Over Easter my boyfriend and I finally found Old Warden Tunnel.
My boyfriend likes to think of himself as a “Bedfordshire know-it-all” but even he had never managed to find the abandoned railway tunnel. I don’t know why he hadn’t been able to; I simply used Google Maps and it took us right there! But I guess for some rambling folk that’s cheating. Oh well, I won’t tell if you won’t.
The now abandoned railway tunnel
So the disused railway tunnel and surrounding area is now a nature reserve somewhat off the beaten track, full of hawthorn and blackthorn bushes, large ash and oak trees. When we eventually got there and trudged down about 2 million steps it was hard to believe that hulking great steam trains used to pass through this place.
The railway track used to connect Bedford and Hitchin and from there to London between 1853 and 1857. The line stopped taking passengers when it was officially withdrawn from use on the 1 January 1962 along with goods services between Hitchin and Shefford. And by the state of the detritus in front of the boarded up entrance, it’s been used as a dumping ground ever since. There was a cart with a bent axle and rusted wheel in front of the tunnel; almost serving as a reminder of the tunnel’s past.
(Oh yeah, and I was pretty impressed to see that the place had been tagged by All Type No Face – somewhere underneath the naff graffiti anyway!)
Standing outside was slightly eerie because there wasn’t the whooshing or echoing sound that I’m used to hearing when I’ve been through tunnels, both working or abandoned. The stillness was probably because this tunnel doesn’t have blast relief ducts, due to its lack of curves and relatively short length, allowing for good air passage. The air outside almost felt thick and hung around the entrance.
Despite the surrounding area being well-known for its natural beauty, the Hitchin end of the tunnel has been back-filled to within 7 feet of the tunnel roof and the Bedford end bricked up with gratings for local bats. For these reasons it isn’t recommended to enter, but friends have told me that when it was opened up by activists a few years ago they were able to walk the full 882 yards of the tunnel and it wasn’t dangerous.
So after all of the anticipation, I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to get in, but perhaps that’s an adventure for another time for a little scavenger.
If you’re ever in the area, I strongly recommend a visit. Perhaps in the summer time when the flowers are in bloom (according to the official Wildlife Trust website).
If you would like to see a full set of higher quality photos of the Old Warden Tunnel, visit my Flickr album