Sewer Tours

Sewer Tours

\nWhat have you got planned for your next holiday? A fortnight lying on a beach soaking up the sun? Or maybe lots of day trips to the zoo, theme parks or even a local museum? Whatever your plans, we bet they won?t include a sewer tour. But this is just what is on offer to visitors to one of Britain?s weirdest tourist attractions, under the streets of Brighton. Nestled between the usual seaside town delights is a weird and wonderful attraction which allows you to see first-hand what happens when you flush the toilet, run the tap or pull the plug out of the bath. While it may seem like a bizarre way to spend your free time, there are many fascinating elements to a sewer tour.\n

Victorian Architecture

\nPart of the reason people want to go down into the sewers is to wonder at the architecture and engineering. Brighton?s sewers were built at the height of the Victorian era when affluent Londoners escaped the noisy, dirty city by spending time at the seaside. The sewers were designed to route both waste and flood water away from Brighton beach and into a waste processing plant on the outskirts of the city. The sewers are still in use today, although their main purpose is to act as storm drains to channel away excess water in a flood rather than to deal with the city?s waste, so although there is some waste in the sewers, the level is low enough to let people walk through easily.\n\n[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="499"]The sewer tunnels under construction. The sewer tunnels under construction. Credit: Southern Water[/caption]\n

What?s It All About?

\nSmall groups have had the chance to tour the Brighton sewers for over 50 years and the tours are hugely popular. Between May and September, when the weather is generally drier and there is less water in the sewers, groups of 20 visitors and 4 experienced sewerage workers and guides go on an hour long visit beneath the streets. The visits have to be booked in advance on the Southern Water website, and as demand is so high, you might have to wait several months before getting your chance to go down into the sewers. Anyone over the age of 11 is allowed to take the tour. As there is ladder climbing involved, the tour is unfortunately not suitable for anyone with physical disabilities.\n


\nThe tour starts with an above-ground briefing and safety talk given by the Southern Water employees who work as guides on the tour. Participants are provided with hard hats with a torch and some gloves. As boots are not provided, you?re advised to leave the stilettoes at home and opt for a sensible pair of walking shoes or sturdy trainers instead. You?ll also need to wear long trousers rather than a skirt or a pair of shorts. The inside of the sewers can be slippery and the last thing you want is to be falling into sewage. Once everyone?s kitted up and understood the safety precautions, it?s time to go down into the sewers. The distance you?ll cover is only around 400m, so there are plenty of stops along the way where the guides will explain what?s going on and how the waste is dealt with. There are plenty of opportunities to ask questions too. The staff have many years of working experience in the water treatment system so will be able to answer even the oddest queries. For many visitors the highlight of the visit is the end; visitors climb up a 15 foot ladder back up to the surface to emerge into the street among the legs of other bemused tourists.\n

Doesn?t it Stink?

\nThe main worry people have when booking a tour of the sewers is that the smell will be unbearable. There?s no getting away from the fact that there will be a smell from the sewage, but it is not overpowering and most people who take a tour find that they get used to the smell very quickly. If the fumes were dangerous or unbearable, Southern Water would have to provide specialised breathing gear, or more likely, wouldn?t be allowed to take members of the public into the sewers in the first place.\n

Cost and Booking

\nThis unique chance to see beneath the streets of Brighton is not as expensive as you might think. Tickets cost £12 for adults and £6 for kids between the ages of 11 and 16, and pre-booking online or by phone is essential.

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