Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hiding in plane sight

While some rooftops and abandoned places require one to hide and slither about in the shadows and make ones move when the time is right and nobody is looking, there is also a lot to be found simply by looking like one is meant to be there. This has been touched on when we exited the Abandoned Gym through the front door in broad daylight, and also utilizing the doorway that led to the rooftop maze. I used a very similar tactic when I explored the interior of the Market Hall, and have since expanded on this.

The truth is, with practice, hiding in plain sight to explore places while they're open is easier than exploring something under the cover of darkness that isn't open.
One simply has to remember to look like one is meant to be there, and failing that, be able to convince your discoverers that you're lost or come up with a cover story.
Remember, being lost is also a valid reason for being somewhere, even if you're not supposed to be there.
Admittedly, saying you are lost is an end to the adventure as your discoverer will no doubt send you back the way you came. But if you're polite about it, they'll be polite, and if you're calm they won't be suspicious. A lost person isn't nervous. In fact if they see you, opening with a question alluding to needing help finding your way is often far better than letting them start the conversation by telling you that you should not be there. It breaks the ice confidently and will lead to them wanting to be helpful.
People would far rather be helpful and believe the easiest rational explanation rather than believe that you're just n explorer. If they escort you out it might also be worth asking questions about them personally. People like talking about themselves, too, and utilizing this makes them warm to you.

In Shrewsbury I have done these sorts of explorations in various places, often with definitive goals. Most of the time I have not reached these goals. Churches, however, are fun to explore during the day, and if a door is left ajar, especially in a tourist location, the "lost" excuse works so much better and one can get quite a lot of ground followed.
The definitive goal in a church? Awesome history and architecture.

Shrewsbury has quite a few good churches.
Please, note, I never force entry, vandalize or steal. Neither should you.

St Mary's Church

This church was the first one I explored, and I mostly got a good view from it. It has one of the tallest spires in England, and is famous for the death of Robert Cadman, a showman who tried to give the illusion of flight from the spire on a rope, and fell to his death due to a miscommunication in which his helper tightened the rope instead of slackening it. As far as churches go, it was very difficult to get to any stairways without being spotted. Naturally, this is no different from other explores- if they see you at the beginning, that's when they'll stop you. Far better to get caught and have to talk your way to freedom when you're on the way out.

Here's the view, obtained from a rooftop door. Click a picture to see it big.

I have since been inside St Mary's to learn about the building itself, and found it very fascinating.
There were underground tunnels once heading towards some of the surrounding buildings that were used by the monks, including the Yorkshire House and the black and white house next to it. But these collapsed in the late 20th Century, and the entrances were sealed.

But the history of St Mary's has even more fascinating tidbits. For starters it is the tallest building in Shrewsbury, and allegedly the site is on the crossing of two ley lines, and was a Pagan site for centuries before it became the church it is today. It still retains a Pagan artefact that was initially believed to have come from St Alkmunds Church in 1794, but this has been disproven and the artefact has since been carbon dated to be older than the actual church. While my knowledge of Paganism isn't exactly brilliant, my informant told me that this is called a "Green Man" and is guardian of a sacred spot. My informant claims that a number of diviners and psychics all have had a fascination with this particular spot, situated above what is believed, although not proven, to be a deep underground well. Allegedly the Pagan priests and probably the early Christian priests sat on this spot, and that it now has healing properties to it. My informant was pretty adamant that this last piece, in spite of how far fetched it sounds, was actually true. One of the churches stewards, an ex nurse, broke her foot, and spent copious amounts of time on this seat, allegedly resulting in an accelerated healing process. He also told me a curious tale in which he was working late, and his wife phoned. In spite of him being all alone in the church, his wife said to him "Who on Earth is there with you at this hour?" While he claimed he was alone, his wife insisted that she could hear two separate voices in the background.
Make of that what you will. It's all very fascinating as far as I'm concerned!

St Alkmunds Church

This one was far more fun to explore, internally. It's the only remaining Anglican Church in Shrewsbury that's still open to the public and it was founded in the 10th Century by King Alfreds daughter, Aethefleda, who claimed descent from Alkmund, a Northumbrian prince murdered near Derby around AD800.
Interestingly, I learned that the tower and spire are far older than the base of the church, following a large-scale demolition of the rest of the church in the 1790s that led to it being rebuilt. And for my adventure, it was the tower and spire that were my target.

Church explorers will find sights like this stairway wonderfully common, and incredibly dizzying.
But numerous doorways led into various rooms.
The first room-

An intriguing doorway!

An intriguing window!

Pictures in bags?

Ancient hooks on wall, with faint scribble text.

What's this? A blocked doorway leading from the stairs? Such mystery.

Well, if they're going to block my access, the only direction is up...

I thought my journey was over. This staircase ended with this poorly lit room full of bin bags and unused stuff. There was a blackboard on one wall too, but the writing on it was not readable.
I took a few photos though and my camera flash illuminated something awesome.

A ladder, hidden in the shadows. Awesome!

The ladder took me up through a trap door. This room was dark and dusty... and another ladder was nearby!

And here was the very top of the spire, as I found myself right next to the church bell itself, with light streaming in all around me, and a few rafters being the only thing preventing me from photographing higher up the spire.

And so that concluded my adventure up St Alkmund.
If churches aren't your thing, another adventure I had through hiding in plain sight was my explore of the Hollies.

The Hollies is a wonderful mansion transformed by Shropshire Council into a place of misery. When people have been registered unemployed for so many months, the job center shuffle them onto these little courses, given exciting names like "County Training" or "Back to Work Course" which really involves forcing the unemployed people to simply sit in a room and search for jobs on Google. You know, the things unemployed people will do from the comfort of their own homes anyway. This time they get to do it in a classroom style environment with name badges, and supervision.

Most deliciously of all, the true nature of these courses is that while a person is on one, that person is taken off the unemployed list, as they now have somewhere to check in at every day. Of course, you're still being paid unemployment benefits instead of a wage, so really it's to get figures down so that come the election, they can say "Look at this reduction in unemployment. You should vote for us."

The Hollies doesn't check people at the door though, although there is a reception desk they trust the unemployed to sign in at. There is no doorman there to usher them to this reception desk and so an explorer can simply wander in and take a good look around. I did this once, and got some unique rooftop shots.

From above, it looks remarkably more like a concentration camp than a place to help the unemployed. Perhaps that's why when they caught me they requested I delete my photos.
And I did!
They just didn't say anything about not uploading those same photos to the internet prior to deletion.

I do plan on returning for interior photographs, one day.

Until then... keep reading :D

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