Underground Greenwich – The Phantom Fantasises on a Tuesday Morning
Last night I was flicking through some old magazines one last time before chucking them out and I came across this little event. It’s a guided tour of Exeter’s underground passages, which date back to medieval times. Exeter is so proud of these (fabulous, from the picture) tunnels that they are making a tourist destination out of them.
Of course I’d missed the event, but the photo brought to mind a picture we were talking about just a couple of months ago, taken by the Subterranean Greenwichexpert Per Von Schiebner. I have no idea HOW he took the picture, but I’m mighty glad he did. Take a look at page four of this PDF document. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Exeter tunnels, don’t you think?
Now – I know that there’s not the cash knocking around that there could be for creating new attractions, but, in a moment of idle fantasising, I found myself once more wishing that Royal Parks, instead of shutting these amazing tunnels up and banning even experts from visiting them, could actually see them as an asset and turn them into a super-soft-adventure historical attraction?
It’s not like it would be the first time – back in Victorian /Edwardian times, right up to the First World War (and possibly beyond) it seems that everyone used to wander round the secret tunnels from Hyde Vale to the strange little hobbit hole by the kiddies’ playground so often that Professor Stone (frustratingly) didn’t even bother describing them in his 1913 lecture – he just assumed that everyone knew them already and that they would always be open. No health and safety issues then.
I just think it would be a really great thing for all kinds of people to do - from bored foreign teenagers to curious local Phantoms. It wouldn’t have to be the entire network, (even the incredible Napoli Sotterraneacan’t do that) just a few hundred feet of Tudor brickwork, gothic arches and curious steps would do me. In my imagination it would start in the Conduit House, which would also have a little exhibition about the amazing Swizz cheese that Greenwich is, including all the sundry tunnels and secret passages under our feet. And, of course, since this is MY fantasy, Jack Cade’s Cavern would also be open, too.
I know it’s a financial thing as much as anything, but there also seems to be the lack of any political will to do anything about these tunnels. As far as the Olympics are concerned, the Officials seem to be pretending the tunnels aren’t there and keeping their fingers crossed about any sudden unscheduled water jumps that could appear, but to me they should be actively celebrating these wonderful, creepy, exciting pieces of Greenwich Heritage, rather than trying to pretend they don’t exist.
If Exeter can do it, surely Greenwich could? I bet there’s not a Phantomite reading who wouldn’t pay sixpence to have sneak down there, guided, of course, by Dr Schreibner himself.
While we’re on the subject of Olympics and Greenwich Park, Methers points out that there is still some unfinished business to be dealt with. Whilst the battle to remove the Equestrian events from the park was lost, there was at least a whole bunch of planning conditions that LOCOG would have to obey. They have now applied to have at least some of those conditions overturned. Quite which conditions they are I don’t know (yet) but I’m guessing that NOGOE will have something to say about them.
Of course, NOGOE could always play the financial card. It MUST be cheaper to put the events somewhere there are already facilities?
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