Penny Bridge, Little Tunnel & Frog Lane

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The full 37 and half miles from the Wey to Basingstoke

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End of canal at Penny Bridge – and just a few hundred yards beyond this point is Little Tunnel

This is the end of the Basingstoke Canal, as we know it, at Penny (or Penney) Bridge, although there is no such bridge now. From here to Basingstoke is about four miles or so, but the going is quite difficult, and detours have to be made where the canal route is no longer available.Only the new Greywell Road at Mapledurwell, the section along Basing House walls, a section just before Ringway East, and Eastrop Way in Basingstoke itself are the only bits of the canal’s route that can be easily walked. Just across the fields from the Penny bridge site, the M3 motorway is plainly visible to towpath walkers.

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Where Penny Bridge stood. The red arrow indicates the line of canal heading west towards Little Tunnel. The red oval indicates the rather inconspicious entrance to the canal’s towpath

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The new Penny Bridge information board, declaring that this is the Up Nately Nature Reserve

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Straight ahead, behind the haystacked trailers, and where the clump of trees sit atop the hill, is the location of Little Tunnel. The picture is taken looking along the canal alignment towards Little Tunnel & Basingstoke

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A view looking at the canal route from the bridleway at the top of Andwell Drove. The canal once traversed this location on a small embankment. In the picture above, the tunnel is on the right, and the canal’s alignment is marked by the red arrow. It is not generally known, but the canal crossed valleys on either side of Little Tunnel, the one on the Frog Lane side was enormous and crossed a large stream. This embankment is substantially large enough to accomodate the two properties on on the route either side of Frog Lane. n days gone by, it was possible to walk along the towpath through Little Tunnel, and to Frog Lane but not without a struggle. It became an easier job if one accessed it from the rear of the Eastside Coach House in Frog Lane. Now it is impossible

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Although it was officially called Little Tunnel Bridge being just 50 yards, it went through the ground therefore it was a proper tunnel. The road above it used to be known as Andwell Drove. Below, the portals are in the same style as those found at Greywell, and they were restored some years ago. The structure is a grade 2 listed building. The view is of the eastern portal. Above right: Little Tunnel in 1981, taking a number of pictures of the eastern portal, one of which is seen below. It was taken standing on the bed of the canal, however this part has since been filled in almost to the portal itself. The photgraph of the portal taken in 2002 (above) was taken from about a mid-point on the upper half of the 1981 picture, and it shows how much infilling has since taken place. I always wonder why the tunnel had a area of white painted above the portal (its clearly seen below) maybe there was a notice or something at one time? The tunnel in 1981 then looked precarious and in danger of falling down, and I suppose it was such a state of affairs that prompted it to be listed, and subsequently restored. The western portal was quite overgrown with foilage and it was a job to fight through so no picture was taken. As mentioned earlier, it was possible to walk to Frog Lane, although extremely overgrown in places, the towpath having long ceased to be well defined

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Above left: The picture featured on the information board at Up Nately brickworks arm can be seen here, below right, and it is interesting because it shows the boats, Ada and Maudie, at the tunnel’s western portal in about 1900. It is clear from this picture that the canal westwards of Greywell did not see much traffic considering the state of navigation. Persistent leaks in this section caused it to be stopped off at Brick Kiln bridge in the early 1900’s after the last traffic to Basingstoke had ceased. Above right: I did this picture some years ago, a composite of other Basingstoke scenes onto the Little Tunnel approach. This shows what the scene would have looked like today if the Basingstoke canal was still in existence here. Compare with the picture (centre of page) looking along the farm track towards the tunnel site

More information on Little Tunnel from Subterranea Britannica

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Just off the junction with Greywell Road and Frog Lane is this access road to this smart new estate, known appropriately as Canal Reach. The houses at the far end are built overlooking the very overgrown canal cutting that leads westwards from Little Tunnel

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A view from the remains of the canal bed looking towards the Eastside Coach House

The only visible trace of the canal near Mapledurwell is at the rear of property along a short lane/footpath that leads eastwards off Frog Lane (from where the former swing bridge once stood.) The former canal route can be seen as a grassed area at the rear of the Eastside Coach House. The Eastside Coach House literature explains that it is “a spacious house on the original route of Basingstoke Canal with Little Tunnel a short walk from the rear of the garden.” Frog Lane is the road that leads from Greywell Road southwards

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Site of Frog Lane swing bridge. Just about where the dog is, the canal passed right to left going to Basingstoke, and at this point once existed Frog Lane swing bridge! Difficult to imagine such a canal scene now

Next: Mapledurwell to Hatch

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