnel. Moor ribbing. There is a lot of old cable in there as well. The refuges at this end are rather small to start with and are further restricted by the ribbing. The end of this section of ribbing; lots of cable; John; and my miner's lamp. Note the cable hangers on the wall, these run throughout the tunnel. There are several mileposts in there, from this ½ mile post up to a 3¼ mile post.
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Just in case you didn't believe me about the cable. The mythical coal seem that was allegedly worked by locals. They can't have got more than a couple of hundred weight! It's only goes back about a metre. In the middle the tunnel opens out for a short section alleged to be where the two workings met when the tunnel was constructed. The two sections were slightly out (again allegedly), necessitating this gallery. The wall inside the recess is covered in grafitti. All the graffiti we saw was from the 1970's except for one graffito from 1987.
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The recess is about 2m deep. Throughout the tunnel are these little fluffy puffs of something or other. A close up of a puff! Turns out that the puffs are what is left of the cable hangers that have fallen to the ground and continued to detereiate. What causes iron to degrade like this? Anyone know?
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Throughout the western half of the tunnel there are arched receses every few yards. The roof is so black with soot here that it didn't show up despite vigorous light painting! A bit further in is a sleeper stack supporting a dodgy roof. It is absolutely riddled with a fungus like dry rot and has failed in places. Standing on the sleepers is like standing on a matress in places. There is a mushroomy smell in the middle of the structure but it is not as pronounced as you might expect.
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This is foam. Fungus foam. It was all a bit Alien! There were spiders webs in there; over a mile from the portal. I wonder what they eat? Presumably not the fungus or they would have evolved not to bother with webs! There must be flies that eat the fungus and the spiders prey on the flies? Who knows! The fungus goes right to the top. It doesn't look so bad from the west end.
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Heritage crisps. The 3 mile post, more cable, those recesses, the cable hangers and the ghost of John. Another short signal post. Presumably the distant for Blaengwynfi box which was adjacent to the station. This one is surrounded by corroded battery cells so may have been motored. 3¼ mile post. And finally we arrive at the west portal (or is it?) where somebody has already planted a flag! Morlock?
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What is the point of the air shaft?? I read somewhere that it was just 10m from the west end - was this true or has the tunnel been infilled for a short section? John washing the tunnel muck off next to the drain. All locked up again and me stood on top looking smug!!

The map to the right dates from 1921. The air shaft appears to be about 100yds from the portal.

Back to 6th June 2010. South Wales.
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