Wednesday, August 17th, 2016
Thames Water has recently unveiled a £14 million project to build massive storm drains beneath the new Nine Elms Park. The plan forms part of the broader regeneration project on the South Bank that includes the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the construction of two new London Underground stations.
The biggest sustainable urban drainage system in the UK, the project is good news for residents and business owners, for whom blocked drains in London are an increasing concern.
The new storm drains will capture rainwater falling on an area equivalent to 20 football pitches and route it directly into the River Thames via a pumping station. This will negate the need for it to pass through London’s system of sewers and sewage treatment plants, which are already overstretched.
However, while this sounds like a 21st Century green innovation, the idea of storm drains that work in this way dates back hundreds of years. And as well as providing an essential means of preventing flooding, some of the subterranean networks that have come and gone have now become popular with urban explorers.
It might sound like something from a science fiction film, but Megatron is the popular name by which those in the know refer to the massive storm drain below Sheffield City Centre.
Sheffield’s sewer and drainage system was constructed in the 1870s, with further major works carried out in 1910. It operated till the 1960s, when the city council decided to build a new sewer to serve the inner part of Sheffield. This led to 26 unsatisfactory storm sewage overflows being abandoned.
Over the years that followed, the Megatron achieved something of a cult status. Rumours started to spread in the local community of a vast underground network with cathedral-like arches. Others said the tunnels were full of noxious fumes and could only be explored with breathing apparatus, the latter rumour probably perpetuated by local authorities to keep out unwanted adventurers.
In 2012, a local group of urban explorers paid their first tentative visits to Megatron, armed only with pocket cameras and a sense of adventure. Having seen all that they felt they could see, they then moved on to other sites.
The team returned last year with more sophisticated camera and recording equipment that could better capture images in complete darkness, and revealed a remarkable subterranean world. While some tunnels are now dry and contain only the detritus of the civilisation above, the main tunnel is a fast flowing underground river. At this point, Salt Street entered the story.
Salt Street Productions Ltd is an award-winning UK-based production company that specialises in the unusual.
Salt Street recently teamed up with two of Sheffield’s top wakeboarders, Josh Tomlinson and Brad Beech, to create a breathtaking view of Megatron being put to a purpose its builders could never have imagined.
The two-minute film has gone viral over the past month, and shows the boarders speeding through the tunnels and over jumps.
It gives pause for thought as to what use might be made of the Nine Elms development in 150 years’ time.