Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The lost bunker

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. )

 Todays adventure takes place in the wild Shropshire wilderness, where everyones talking about some hot new band called The Beatles, and if you make a telephone call (assuming you can get a signal) they'll burn you for witchcraft. 
I didn't have phone signal, or a black cat, broomstick or vagina, but if someone accuses me of witchcraft I'll deny nothing.

But times like this really make me reflect on where the blog was just over a year ago. I used to hop on a train or a bus to the nearest drop off point and then walk to a location praying that my phones battery would be sufficient by the time I got there so that I could take terrible low quality snapshots. And if you know the places I blog about, like Calcott Hall and the Christmas House, and Pitchford, you'll understand why I have the best legs in Shropshire. But now, people often offer to drive me places, and it's pretty awesome. And the blogs popularity spawns from the acquisition of an actual camera, the purchase of which was made by donations to the blog, and has since led to me photographing weddings and in a bizarre twist, nude modeling earlier in the year. None of which would have happened had I not attended a social gathering of bloggers last year and listened to a no-longer stranger named Chelsea and put a donate button on my blog. An idea I have to admit, I didn't think would work and was proven wrong within months. And now look. Sometimes to make things happen, one just needs to take a chance and go with the flow. It's a bizarre journey but a fun one. 

On this adventure, I was all set to drag Tree Surgeon out into the Shropshire wilderness based on a tip from someone I met only once. The lead is a so-called "urban explorer." It's a title I personally avoid because far too many "urban explorers" are somewhat unpleasant, and if I'm to choose a term to describe myself, it needs to be one that people can't google and see people bragging about stealing cans of stella from their local spar. Thats bad association, you know. I hate to sound arrogant, but you end up with what you're willing to put up with, and I deserve better association simply because I am not unpleasant company.
But thats not a dig at my lead. He's free to call himself whatever he wants. But he knows what I'm talking about because he's also requested that I'm nice to this place, and keep the location secret. It is one of the most well preserved ROC posts I have ever seen. And I've seen a few now. Tree Surgeon and I did find that really clean one once, but it had been broken into shortly before and it's been sealed up again now. Whereas the ones that remain open to the public, such as Nesscliffe, Church Stretton and Cockshutt, are pretty trashed. This was different. This was still mostly intact. I really don't blame my lead for being cautious with telling me. 
I often refer to places that I explore as "Sandcastles" and the ROC posts are an excellent meaning behind the metaphor in their temporariness. Everything is temporary. And once abandoned, its temporariority is only increased. This is the best kept bunker I've found so far, but I bet Church Strettons was beautiful before someone set fire to it. Church Stretton ROC is also another good reason behind why I make fun of the Urbex Community a lot.

To my delight, Tree Surgeons wife, Ms K, offered to drive us out there. Ms K has driven us to various places before but often she's content to sit in the car and wait for us. This bothers me somewhat because I'm uncomfortable with someone doing me a favour at their own expense. Ms K could be staring out at the Shropshire wilderness for anything from thirty minutes to several hours, depending on whether the ROC post was accessible and depending on how much was in it to photograph. Luckily, Tree Surgeon was able to persuade her to come with us, and experience her first abandoned military bunker.

Big ominous hole in the ground. *Cue dramatic music!*

As a little exposition, the term "bunker" is slightly inaccurate with these places, although they were built to serve as mini bunkers if the need arose. In actual fact these were nuclear monitoring posts. During the Cold War, the Royal Observer Corps were given the task of monitoring nuclear blasts. 1,563 subterranean posts were set up across the UK, the majority of which have the same basic layout, consisting of a fifteen foot ladder, a cubicle with a makeshift toilet, and a main room which would have had desks, monitoring equipment, communication equipment to maintain contact with other posts, and bunk beds, so that in the event of a nuclear blast, those stationed here would be safe. 

Of course, living in a tiny underground office with two other people during nuclear fallout is hardly idyllic, and the communication equipment was linked to telegraph poles, which obviously would be torn down in a nuclear blast. So there were some flaws there, but this was a time when a lot of people were panicking about nuclear weapons. Unlike today, where we're born in a world knowing that these things exist, there was a time when nuclear weapons were new and the world was wetting its collective knickers. The government had to look like it was doing something, even if the people in the government didn't quite know what to do.

Most of the posts were decommissioned in 1968 but some stayed active as late as 1991. Most of the ones in Shropshire are either locked up tight, demolished or trashed, so this one is a real treat. Of course, it's been several decades since this facility, accessible only by a fifteen foot ladder into the ground, has had any sort of maintenance. Only an idiot would go down it.

Well, why be boring when I can be me?

Let's check this place out!

 At the bottom of the ladder there's a drainage grate plus a water pump.

The pump would have removed water to the surface to prevent flooding.

Curiously, the toilet cupboard in this place had been modified in a way that is somewhat unique to this particular post. At least from what I've seen so far! Although I'm a poor judge. There's 1,563 of these things and this is the fifth I've actually been in. But the layout is always the same, so I was expecting the toilet to be in this cupboard. Instead it had been removed and shelves had been put in. Presumably at some point prior to it being decommissioned, its usage changed and it no longer needed toilet facilities. But the best part is this little makeshift lamp thats been added. 

 The lamp is on a flexible cord that connects to a switch on the doorframe. The flexible cord means it can be adjusted to point into the cupboard or into the main room.It was a nice added touch.

Moving onto the main living quarters, the sign was still on the door.

Beyond the door... Holy Annefrank, this place is great!

Although now that I think about it, it sure is strange that there's an exit sign above the only door in the building. 

I mean, did this really need spelling out for someone? 

Taking a look at some of the leftovers... 

A vintage dustpan. But whats this bundled up white fabric?

 It's some kind of hazmat suit! What an awesome find!

An ashtray, still with old fag ash in there. I imagine smoking in such a confined space wouldn't be popular with the non-smokers, and probably not allowed in the facility if it were active today. 

Batteries, all of which were coated in dried battery acid, due to it having leaked out ages ago.

 This map was pretty awesome. It lists numerous others of places like this in the west midlands, some of which I've been to, some of which I havent and some of which I know to be demolished or sealed.

The beds were no longer here, but the mattresses were. Like the other well-conditioned nuclear monitoring post, these weren't the comfiest of mattresses, but they'd do the trick. It would be possible, and pretty cool, to camp out in one of these outposts.
Unless you've seen The Hole, in which case it would be pretty scary.

And speaking of The Hole, whats with these messages I've been getting saying that I ruined the movie by pointing out that Thora Birch dials 911 even though the film is set in the UK? Movie bloopers are always hilarious.

 Very little of the communication equipment remains. I imagine when this place was decommissioned, all of the expensive equipment was removed, but taking things out via a narrow ladder would be tedious business, so people only took what they absolutely had to.

 The posts have ceiling vents that were sealable in the event of a nuclear blast. It makes me wonder how survivors of a nuclear blast were meant to breathe down here, but I'm sure they thought that through, right?

An old health and safety notice.

 This exact same cupboard design has been in every nuclear monitoring post I've seen so far, except for Church Stretton. Although I'm sure its remains were among the rubble.

On top was a solitary battery that had leaked beautifully all over the leftover paperwork.

 The cupboards are usually full of supplies. I imagine back in the day there was food in here too, but all thats left now is toilet paper.

 And just in case you were ever curious about wiping your bottom with tracing paper, that pesky government has clearly stamped this as Government Property, so you can't have it.
Sad times.

I think this padlock may have originally been on the cupboard door, since there is a latch for it.

 Moving over to the desk, we have three chairs, and loads of paper work! There's still a coat draped over one of the seats too, which is truly creepy.

The book had entries up to 1990 but had last been signed in 2015 by an "urban explorer." Upon inspection I realised that this is the person who told me about this place, and asked me to be nice to it. And because I get a torrent of mail every blog post asking how I get to places, in spite of the disclaimer, I censored their name so that the same doesn't happen to them.

You're welcome!

On this desk is this circular thing which is labeled post trangulation calculator. It appears to be a device for measuring the size of a nuclear blast.

I did giggle at the label on the walls filing system labeled "Informal bomb messages."
I mean, in the event of a nuclear strike, one could be forgiven for dispensing with formalities and getting right down to the swearing like a wounded pirate, right?

Here we have cooking instructions and a breakdown of supplies which gives an insight into what it would be like to be stationed here.

 This is the toilet, judging by its similarity with designs in other posts. At some point it was moved nto the main room and used as a bin.

And at the back is an openable air vent. It's a standard feature in these places. 

These installations are noticable from the surface by their ventilation points, but otherwise they resemble trap doors in the ground, and many, many people probably walk past them all the time and never realise. Indeed, when I do stumble across the ones that are locked up tight, I get really quite sadnened by the knowledge of whats fifteen feet below my feet, closed off from the world. 

But nothing is permanent. The photographs I take of any location only capture how it looks after it was last next looted and trashed, and before it happens again. And just as there will be a time when the places I've photographed no longer exist, so too will there be a time when neither do the barriers that stop my adventures in their tracks.

In the meantime, follow me on Instagram and Twitter. And if you can spare the pennies to the blog fund, click the big donate button at the top and enter the number of your choice. All earnings go to keeping the blog going and hopefully getting some better equipment in the future. But don't feel pressured. This is just me trying to get a little extra when I work for barely minimum wage and struggle daily for my dignity. Wealth should be measured in happiness, and believe me, I'm smiling. And so should we all be. Go make someone happy. Turn a day around, compliment a stranger, defrown a miserable git. Bonus points if you get a hug out of it.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Wakeman roof

(DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model. )

A friend of mine had a gathering a little while ago so that he could see everyone one last time before setting off around Europe. Since he's a content producer, he mixes with other content producers and as such this gathering proved to be quite the collective of Shrewsburys creative minds. This was great bgecause they keep themselves to themselves. I know them mostly by web content than by face and vice versa. I met some great people, made new friends, and I was also told by someone that the view from the clocktower of Wakeman school was really, really awesome. They followed up this statement with "Oh, we went up when there was scaffolding a few years back. You'll never get up there now."

Heh. Does that sound like a challenge to you? Because it did to me.

*Cue dramatic music*

Wakeman school is situated just across English Bridge, on the way to the Abbey. It was constructed in 1921, as an answer to a growing number of students in the inadequately sized educational facility at the time, which was actually just a derelict brush factory being rented as a school. The brush factory itself was only rented out two years prior, after an even older facility proved inadequately sized. So Wakeman was the third incarnation, initially described as semi-permanent and going by the title "Shrewsbury Borough Technical School." In the decade after its construction, it was decided that it was still inadequately sized but rather than move facilities again, they decided to extend it and remake it. I've actually found this aerial shot from before this change occurred, and as you can see, it's a vastly different shape to what it is today. The surrounding features, such as the church, the bridge, the lovely abbey gardens, and the building that would become the infamous brothel are all still there.

The newly improved technical school opened in 1938, but with the war looming, it ended up not being your standard school. Instead it joined the war effort, providing courses for military personnel and training people to work in local industry. It also helped manufacture munitions and rumour has it there was a morgue in the cellar, with an underground tunnel stretching beneath the river to the town centre of Shrewsbury, for the discreet removal of dead bodies.

But as far as rumours go, anything going under the river sounds preposterous.

 I did, however, look into the morgue rumours and found out that the old building, the original incarnation of Shrewsbury Technical School prior to its move to Wakeman, had served as a military hospital during the first world war. So that likely was the spawning point for such a rumour. I have yet to find any documentation that the Wakeman building was ever a hospital even though loads of people seem to have heard that it was.

Following the war, the building provided educational courses for what would today be referred to as Secondary School and College students, but as the student number increased, it was decided to change it again, this time removing the college-age students to a different facility and re-opening the school purely for eleven to sixteen year olds. It reopened in 1957 and changed its name to Wakeman School in 1961, named after the chairman of the board of governors, Sir Offley Wakeman. This guy was allegedly a captain in the grenadier guard during the first world war.

And between 1961 and 2013, the majority of stories I've heard about Wakeman School from former students are positive, although some students did occasionally refer to it as Wankman. But, you know, kids are kids and the title does kinda walk right into that one. I've actually heard some pretty wild tales from former students and staff. Everything from secret student liassons with staff members to a kid being kidnapped by the folks in what would become the brothel and abused for several days before being let out.

Wakeman opened its ICT Facility in 2008, in the cellar where the alleged morgue used to be. Students from the time do say that there was a creepy vibe down there. Only a few years later in 2011 it was announced by the council that Wakeman school was to close due to unsustainable pupil numbers. This triggered a ferocious backlash from the citizens of Shrewsbury who did their damndest to keep it open. But it was all in vain, and the school closed in 2013. As a nice touch, various pieces of leftover ceramic art that had accumulated from several decades of students was placed around town in a decorative fashion, usually in bricked up windows and doorways, and called the Wakeman Trail. If you live in Shrewsbury, you've probably seen some of it. If you ever come to visit Shrewsbury, look out for it.

This was not the end of Wakeman. It re-opened as an extension of the Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, and now has a healthy influx of sixteen to eighteen year old students.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room. The safeguarding disclaimer.
Obviously, for legal implications, I didn't climb up it on a school day. Colleges, after all, probably have their safeguarding policies due to the fact that they have an influx of what would in legalese be classed as vulnerable people, and I'd really hate it if the college got into trouble because a surprise Ofsted inspection coincided with a weirdo being on the roof. I'm not out to cause trouble, after all. If you're worried about security or if you're a certain newspaper looking for scandal, then don't worry, I'm a trained professional and my means of getting to places are both impossible and secret, and everything the newspapers said about me so far is fabricated.And as far as repeat performances go, Wakeman is definitely a one-off. I won't be going up there again.

So what's the view like from the roof of Wakeman? Well take a look!

 Between Wakeman School and the river is the Abbey Garden, which has this random pillar standing there for no apparent reason. Abbey Garden was actually once a stone yard belonging to a local builder and architect. The garden is decorated with the remnants of buildings that he designed and built that have since been demolished. Some of the remnants origins are completely unknown. Today the garden is a really nice chillout spot.

 Here's a view of the English Bridge, across which was once Infinity & Beyond, which my readers will remember me climbing prior to its demolition and getting a shot of Wakeman from the roof.

 The building on the corner is New York Pork, who serve delicious food, the upper floors being the now-abandoned former brothel that I explored a little while ago and ended up trapped in the dark with eight terrified pigeons. I think there's work being done on the place now, and it has a To Let sign on the side facing the main road. It houses a little shrine to its former occupants, most of which have suffered death-by-lifestyle. It's sad to think that when the place gets fixed up, that room will be cleared out and the last remnants of someones lives will be cleared out with it. Because someones life, even if it's not a life I'd personally live, is still someones life.

And of course beyond that are the train tracks and the Abbey where I recently photographed a wedding. I wonder if any of the people on the train noticed the miscreant adventurer sat on a roof.

By far one of the coolest things about this place is the graffiti. There are names scribbled all over the Wakeman roof. Are any of these names you recognise? Are any of these you?

 One of the dates is 1936, which would be incredible if it's factual and not a joke. And in the bottom left corner there's a name thats actually been scratched out, dated 1989. That intrigued me. Is this a student who went on to become a teacher, and attempted to cover up the rules they'd broken as a student?
The graffiti itself is very significant because as an adventurer and blogger, I get a lot of negative comments from so-called "Urban Explorers" for doing what they do. Only their clique are allowed to publish pictures of things on the internet, and there's always the "We got there first" crowd. This graffiti proves NONE OF US GET THERE FIRST. I don't care how many people get there first, I appreciate what there is for me to see when I am there. I do have some proud moments of being the first to find an abandoned thing, but I'm not a dick about it.

 But onto the actual clocktower itself! Isn't it beautiful?

The clocktower has the majority of the graffiti, from varying dates.

I like how specific this last one is. Prof A J Faulkner was here on the September 7th 1979, at 2:05 AM.

There was a small scramble up to the tower, for an even superior view, which was wonderfully framed by the pillars of the clocktower.

Leaning out of the clocktower, I was quite shocked by exactly how far I could see.

There in the distance we can see Lord Hill Column. I climbed that once, when it was wrapped in scaffolding, although long before I moved to Shrewsbury it was possible to get permission to go up there. The council would literally just hand the key over, for a fee. And lately I've heard that it was the place to be for a lot of teenage couples. That's probably why the council stopped permitting access. The crane is the one I referred to earlier as the one I climbed with Rushworth.

Over there, it's possible to see Cineworld, and Asda.

There's the Parade Shopping centre, which actually was a hospital and did in fact have a morgue. This perhaps is another source of the rumour.

And then over there we can actually see Laura's Tower sticking out over the trees, and the library protruding from over the buildings.

When rooftopping one must measure out the risk/reward ratio. People do say to me "Isn't that dangerous?" And it is, but look at the view. How could I not?

The feedback to this blog is typically positive but lately there's been some people messaging me in amazement that I still do this after the cyanide incident. Surely I've learned now to settle down and be more normal? I actually think it's made me appreciate life more though, and consequentially made me want to adventure more. And as for normality, what is that? From a natural standpoint, the human race itself isn't living "normally." I am here in this world where at birth I was numbered and registered, and in the following years fed into a schooling system so that my mind and soul could be programmed to serve a society where success is measured by the size of the number entering my bank each month, and I work for someone else so that the person at the top can have expensive holidays, live in a big house and drive a fancy car. I'm going to work until I'm too old to be of any more use. And where does that leave me personally?

This is why it is so important that the human being embraces their passion and does what they want to be doing. This system is unnatural. Human nature has been hi-jacked. And if you're wondering why so many people are depressed for no apparent reason or even why there's so much irrational aggression in society, I have to wonder if it's because deep down we know that we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing. The world is meant to be our playground. We are, as humans, capable of content production to make the world pretty and amazing. We've created art. We've created fantastic cities. We've created a million forms of music. But we've also created our own domestication. If you compare humans to other animals, the obvious difference to me is that an animal will fight to the death to avoid capture. Obviously, we're a clever species. We know how to hunt them and put them in zoos. But in a one-on-one tussle with, say, a fox, if the human was to corner that fox, it will fight to the death to defend itself. Whereas humans, we complain about imprisonment while doing absolutely nothing to change it. People will complain about the powers that be, but that's the problem- they're just talking. I would love to see the applecart tipped over in my own lifetime but I don't think I will. Again, that's part of the problem. Lots of people say they'd love to see it all change. Nobody knows how to do it. This beautiful system is here to stay. The trick, I think, is having fun in spite of it, and doing something that gives your life meaning. For me, my mind slides into a zone of acceptance every time I do something adventurous and/or crazy.

 I was scared by the cyanide incident, yes. But there are plenty of things that scare me more. I'm scared of introducing myself but having nothing interesting to say other than "Hi, yes, I work nine to five and watch TV when I get home until it's time to sleep." I'm scared of making it to my deathbed when I'm 90, and looking back on my life and thinking "How boring, what a waste." And yes, I fear falling, I fear injuring myself on these adventures, but if I couldn't do what I do, what then? I can't fall back on a mundane existence because I don't have a mundane mind.

So it's great that people love what I do and love this blog. We're in five-digit view counts and the majority of the feedback is positive. I love it, and I have limitless appreciation for my readers. It was reader donations that got me my camera over a year ago now, and I've just done my first paid photography work at a wedding, so it really goes to show how awesome life can become if you just let go of mundanety and then go with the flow. I don’t know why everyone isn’t fighting mundanety right now. I see so many people who are plodding along, and don't know why they're sad, and they have these moments of rebelious joy when they read about someone doing something silly, like yarn bombing, or sticking party hats on all of the towns statues in the dead of night, or whatever little act of weirdness makes the world that little bit more awesome. And they'll say "This is amazing. Whoever did this is such an inspiration." But it doesn't have to be just them doing it. Everyone can do it!

And I've rambled enough now. But if anything I’m saying here clicks with you in any way, if it makes you think even a little bit, you know what to do. Embrace your passion. Follow your imaginations. Vomit forth your creativity. Take your souls and hurl them against the walls of the mundane world.

 Time to say Goodbye to this epic view.

Comfort zones are great, but nothing ever grows there.

Anyway, thank you for reading my blathering to a backdrop of a magnificent view from yet another place I shouldn't be. This place, from what I can tell, is a great place to be educated, and like I said, if you're worried that anyone can just get here willy nilly, or if you're a certain newspaper wanting to say that anyone can get here willy nilly for the sake of selling a dramatic scandal, don't worry. This adventure was unique. And nobody is walking in my footsteps. Why would they be? They don't know what I've trodden in!

If you liked this blog post, please share it across the social media, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram. If you can spare some change to the blog fund (I work for barely minimum wage), click "Donate" at the top of the blog. But don't worry if you can't. What's truly important is that you're all happy. If you see someone unhappy, go out and make them non-unhappy. Because life should just be awesome at nobodies expense. Be good to each other.

Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!