Sunday, 10 May 2015

Montford Bridge airfield

While RAF Montford Bridge is the first derelict military base I've ever checked out, my interests in abandoned military posts actually began with a couple of pillboxes down at RAF High Ercall, which were quite obviously no longer in use. At least not by the military...




For those of you who don't know, pillboxes were strategic outposts used to defend places of importance. Most of them seem to make an effort to be discreet, and indeed from the street the one I explored could easily be mistaken for a ruined barn. It even had a false roof, to make it look like the ceiling had collapsed, when in fact the roof had always been flat. They're very small and don't offer much in the way of explorability, although allegedly it's quite rare to find one with the original gun mounts still in place.




There wasn't much to see in this particular pillbox. Of course, I was photographing blindly in the dark, relying on camera flash to guide my way, so I was understandably shocked when I came across a disembodied human head.


The rubber beauties blonde synthetic hair lay nearby along with a box that identified her as Ashleigh. The silly thing was that I'd actually already seen the packaging, and guessed that someone had been here to have a good time. But the head looking up at me was still a shock. Nobodys ever prepared to stumble upon a disembodied head.

But anyway, when I learned that there were four derelict RAF control towers in Shropshire, I decided to take a look. I stupidly thought I could make a blog entry that contained all four locations, and set off to explore them all during a week off work, but upon exploration of the old RAF site at Montford Bridge, I concluded that I had enough for a long-ish blog entry. And here it is. Due to the level of tresspass involved in this adventure, I want to clarify that I do not vandalize, steal or force entry from any of the places I explore.I decided to start with Montford Bridge, because it's within walking distance.


I stole the aerial shot from Google. I can't fly, even though I sometimes say I can when people ask me how I manage to do any rooftopping. As you can see, RAF Montford Bridge is a cross shaped airfield. It was a satelite to the much larger RAF Rednal, which I traveled out to the very next day. Montford Bridge was operational from 1942 to 1945 as a fighter pilot training establishment with Spitfires and Mustang IIIs. While the runway looks impressive, on ground level it's really quite dreary.


 Because a large portion of the area is now farmland, the area was segmented, and a large portion of the former runway is no longer even recognizable as runway at all.



The field containing this portion of runway was nicely segmented into further pieces by a thin wire fence that the cows inhabiting the field remained on one side of, although the curious quadrupeds  walked along the fence to follow me as I strolled by, trying to be as close to me as possible. I learned the hard, zappy way that these fences were electrified.

I began to wonder if the cows would be my undoing. It's very difficult to tresspass discreetly when one has a herd of bovine companions following a few paces behind, like a big black and white arrow highlighting the fact that there is an intruder.

Luckily for me I soon parted ways, and headed for what looked suspiciously like an old hangar, but on closer inspection was just a barn.


Beyond that, there was this curious building, which is an RAF ruin. The purpose, however, is not known to me.


Inside was pretty bare. The land owners didn't have any use for this place other than storage.




I actually have no idea what the ceiling contraption or all the square holes in the upper walls were for. 







And of course, nearby was the old RAF control tower, now fallen into ruin.




If you click the ladder picture, you can faintly see some horizontal lines on the wall next to it, between the sixth and seventh rung up. I've seen some older photos of this place, taken around the 1980s, which show the words "Flying Control" in those horizontal lines, with an arrow pointing at the ladder. Such a little detail would now go unnoticed if I didn't already know that though.



Inside was a large collection of wheels.











This rectangular patch on the wall is indicative that something was once mounted on the wall here.


I'm not sure what the little wooden pieces are on this wall, but they had little pencil scribblings on them.



Upstairs was pretty cool. There was a half finished bottle of coke. I tried to check the expiry date to get some idea of how long it had been since it was left here, and seriously annoyed a spider that had built a web connecting the bottle to the wall.














A tree growing next to the tower allowed me to take photos from the exterior of the upper level, without being seen from the nearby farm, although I didnt venture right to the roof. It would have made me far too noticable.





On closer inspection, that railing connecting to the ladder isn't looking particularly sturdy...

Leaving the farm territory, I did find another RAF building that had since been converted into something else at a later date, before being abandoned again. There were boats in a garage section, but when I examined the offices, a sign on the door read "Skydiving" which is an adequate use for an old airfield, and was probably quite a cool place to come back in the day. Now, there was not a single intact window in the entire place, although amazingly for somewhere open for anyone to stroll into there was an odd lack of wall writing.































An old reception area, with an iron on the desk, of all things, and plenty of chairs.








Finally before leaving, I did discover a lovely little Seagul Trench. A seagul trench serves the same overall purpose of a pillbox, but is subterranean and looks like rubble to the casual passerby. It's named as it is because the interiors shape apparently resembles a seagul in flight. 
I was quite amazed by how well it was hidden in plain sight.






I'd never actually found one before, but I am currently reading a book in which the protagonist claims to have murdered someone by slipping an adder into their prosthetic leg as they slept, and the adder was found in an old pillbox. So my imagination had some delightful outcomes to ponder as I went underground...



The entrance initially goes through a subterranean tube, before emerging in a surprisingly spacious interior with numerous gaps in all direction for mounting weapons on, although none of the metal frames of the gun mounts remained.















I assume something once came out of the ground there in that lovely square shaped hole in the floor.

From the seagul trench there was a lovely ground-level view of the field.




I actually really like seagul trenches. They're surprisingly spacious and they're also really nicely cut off from everything, difficult to see into, but one can see out in all directions. This makes them oddly calming to be in, although I imagine things were a bit more tense in wartime with all the guns and military gear and expectation of enemy attack and pressure to defend the airfield. I think the fact that there's only one way out would be quite daunting if the outpost was under seige too. But then how often were they ever under seige? Perhaps boredom would have been a major issue too. 

To conclude, RAF Montford Bridge is HUGE. All the outposts are scattered around this massive cross shaped runway and I would not be surprised if I missed something hidden away somewhere. 

Thanks for reading. Don't forget you can now follow "Shrewsburyfromwhereyouarenot" on Instagram, and urbexshropshire on Twitter. Also find me at www.facebook.com/shrewsburyfromwhereyouarenot and we'll be buddies.
And if anyone has any information about the RAF Montford Bridge or anything else I've blogged about, I'd love to hear it.

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