Victorian Cliff Tunnel, Portland, Dorset
I thought I knew Portland. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand. Discovering this incredible tunnel back in 2014 was the equivalent of finding out that your wife of 32 years is actually a man, you’re adopted & Father Christmas isn’t real all in one day! I mean, if this tunnel could remain secret for so long, what else does Portland hide?
So many myths & legends are banded around Portland’s modern-day folklore. Most tell of expansive tunnel systems, “nuclear” bunkers, secret passageways & the rumour that just won’t go away, the infamous submarine pen! And while there are many underground spaces on the island, none are secret enough that you couldn’t find all about them with a little research and a couple of spare hours on a Sunday afternoon. But this tunnel is pure unicorn, Atlantis, Nazi gold, the Holy Grail! Okay… perhaps I’m getting a little over-excited, but it’s not every day you uncover something that you had no idea even existed. Something you have walked over countless numbers of times and were none the wiser.
Stepping in to the unknown, we had to have our wits about us. Hard hats, safety gear & gas meter in hand, essential items for underground exploring.
The tunnel, situated on one of Portland’s highest points, is carved straight through the cliff at an exceptional gradient. It has to be 45 degrees, maybe more. Climbing the full distance up the huge steps, your legs burn as you reach the top, each step harder & harder to take. It’s unclear what the tunnel was originally used for, perhaps just a bit of a Victorian folly? An interesting, different route to the shore? However alongside the steps, a waste water pipe is still hard at work. It’s hard to believe that this spectacular tunnel was simply a glorified waste pipe!? Although it seems that’s exactly what it is.
At the foot of the tunnel, you’re surrounded by concrete and large Portland Stone block-work. The tunnel itself stretching out in front, high & distant with no end in sight. It’s here where the tunnel feels somewhat new and safe, as you walk up the steps the ceiling is concrete lined and the block-work continues, and then all of a sudden, it stops and a massive fault line in the cliff scars across the roof and the tunnel turns to bare rock. It continues this way until the very top where the concrete reappears and surrounds the surface manhole. It’s funny standing here, listening to people walk above, and cars drive by clueless that someone is beneath them! There’s a few modern day fixtures and fittings, a handrail, a safety barrier at the top in case anyone entering slips, and data cables running the entire length which suggest the tunnel still has its uses in the 21st century.