Saturday, 23 May 2015

What's left at RAF Rednal

I learned an important lesson from this adventure- Check the dates when doing my research! You see, I went out to the old RAF Rednal base expecting to find a derelict control tower for me to explore, but instead I found that the tower itself and the surrounding ruins were a paintball battleground. A lot of the other old RAF buildings were on private property, mostly industrial estates, and some of it was a pig sty. And that's not to question someones house keeping- It literally was a pig sty.





But industrial estate, farmland and paintball aside, Rednal airfield is still full of explorable content. The airfield itself is huge, covering several miles, with a runway shaped like a giant equilateral triangle. It was used in tangent with the airfield at Montford Bridge that I blogged about previously. They were open for the same period of time, and operated by the same training unit. But it was also used to bring the wounded to military hospitals in Shropshire.
I had very mixed feelings about the paintballing thing, but having taken a bus to West Felton and walked out to this place across several miles of countryside backroads, I was determined not to let this be a wasted adventure. Here's RAF Rednal.


 The aerial shot isn't mine. I'm using it to give you a sense of how gigantic this place is. I realized very quickly that with the paintball and industrial estate being that chunk of business at the bottom of the picture, and the farmland being on the right hand face of the triangle, that actually accounted for less than half of the area. The rest was all there for the discovery.

I want to point out, the farm land did have three pillboxes, but since it was so close to the farmhouse itself, I didn't intrude. But sticking my camera inside revealed that at least one of them was empty.



The metal gunfitting is still in place.





 I cut across farmland on my way to the runway, and ultimately the control tower. While I saw no humans, I did find an old RAF building in the field that wasn't being used for anything.





I have no idea what these raised platforms are, or the cylinders in the wall.

From there I crossed several fields, and the runway itself twice to take a direct route to the control tower. And I was shocked, and a little disapointed to see that it wasn't just a derelict building, but a centrepiece for a paintball warzone.

I looked around. There were still no humans. The gate to the paintballing was locked, but not in any way that would keep a tresspasser out. At least not tresspassers like me. I began to wonder if maybe, like the skydiving at Montford Bridge, the paintballing business had closed down too.
So not wanting to waste the opportunity to explore a chunk of military history, I slipped inside.





I was surrounded by trees but there was an eerie lack of wildlife. No birds tweeting, no squirrels, no rabbits. From that, I decided that this place was definitely an active site, and I was dreading that the place would open and I'd be caught in a colourful crossfire. At the same time, I didn't want to leave.




Toilet cubicles








 Here is the highest point of the stairs. In the research I did, previous explorers had taken some stunning shots from the roof, but now it was all blocked off.



Similarly, this door was boarded up, although in the old photos I'd seen there wasn't much of a floor there anymore, and in the current condition there was actually a massive ceiling net, to catch rubble as it fell to the ground floor. 







There were other outlying buildings on the paintball area that were former military too.









 And I think this little roofless area has me scratching my head. I found ruins like this years ago when I explored a derelict army base as a child. It looks like it should have a roof, and yet all the others I can remember were also lacking in roofs, and the walls were also far too low to allow a roof to be comfortable for those inside. So the purpose of this little collection of walls continues to confuse me, but is undoubtably of military origin. I'm thinking there may have been arches to make this into an air raid shelter, maybe.





I didn't want to leave the paintballing area without touching on the vehicular attractions...



But beyond the military aesthetic there was something I couldn't resist photographing and that was the double decker bus.


I was drawn to the bus when I discovered it was once owned by a bus company common in North Shropshire and Powys, but less so in Shrewsbury, Tanat Valley Motors. Back when I lived on the Welsher outskirts of Oswestry, this was the dominant bus company. To add to this, my parents were good friends with the bosses, I did work experience there during my teenage years, and as a result I got free bus rides, and there is a high probability that I rode on this particular vehicle numerous times throughout my childhood when it was still in service.




















I have mixed feelings on the old control tower being used for paintballing- On one hand it's nice to see it's being used for something fun and positive, but at the same time from a historic point of view, it's a bit of a mockery of the sites historic significance. Fortunately I did find that the owners did have respect for the history of the place, and had loads of information on the walls, including diagrams of the tower, and old photographs.








Moving away from the paintballing area, and indeed the whole portion of the airfield that wasn't still being used for something, various signs were in place to stop my progress.


The sign must be old. The airfield didn't look very active to me.



The problem was, all the good stuff was on the other side of those signs! What a dilema!


Here we have a brick trench at a 90 degree angle. I have no idea what this was for but it was likely some kind of defensive precaution, for people to get to and fire from cover. Nearby there was a seagul trench.


 In case you havent read about my visit to Montford Bridge, a Seagul Trench is a defensive installation from which the folks inside can open fire on any attackers with minimum chance of being shot back. To make them discreet, they're built into the ground, and to the unsuspecting eye look just like a mess of rubble and weeds. This one had a cavernous entrance, and a domed tunnel, in contrast to the one at Montford Bridge which had stairs going down at a right angle, and a cylindrical tunnel. But other than that they have the same structural layout which, if mapped, would resemble a seagul in flight, hence the name.




I actually really love these things. They're so cut off from the world but at the same time allowing a sneaky vantage point on everything around them. It's oddly comforting. 







This one has some of the original gun mounts still in place, which is a delight to see. I tried to use the rusted handle to alter the "aim" and it surprisingly still works, and hasn't rusted shut. 




The Seagul Trench gave me some ground level views of the surrounding area.




This old RAF building had since been converted into a barn and then abandoned again. The roof is collapsing at the far end, and it is home to some kind of machine. 





Some ruins in the woods, that I actually couldn't get to due to a large metal fence.


This kind of building, four walls with no ceiling, doors or windows, and a tiny interior are quite common when exploring military ruins, I've found. I wonder what the purpose was.




There is often very little point in venturing in, as they're usually just overgrown and reclaimed by nature.


Here was another building since converted into a barn and abandoned again. So many old military buildings seem to have these square holes in the walls, and I have no idea why. One thing this building did retain from its past was hay.





The window gave me a view of the airfield.


Hidden in the nearby woods was the old firing range. The gunshots were still visible. 







There were quite a few little buildings hidden in the woods...


But it was this circular thing that really caught my attention. In particular, that metal sheet obstructing a square hole in the top! I had to take a closer look.


And there it is! A ladder leading down into a flooded subterranean structure! If only I was a mermaid.


Another ruin, mostly collapsed.


Now this gem intrigued me. I heard that there was an old mortuary hidden in the woods, and wondered if this was it.




The building was identical to the hay house, but without any hay.


This building here is identical in design and layout to the brick building from the airfield at Montford Bridge, and yet each one was unique to their respective airfields, much like control towers and battle headquarters, although the purpose is still lost on me. 





Now there's a birdhouse inside it, but the building itself retained some of its original colouration which made it quite photogenic. 
















A random building, almost completely taken by nature.


A ruined bomb shelter here. 


And another little ruin.




Close to the industrial estate was a second seagul trench. This one, due to human contact, was in poor condition, while the one I'd seen previously was quietly tucked away. This one is also on raised land, making it much less discreet.




Attempts had been made to barricade the entrance, but this really wasn't any major issue.




But it was full of tires, and had none of the original gun fittings still in.




Lastly there was this sign by the woods, but I don't know if it was RAF or not.



It was a relief to find so much abandoned stuff at Rednal other than the industrial estate, the paintballing and the farmland. It made the journey so much more worthwhile. I'm sure there's a lot that I've missed, and a lot that may never be found.

If anyone has any more information about RAF Rednal, or any other place I've explored, do get in touch. Follow shrewsburyfromwhereyouarenot on instagram, and urbexshropshire on Twitter. Also feel free to add me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/shrewsburyfromwhereyouarenot.

2 comments:

  1. The low-walled roofless brick structures with blast protected entrance walls are blast shelters for personnel of which many examples exist at Rednal.

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  2. The only other defensive structures at Rednal that I know of are a third Seagull trench, a slit trench that defends the airfield Battle HQ, and the Battle HQ itself which is still extant in the middle of a field. The positions of all of them can be found by referring to the Defence of Britain Google Earth overlay downloadable from the Pillbox Study Group website.

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