A RARE CHANCE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE FLOODED TUNNEL UNDER SOUTHSEA CASTLE
We’ve had some unusual weather conditions in recent weeks in Portsmouth, with storms, strong winds and even heavy snow (the first to really settle for years). As we live on a flat island that was once reclaimed from the sea flooding was and still is an issue. Earlier this week I got the chance to photograph one of Southsea’s historic and often unseen location that floods about once a year, the tunnel that runs underneath Southsea Castle.
History of Floods
From the often flooded conditions of Southsea Common (flooded heavily in 1912), high tides in Old Portsmouth, through to the marshes of Milton & Eastney, we’ve had a long and constant battle to keep this land from being reclaimed by The Solent. Even now this fight continues with the new flood defence work on the Portsea Island shoreline…excess rainwater, melted snow and seawater can and does flood areas of the city.
The Caponier Tunnel
The city has many ways to cope with this (Eastney Beam Engine was one solution) but sometimes with heritage locations it is a something that you have to live with. The deep and protected Caponier tunnel runs from behind Southsea Castle’s Keep out seawards to the dry moat’s Counterscarp Gallery, the tunnels that defend the moat from invaders. The tunnel was built in the early 18-hundreds and about once a year flood water permeates the brick walls with the tunnel flooded, sometimes with over a foot deep of water.
Coincidentally, back in the summer of 2015 on one of the first of our Photography Walkshops we took some photos in this tunnel with everyone who came along, painting some light. It was a bit of a squeeze back then, so it was good to return this time with the flood water too.
…got the chance to photograph one of Southsea’s historic and often unseen location that floods about once a year…
Started out exploring the tunnel with the lights on, to try and capture some reflections.
Twisting light coming from the end of the tunnel.
Trying to squeeze an orb in the arched tunnel.
…With the lights switched off and being down there alone, the cold and eerie air only echoed the splashing water as I started light painting…
Tripod in the Water
This is the first time I’ve photographed in wellies so it meant digging out an old tripod that would stand in the deep flood water. The water had dropped a little at this point, which was handy as walking up and down the tunnel had to be slow to prevent the wash from topping over the boots. I only had about an hour so started off with the lights on, to try and get set up and also try capturing some reflections. The local residents like the foxes must have wondered what was going on when the lights went out.
With the lights switched off and being down there alone, the cold and eerie air only echoed the splashing water as I started light painting with some simple torches. These long exposure photos were a lot harder to create than usual, I wanted to try and get the light reflected on the water itself but it is pretty difficult when you are splashing up and down a low tunnel with the shutter open…
Back in the Light
Emerging back into the light with wet socks (it was inevitable) and tightly holding on to a thankfully dry camera, it was time to leave. The flooding happens sporadically about once a year so a HUGE thank you to Maire at Southsea Castle for getting in touch with a heads up, being such a great host and also for the loan of the wellies.
Sadly it looks like the tunnel(s) might have restricted access this year, but the castle is an incredible local place to visit and particularly explore with your camera and is free entry too. You can find out more at their website and be sure to give them a follow on Instagram:
The last image before leaving, painting the walls of the tunnel, a torch trail and a light orb.