Exeter’s (Boring) Underground Passages.

      It’s the only underground tour in the whole of England, our guide says. And I was excited. My imagination rolled with so many things to be seen underneath the city of Exeter. There are 2000 year-old Roman walls scattered about the city, so underneath must be even more exciting. There would be rats and vast arches and dungeons with the chains still stapled to the wall. Maybe even a skull.
      I could see all this in my mind as my mother and I climbed the brightly lit modern steps down to the entrance.
      The tour had nothing like that.
      It was really quite boring.

      No wait, you don’t have to leave.
      It wasn’t that boring.
      Oh, you have to leave anyway?
      Ok, well,
      It’s just the two of us…
      That just makes it cozier.

      The reason the underground is not that exciting is because Exeter does not have an underground. No caves, no dungeons, no secret escape routes (at least none they told us about), just an aqueduct.
      The most important thing in medieval Exeter (other than beer of course) was water. The wells were outside the city walls, way over there on the east. The people wanted the water inside the city walls.
      So the ones with all the money, The Church, decided to build something to bring water to the center of town. They built a ditch, eight feet or so deep, lined the bottom and the sides with stone, then built an archway over the ditch, and then covered it with dirt.
      So they built an underground tunnel, without actually building an underground tunnel.
      And those who weren’t clergy could use the public fountain beside the cathedral or on the High Street (neither of which are still there, the fountains that is).
      This was all done in the 14th and 15th centurys. Some of the tunnels were removed when the old city gates was torn down to increase traffic flow, but a few of the tunnels are still there.
      The tunnels are shoulder width, and definitely much shorter than six foot three. So we put on flattering yellow hard hats.
      We shuffled and stooped our way down the tunnel, heading toward the cathedral. The tunnel didn’t go very far, about half a block, until it ended, so we turned back.
      On the way back there was a detour, for those who did not mind crawling a little way.
      So I detoured, crawled a little way, and that was the end of the tour.

      That’s it.
      I told you it wasn’t very exciting.
      Yes, that’s a great idea.
      And you’re buying as well?
      Ok, I’ll have a gin and tonic.

And now some pictures:

Huddled at the end of the tunnel.

Showing off the 500 year-old ceiling and stone work.

On our hands and knees.

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