Friday, 4 May 2018

In search of an adventure out of Peckham ............. foot tunnels and a strange find

Now the thing about adventures is that there should be no rules, no preplanning and just an optimistic expectation that it will all turn out alright and along the way you will have some fun.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel, 1916
That said it is always best to go with someone to share the fun and when you are just ten years old it makes for a bit more safety.

After that it’s all pretty much how it turns out.

And the day we found the foot tunnel was just one of those. Now I know there are two, starting with the one at Greenwich which was finished in 1902 and the Woolwich one completed a decade later.

But it would be years before I came across Woolwich and anyway Greenwich had so much else to offer, which is how we had come across  the tunnel in the first place.

It had started with the usual exploration of the big park starting with the views from General Wolf’s statute across London and the debate about whether to take the windy path beside the Observatory or  just run down the steep hill.

That done it was a short hop and a skip to the Cutty Sark.

But the Cutty Sark cost to get in and so as you do we wandered to the river and there was the entrance to the tunnel.

None of us knew what to expect, but it was open, it was free and that spiral staircase was just an invitation not to be turned down.

Today at 68 I doubt that I would have set off along the white tiled tunnel but 58 years ago here was the adventure.

Looking down to the foot tunnel, 1977
We were not sure where it would take us, or  how long it would take but there was something quite compelling about making the journey.

It was partly the way the tunnel stretched off into the distance with no end in sight, with just the long line of lights in the ceiling and the gentle incline of the pathway which slopped ever downwards.

On that first foray we encountered just one person, whose footsteps we heard heading towards us long before we saw them.

But we did find a toy duelling pistol.  It had lost some of the bits to make it work and its plastic butt was only half intact but here was a prize which could not be ignored.

So it came home with us.

Who carried it on that long walk back from the park through Deptford and past New Cross Gate I can’t remember, or for that matter why it finished up in Lausanne Road, where it stayed as a trophy of that adventure.

I wish I still had it but it went when we left Peckham along with those adventures.

Picture; Woolwich Foot Tunnel circa 1916, courtesy of Kristina Bedford from  Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing, and Looking down to the foot tinnel, 1977 from the collection of Jean Gammons


  1. What a lovely emotive evocative piece. I have only discovered the tunnel in recent years, cycling through it (don't tell anyone) early on Sunday mornings, but I am sure it can tell many stories of love, intrigue, drunkenness, romance and foul deeds.

  2. I used to walk through the tunnel every morning with my mother because she worked on the other side the staircase going down down down scared me and the occasional wet tiles convenced me as a small child the sea was breaking through . I never got used to it even as a adult walking my own chidren through it made me nervous not that I showed it to them as they liked going through the tunnel calling out and hearing there voices echo ...