(Photos 1, 5, 7 & 8 © Sparhawk)
If Sustrans' plans are approved by the Forest of Dean Council and Monmouthshire County Council, Tintern's tunnel will soon form part of a new footpath linking the village with Chepstow, a distance of around six miles. Its north portal overlooks the River Wye, across which a new bridge would be erected as part of the scheme, replacing the railway structure which was dismantled following closure of this part of the Wye Valley Railway in 1964.
The southern end of the tunnel is immediately beyond the north-facing junction from which the Tintern Wireworks branch left the main line. Part of the hill was removed to accommodate the portal which is fashioned from masonry and boasts elegant voussoirs and keystone. Only the haunches and soffit are lined throughout; in places this structure is supported by vertical side walls whilst elsewhere arches and pillars are provided allowing an insight into the area's geology.
The lining appears to be 'independent' of the tunnel walls. Loose material behind it has been prevented from falling onto the tunnel floor by the insertion of joists. The bore's most northerly 15 feet benefits from an additional two-brick-thick lining, presumably to provide additional strengthening. A channel of engineering bricks - six wide - runs throughout the structure at the crown.
Just 182 yards in length and built by Reed Bros of London, curvature prevents one end of the tunnel being seen from the other. The first train to climb its 1:80 rising gradient towards Chepstow did so on 1st November 1876; the last one enjoyed the experience on 6th January 1964.
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