10 January 1863 – The London Underground (world’s oldest underground railway) opens

I have always been fascinated with underground spaces. Caves, tunnels, mines and drains.

Partly, no doubt, it is the lure of the forbidden. Adventure on the cheap. Jump a fence, ignore a sign proclaiming Confined space – entry prohibited and you enter a part of the landscape or a part of the city that most people will not even be aware of, let alone enter.

Partly too, though, it is because of what these hidden spaces represent. Natural formations that bear witness to geologic time – mind-bogglingly slow interactions of rock and water – as well as upthrust and drift on a planetary scale. Or the submerged spaces of our urban infrastructure that are literally life-giving – transporting our waste, protecting us from floods, moving us secretly from one part of the city to the other.

Somehow it feels right to get in touch with these forces. To acknowledge them on occasion, at least, with my fleeting presence.

One of the most deeply peaceful moments of my adult life came while on holiday on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands off Ireland’s west coast. At the base of the towering outer wall of the Iron Age ringfort Dun Eochla, I found a crawl-space, a small tunnel leading to a tiny curved chamber, just large enough to curl up in, near the centre of the three-metre wide wall. I lay there for a while in the dim quiet, under the stacked stone of the fort’s walls and the weight of centuries.

When I returned to the friends who were waiting for me outside the wall, for a time I couldn’t speak.

File under: only wrong if you get caught | written by torchlight

(Image source: Wikipedia)


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This picture reminds me of the Kangaroo Bluff Battery built near Bellerive in Tasmania to complement the Domain and Battery Point Batteries. They were built in the 1800s to protect Hobart from attack from the sea. The Kangaroo Bluff Battery had a network of underground pasages and chambers to allow the artillerymen to move ammunition to each of the guns without being exposed to enemy fire

I think it’s the forts at Bellerive and Sandy Bay that sparked all this off. Those, though are the stacked stone walls of the ringfort on Inishmor.

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