Historic golf course is engulfed by loch after POW tunnel collapses


by Derek Lambie

ONE of the world’s oldest golf clubs is being swallowed up by a nearby loch as a result of a crumbling underwater drainage tunnel reputed to have been dug by Napoleonic prisoners of war.

Scenic Lenzie Golf Club, near Glasgow, has been slowly engulfed over recent months as a suspected blockage below the Gadloch caused it to spill over and creep more than 200 metres onto the fairways.

Three holes so far have been completely swamped, with one green under at least six feet of water, sparking fears for the rest of the 122-year-old parkland course.

Suspicion has fallen on a centuries-old tunnel system dating back to the loch’s origin when it was formed as part of an agricultural drainage improvement scheme.

Results of a recent underwater survey are expected within the next few days, but officials at Lenzie are growing concerned about the significant damage to the course and the club’s finances.

A number of members have already opted to leave, while others are waiting to see if the water recedes.

Scott Davidson, the club secretary and a past captain, said yesterday: “We’ve had to put in temporary holes to get around the issue for the moment, but it’s difficult to tell how much this has had an effect on the club.

“Some members have said they are leaving as a result but we won’t know for another month how bad it is.

“The water is simply not draining away, and three of our holes are affected. The fourth green, in particular, is under deep water.”

The origins of the Gadloch, between Lenzie and Robroyston, is unclear, but it is known that an underground drainage tunnel was created to allow agricultural land to be used.

Some historians, including those at the nearby Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch, say the 800 metre-long tunnel was cut through rock by POWs from the Napoleonic Wars between Britain and France in the early 19th century. Others insist the dates do not match and that the Napoleon link is local folklore.

The Gadloch has been prone to slight flooding over the centuries as the outflow becomes temporarily blocked, but it is thought the current crisis has been caused by a full collapse in the drainage tunnel.

A report by East Dunbartonshire Council last year following heavy rains noted: “The tunnel is in a very poor condition with deterioration of the rock material, roof falls and debris, possibly contributing to restriction of the capacity of the tunnel.”

The water levels started rising in November and with heavy snowfall and rain over the winter, the loch flooded much of the surrounding area including the golf club.

The water has engulfed three par-four holes; the 372-yard 18th, named Journey’s End, plus the 4th and the 5th, which are all closest to the east edge of the loch. Mr Davidson, who has been with the club since he was a junior in 1967, said: “Rain water is going straight into the burn and then into the loch without draining away.

“This needs to be fixed. We just want our golf course back.”

The land on which the Gadloch and part of the tunnel lie belongs to real estate firm Derwent London, who are awaiting the results from the specialist survey.

A spokeswoman for the company said yesterday early indications suggest a possible “minor collapse” could be responsible. But she added: “Until the report has been received it’s not possible to say what is causing the flooding.”

Published with thanks to the Sunday Express Scotland{jcomments on}