Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Brogyntyn Batcave

(Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose locationI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building. 

The Brogyntyn estate remains one of my favourite spots in Shropshire, although I was starting to think I'd done it to death. I explored the mansion years ago, and returned to see what had changed, and check out the famous Brogyntyn tunnel. More recently I've also checked out the famous house by the lake too... the same lake that is rumoured to contain a motorcycle once belonging to Mick Jagger rusting away in its depths. Growing up in the area, I'd heard all the stories about this place, long before I got into this hobby. As irritating zit-faced teenagers, we used to explore the land and talk about some of the conspiracy theories associated with the familys connections to JFK. It's a very nostalgic place for me.
But as awesome as it is, after three blogs on the place I had nothing new to see there anymore, and it was time to let it go. That was until I became aware of a second tunnel. Unlike the famous one, this one isn't well known. It doesn't even pop up on Victorian maps, and those who do know it keep their lips sealed to protect a small bat colony that resides there.

The tunnel has an interesting little trench system around the entrances, roughly about seven to eight feet deep, but because of the woodland and surrounding vegetation, I completely missed it, took a step onto what I assumed was solid ground, and plumetted downwards. It was probably hilarious to watch.

I landed right there, where the brambles and stuff are drooping in, having failed to support my weight.  It's not too far to fall, but I had a pretty rough landing. Jess was somewhere above me, choosing not to follow in my footsteps but instead giving me a rare glimpse of her caring affectionate side by asking frantically if I was okay. It was nice. I should have milked it a little more. 
I was actually laughing hysterically, which isn't to sound badass. My sense of humour evolved as a response to childhood trauma, and apparently it extends to when I'm lying on the floor in agony too. Laughter is natures anaesthesia. But quite seriously, I could barely bend my knee! My hands were also torn up, from clutching for hand holds on the way down and finding only brambles. That would be a bitch later, when it was time to endure the mandatory post-adventure hand sanitizer. Seriously, fuck brambles, and fuck gravity. My second and third biggest enemies had teamed up on me. 

Still, it could be worse... I could live in Telford. 

And on the bright side, I had found the tunnel!


At this end of the tunnel, it forks, creating two entrances pretty much right next to each other.

The story of Brogyntyn is rather long, and also rather sad. I've talked about it before, but for those who don't know, I'll go over the important bits again. The name "Brogyntyn" refers to Castell Brogyntyn, which is basically Welsh for Brogyntyn Castle. The two L's together do not make the sound that a primarily English speaker might expect. The Welsh have their own alphabet, deriving from the Brythonic language, which was actually widely used in Britain before English came along. I say this mainly because I feel that Wales often gets overlooked, but its culture, language and history are actually quite cool.

Castell Brogyntyn would have been an old Motte and Bailey fort. It was owned by Owain Brogyntyn, who lived from 1160 until 1186 and was likely used to defend the Welsh border from those pesky Normans, and possibly to carry out raids on medieval Oswestry too. Centuries later, the land on which the fort had stood was now part of a vast estate called Porkington. The current mansion was built between 1735 and 1736 by Napoleonic prisoners of war, but it's said that an earlier hall existed there as far back as 1617. In 1792, the big cheese of the estate, Robert, passed away, and the land was inherited by his sister Margaret. Her daughter, Mary Jane Ornsby, married a chap named William Gore. They hyphenated their surname and their progeny would go on to carry the Baron Harlech lineage.

It's worth noting that I've mapped the family lineage back centuries, but completely accidentally. Like this tunnel, I sort of fell into it. I was researching another family, who owned another location, and it just so happened that they were actually the cousins of Margarets Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather on her grandmothers side, who was also Margarets Great-Great-Great-Great Grandfather on Margarets Grandfathers side too. It gets confusing. What can I say? Rich people like to keep it in the family. But keep in mind that this happened centuries after the initial fork in the lineage so it's not that taboo. What is interesting is that Margarets great-great Grandfathers brother is the great-great-great-great grandfather of the first Duke of Wellington, who happens to be the Great-Great-Great granduncle of the Queen. How cool is that?

I'm not sure how many royal family members, and cousins, would need to die in order to put the current Lord Harlech on the throne, but I imagine it's probably quite a lot. The split in the lineage is eleven generations back, and would Lord Harlech even want it? I've never met him, but I know people who have, and they say he's the most laid back, chilled and awesome rich person in the world. He doesn't seem like he belongs with the killing-princesses-in-Paris crowd.

The tunnel, much to my delight, is not a boring straight line. Nor is it smooth like the one under the remains of Castell Brogyntyn. It seemed much craggier, and I found it incredibly photogenic. I'm sure some might find the images here repetitive, but I just loved them all. We crouched as we made our way through, so as not to disturb the bats, and also because it hurt like Hell to straighten my damn leg!

I assume that this tunnel was constructed around the same time that the more famous tunnel was constructed through the grounds of Castell Brogyntyn, as a folly in their pleasure gardens. This would put the tunnels construction sometime in the 1760s. That is just speculation though. Only the Harlechs would know for sure. But follys were all the rage back then, along with other eccentric garden features that served no purpose and did nothing. I love stuff like this. Some people are passionate about abandoned houses, but if I'm on an adventure, something random like this will always win my attention.

Of the Harlech lineage, the most notable one is Mary Janes Great-Great Grandson, David, who lived from 1918 til 1985. He was buddies with John F Kennedy, and even offered advice during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and helped secure the Russian test ban treaty in 1963. He very nearly married JFKs widow after the assassination, and she even admitted years later that she wished she had.
The famous connections don't end there either. Two of Davids daughters dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. In fact, the Rolling Stones song, Lady Jane, is said to be about the same Jane who lived at this estate.
The connection to JFK has fuelled a few conspiracy theories about later tragedies to grip the family. Some even call it a curse. These theories might be your cup of tea, but I'm sure the family themselves would find them distasteful. Let's not forget, some of Davids children, as well as his grandchildren, are still alive. I'm all about talking about history rather than annoying the living, although truth be told I am heaps better at the latter.

David lost his wife, Sylvia, in a car accident in 1967. He too died in a car accident years later in 1985.
Of his five children, one died of a self inflicted gunshot wound in 1974, and another of a heroin overdose in 1995. Francis Harlech, said to be quite the character and pretty fun company, eventually sold the estate in 2001, and much of it ended up just rotting away. Some of it is now being developed, but a lot of it is still rotting away to this day. It ultimately ended up on the urbex radar, with its sad history giving it the cheesy nickname "The House of Tears." I managed to sneak inside in 2015, and the mansion itself started being developed shortly after. Other parts of the estate remain in ruins, and with this tunnel recently coming to light, it really intrigues me that there could be other secrets on the land waiting to be found. I know there were rumours about secret tunnels and bunkers around the main mansion, from back when the cellar was used as a Cold War communications hub, but I found nothing to confirm these rumours when I went down there in 2015.

But only the Harlechs know for sure. And as much as I'd love to ask, they suffered so much tragedy here and I don't particularly want to cause any upset by reopening old wounds.

Here's the exit to the tunnel, although you wouldn't think that we were outdoors now. Above us was a thick ceiling of tree branches and bushes. From the outside, it would be impossible to see the tunnel, and probably impossible to get to it, too.

As with the other side, there was a trench network. It's weird to think that this was once a garden feature. Imagine the Harlechs in their younger years, and the likes of Mick Jagger, exploring this tunnel back in the day. Remember, his motorcycle is said to be at the bottom of a lake on this land, so if he was hanging out here back in the day, driving his bike into bodys of water for no reason, he may well have explored the tunnels too. If I was dating someone who had tunnels in their gardens, that's what I'd be doing!

After a while it becomes impossible to progress out of the trenches, so we left the way we came, back through the tunnel and out of the trench on that side. It turned out there was an easier way in, so I didn't have to scramble up the way that I'd fallen. What a relief. My knee was fucked and I wasn't going to be doing any climbing for a while. It sure was stiff in the morning, but it got better, right in time for my car accident which knackered my other knee for a bit! By 2022 I'll be exploring in a wheelchair.

But that's it for this tunnel, and to the best of my knowledge, this is the last blog I'll do on the Brogyntyn estate too. But I thought that last time, and here we are. The land may well hold other secrets so never say never. 
Personally, with its tragic history and quirky things to find, it's one of my favourite places. Unfortunately the main mansion is just a shadow of itself now, barely resembling the pictures I took in 2015, and I understand there was some drama in recent years, with some imbeciles stealing from it. It's best, I think, if people stay away from it. And if you know where this tunnel is, please respect the secret for the safety of the bats too.

Next blog will be about an abandoned pub that Jess and I found, and then I'm blogging about a pet cemetery in another lost wealthy estate. In the meantime, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Reddit... if you're on Vero, follow me there. It's basically Instagram but without the shitty algorithm. If it had more users it would be great, but it hasn't so it isn't, but it has potential. Oh, and follow me on the hub of human misery, Facebook. Like and share my shit to help me against that algorithmic hellscape too, if you don't mind.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Car Graveyard

 (Disclaimer: Joking aside, I fully understand the risks/dangers involved in these adventures and do so in the full knowledge of what could happen. I don't encourage or condone and I accept no responsibility for anyone else following in my footsteps. Under UK law, trespass without force is a civil offence. I never break into a place, I never photograph a place that is currently occupied, as this would be morally wrong and intrusive, I never take any items and I never cause any damage, as such no criminal offences have been committed in the making of this blog. I will not disclose locationI leave the building as I find it and only enter to take photographs for my own pleasure and to document the building. 

This location was a happy accident. Jess and I were wandering through some woods, looking for something completely different. After a pretty intense trek, we found that there was nothing of it for us to see anymore. It was not a wasted journey though, because our route took us to a heap of abandoned vehicles just rotting away in the woods. Sometimes the best adventures are the ones that you're not expecting.

Someday, it will be impossible to spot these vehicle carcasses, as nature is quickly taking them back.
I'm not really a car person, so I wasn't as excited by the discovery as Jess was. Now, if there was a tank graveyard in the woods, I'd be a total tripod. I have at least four on my to-do list, but unfortunately none of them are local. I'm sure I'll have a blog about them someday though. 
Cars aren't as interesting to me. I see them every day. In fact I nearly died in one recently. That's an adventure I can't wait to tell you about in aproximately ten blogs time. That's perhaps the most interesting thing that's ever happened to me in a car. I've never even gone dogging, which disappoints me because I'm very much a try-anything-once kinda guy. Except incest, sorry Nan.
Nevertheless, this discovery is pretty fascinating. Someone once collected all these vehicles together and then seemingly forgot about them. There's a story here, and I don't know what it is. Obviously, this place is also a thieves wet dream, so I'm going to disappoint everyone by not disclosing the location, of course.

The metal frame in the foreground is one of those mechanics contraptions for getting under the vehicle. Behind that appears to be a caravan completely covered over in nature.

There was no getting into it, and I was a little thankful, but also intrigued. On one hand, few things smell as bad as mouldy caravan. On the other hand... imagine if the interior was perfectly preserved.
On the other other hand, what if there was a body in there? I'm getting a little carried away, but doesn't this just play with the imagination?   

There's a mower in the bushes too.

There's a scooter here, with L-plates.

There's the remains of a tractor here too.

Here's a van.

I did try the vans sliding side door, but it was locked.

Eventually we came across this large shack, and while someone had strung up some plastic sheeting to keep out the elements, it had since fallen down. However, the stuff inside has still been preserved a lot better than the stuff outside.

Firstly, there's this really cool-looking blue thing.

Jess pointed out how undisturbed the layer of dust was on this car. Nobody has written their names, or social media handles. There's not even any swastikas or penis. It seems we've found something completely off the radar of the average abandoned tourists. I'm not arrogant enough to assume we were the first, but whoever did precede us has clearly been respectful. If I was to share this location with even one person, the worst case scenario is this car would be stripped down and stolen, and the best case scenario is someone would draw a cock on it. It wouldn't even need to be the person I gave the location to, either. It's not just about trusting people to not be and/or draw dicks, but trusting them to not trust other people too.

The wing mirrors are on the bonnet rather than next to the windows. I think that would take some getting used to.

Next to the car is this bike thing that looks pretty retro, but next to that is some kind of wheeled contraption under a blanket.

It's hard to tell for sure with the blanket over it, but it looks like a hang glider.

Fixed to the ceiling of the shack we noticed another glider. This is so awesome! I've never come across an abandoned hang glider before!

Also next to the blue car was this land rover.

This was once part of the auxiliary fire service, so from a historic standpoint, this is one hell of a historic find. Auxiliary fire services date back to the 1930s, basically helping out the small local brigades. As the quality of the emergency services improved, both the auxiliary fire services and the local brigades were replaced by the national fire service in 1941, although the auxiliary fire service saw a revival in 1948, and gained upgraded equipment in the 1950s due to the ever-increasing threat of nuclear attacks during the Cold War. I'm guessing that this land rover is from that period, rather than the pre-1941 era, but even so it's a relic!

This thing also got my attention.

There's some sign of activity here. Someone has wiggled the windscreen wiper...

These aren't the original seats. This thing has been modified.

Similarly, that's not the original gear stick. In fact, this is what really got my attention. That's a second world war German hand grenade.

Ever since I went urbexing in Germany, I've been learning German on Duolingo. However, Duolingo doesn't teach me about German explosive devices so I had to look up the meaning of "Vor gebrauch sprengkapsel einsetzen."
It means "Before use, insert detonator."

I'm contemplating the authenticity of this grenade though. The symbol at the top isn't quite central. I also assume there would have been a swastika in the middle of the ring. However, whoever decided that a German grenade would make a good gear stick probably didn't want to drive around with a swastika on display and likely had it removed. If that's the case then it's possible that the entire symbol had to be re-applied, and that's how it got off-centre.
But it could just be a replica. Either way, it's pretty cool. But who puts this much effort into modifying a vehicle and making it awesome just to leave it in a shack in the woods?

There's also this pretty cool tractor.

Lastly buried under some junk, we have this yellow Pontiac that has seen better days.

The car is unlocked, revealing quite a nice interior, if one can look past the mould that's growing on the steering wheel. Also, the steering wheel is on the left, so this car's not from the UK. 

That might be a stupid thing to say about a Pontiac, but as I said, I'm not a car person. I only know it's a Pontiac because that's what it says on the back. A quick Google revealed that Pontiacs stopped being produced in 2009 so this thing is at least a decade old. And yet, the manual is still on the passenger seat. Perhaps with a little TLC and a new steering wheel it could be put back on the road.

I didn't stop for long because that mould had quite an offensive odour.

There's also this little rusty bike.

That's it for the vehicles but in the shack there was also a variety of other junk, including this TV.
The junk is strewn out in the woods too.

It mostly just seems like fly tipping, possibly by whoever left all of the vehicles here.

That's all I've got for this awesome little location. Although I love reading and writing about history, and this didn't have a lot to talk about in that regard, I still enjoyed this place. Sometimes a place doesn't need a detailed narative. The mystery of the location speaks for itself. Why are these just left here? What's up with that grenade gear stick mod? How could anyone abandon a hang glider?

... is the owner dead inside that caravan?

Next time I'm returning to one of my favourite Shropshire locations to uncover even more secrets, and then we're off to a pub on the international blog... the blog that's not as international as it could have been thanks to this damn virus. But that's a rant for another day. In the meantime, follow my Instagram, follow my Twitter, Follow me on Reddit, and like my page on Facebook. Given that social media is an algorithmic hellscape that only shows peoples content to a small number of the people who actually follow them, liking and sharing my stuff is a great way to help combat their evil ways too.

Thanks for reading!