Picture special: How HS2 is making its mark on the Chilterns landscape

The southern end of the Chilterns tunnel near Denham

THE construction of the HS2 high speed railway across the Chilterns is now beginning to make itself felt. 

This week Chiltern Society photographer Keith Hoffmeister managed to get up in the air to see the impact HS2 is already having on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This, of course, is only the beginning. So far the contractors are concentrating on the ventilation shafts and the Chilterns tunnel entrances near Denham and South Heath. 

The vent shaft near Amersham Hospital

The real work starts when the two giant tunnel boring machines begin their ten mile, three year dig later this month, extracting billions of tons of chalk spoil.

This week Buckinghamshire Council, the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Chiltern Society all expressed “deep concern” that the tunnelling could disrupt water courses and water supplies in the area. The Environment Agency has yet to give HS2 permission to begin its drilling. 

Initial work is also underway on the two mile viaduct over the Colne Valley Regional Park near Denham, a one mile cut and cover “green” tunnel near Wendover and a viaduct that will cross the Aylesbury to Amersham Road at Wendover.

Meanwhile archaeologists have been working this week on the site of the former eleventh century church, St Mary’s in Stoke Mandeville, which is on the route of the high speed railway. Later this spring around 3,000 bodies will be removed from the churchyard and reburied elsewhere. The bodies were interred over a 900 year period. 

Pictures courtesy of Keith Hoffmeister, Chiltern Society.

Jones Hill Wood, an ancient woodland between Great Missenden and Wendover has been a site of protest by environmentalists because it contains rare plants and wildlife, including protected barbastelle bats. Last month an appeal court judge overturned an earlier High Court ruling banning HS2 from carrying out further work in a dispute over whether Natural England had followed correct procedures in allowing work to start in the first place.
The vent shaft at Chalfont St Giles
The vent shaft at Chalfont St Peter
Preliminary work on the Chesham Road “intervention” shaft
The vent shaft at Little Missenden
and after. Leather Lane, one of the three winding Chiltern hilltop lanes that are being straightened and widened to enable HS2 construction lorries to reach worksites.
Another Chiltern hilltop lane, Bowood Lane, looking west, in August 2020…
Bowood Lane, looking west, in April 2021
Archeological digs along the now demolished part of Grim’s Ditch, a bronze/iron age earthwork near Great Missenden.
Preliminary work getting underway at one end of the two mile viaduct at the Colne Valley Regional Park, near Denham.
Protestors are still in-situ at the site of the Wendover viaduct, living in tree houses built in doomed trees and swaying precariously in the wind.
Meanwhile, workers move in to begin preliminary work on the Wendover viaduct by demolishing nearby Durham Farm.