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Found 120 results

  1. History As far as history goes for this particular property, it is sparse as it is nothing more than a fairly modern residential building. One newspaper based in Barnsley reported that traffic came to a standstill as a result of a fire at the property on Rotherham Road. Two fire crews attended the scene and spent two-and-a-half hours extinguishing the blaze. A second source suggests that the fire was caused by a lit candle, and that a woman had a lucky escape. The woman concerned apparently suffered slight smoke inhalation but was otherwise in good health. The property itself is an average sized two-storey house. Its notable features include an indoor swimming pool and a spiral staircase. Our Version of Events Of all the places we could end up in, we ended up in Barnsley. After looking at the town hall and wandering around the town and its meat and fish market for half an hour it didn’t take long to run out of things to do, so we decided we might as well look for an explore. However, the best thing we could find, unfortunately, was an old burnt down house. We tried a couple of other spots beforehand but didn’t have much luck overall. The house on Rotherham Road is exactly what you might expect for a residential explore – mostly empty and damp. As noted above, though, it does feature an indoor swimming pool where you can try your hand at floating across on doors someone has thrown in. Needless to say, we weren’t very successful but it was certainly worth a quick go. The second bit of the building that’s worth a look at is the spiral staircase in what we think was the former living room. This room was the most photogenic part of the explore so we spent most of our time in here. Going up the staircase turned out to be a complete waste of time because this is where the fire was. There is very little left of the roof and most of the floorboards look rather fucked. Compared to the mansions and castles of Belgium and France, then, this explore is a big disappointment, but it does kill fifteen minutes if you happen to be passing and fancy a swim. Explored with Ford Mayhem. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9:
  2. History The Waterloo Tunnel is a 779 metre (852 yards) long disused railway tunnel in Liverpool. It opened in 1849. At its Eastern end, the Waterloo Tunnel opens into a short cutting (approximately 63 metres long) which connects to the Victoria Tunnel which is 1.536 miles (2.474 kilometres) long. Effectively, both tunnels are one long tunnel with an open-air ventilation cutting in between; however, they were given different names initially because trains in the Waterloo Tunnel were locomotive hauled while trains in the Victoria Tunnel were cable hauled. In terms of tunnel architecture, the Waterloo Tunnel features a semi-circular opening, wide enough to accommodate three separate tracks. The westernmost section has been backfilled and there are occasional accumulations of calcite on the brickwork. Most of the Waterloo Tunnel is brick-lined; however, it is not listed. The Victoria Tunnel, on the other hand, is Grade II listed. It features a rusticated arch flanked by buttresses, together with a modillioned cornice and ashlar-coped parapet. The first two-hundred yards of the tunnel are brick-arched, but after that it is unlined up to the fourth ventilation shaft. There are five visible air shafts in the Victoria Tunnel, and an additional five hidden shafts. A drain also runs down the length of the tunnel, but this has collapsed in certain places. Both tunnels were constructed because the city of Liverpool is built on a densely populated escarpment (a long, steep slope) that drops down to the River Mersey. This meant building on the surface would have been difficult without causing major disruption, but also that the landscape was ideal for the construction of a line that could be placed beneath the ground. Nevertheless, cutting both tunnels still proved to be a difficult task as care had to be taken to avoid disturbing the buildings above due to their shallow depth. The work from Byrom Street eastwards proved the most difficult and perilous and, despite efforts to excavate carefully, the soft clay in the area caused several houses to give way, rendering them uninhabitable. All the inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes at short notice. What this means is that the design of the tunnel – becoming two separate structures – was a result of circumstance. The first goods traffic travelled through the tunnels in August 1849. However, a three-foot section of Victoria Tunnel collapsed in September 1852. The collapse was quickly repaired and the tunnels were used by goods traffic without any further major incidents until 1899, when a freight train consisting of a tank, twenty-three loaded wagons and a brake van separated when a coupling between the seventh and eighth wagons fractured. Two wagons and the van were destroyed in the incident, and two of the three men aboard were killed. A train that was travelling towards the docks was also caught up in the accident as it collided with the debris and partially derailed. Although both the Waterloo and Victoria Tunnel were initially part of a freight line, they were opened to passenger traffic in 1895. Passenger services continued to run up until February 1971. Many of the large docks in Liverpool ‘dried up’ as they were affected by declining industry across the UK and this resulted in a significant decrease in traffic on the line. Both tunnels were officially closed on 19th November 1972; although, a small section of the Edge Hill line was retained as a headshunt. It is rumoured that this track is still used very occasionally today. Whether this is true or not, though, is another matter. The futures of both the Waterloo and Victoria Tunnel are uncertain. However, the Merseyrail Network have proposed to use part of them to create a connection to the low-level Liverpool Central Station. Creating the connection would reduce journey times to Edge Hill. Unfortunately, though, so far all plans have fallen through due to some local opposition and budget constraints. The last attempt to revive the line was made in 2007, driven by plans to redevelop the north shore area of Liverpool. Our Version of Events After meeting up with a couple of Liverpool based explorers, and hitting an old industrial site first, we decided to head over to the Waterloo/Victoria Tunnel. It was good to meet a couple of locals for a change because they both had an exceptional knowledge of the area – something we lack when it comes to exploring in Liverpool, unfortunately. Anyway, this saved us having to do much research and scouting for a change. So, thanks fellas! When we initially rocked up outside our chosen access point, several Network Rail guys were busy standing around a couple of shovels and one guy down a hole. Rather than leave and come back, though, we decided to sit in the car and wait for them to fuck off. Our patience paid off pretty quickly since the boys in orange decided to down tools literally five minutes after we’d parked up. Once they’d left, we gave them an additional five minutes before we grabbed our gear and made our way into the tunnels, to account for any of them who might have left their beloved tape measure or spirit level behind. The first tunnel, the Waterloo Tunnel, smelt strongly of tar or creosote. We weren’t sure of the source, but the floor was fairly manky, giving an indication that there may have been a recent spillage. That, however, was perhaps the most interesting part of this section of the explore. All in all, it didn’t seem especially exceptional – even if it was quite wide. Hoping the explore would be better in the latter half, then, we cracked on and made our way towards the open-air section. As several other reports have revealed, the open-air section/accident between the two tunnels is full of shit. It seems Liverpool folk don’t bother visiting the local tip, they simply lob their old goodies off the bridge on Fontenoy Street. Anyone seeking spare lawnmower parts, or a second-hand seatee, should get themselves straight down to the Waterloo Tunnel. Sadly, we didn’t need either, so we had to clamber over the mountain of shit instead, to reach the Victoria Tunnel on the other side. Once inside the Victoria Tunnel, we began our long walk towards Edge Hill Station. At this point, we weren’t aware how long the bloody thing is, but it soon became clear to us that the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t getting much closer any time soon. Nevertheless, we plodded on, heading towards the small dot of light in the far distance. The Victoria Tunnel was much more interesting that its sister. A large proportion of it is brick-lined, but there are also large unlined sections that have simply been carved out. There are several ventilation shafts to look at along the way too, and each one is different to the last. It’s only now, having been inside the Victoria Tunnel, that we understand what a few of the random structures are on the surface directly above. Finally, the tunnel ends with a short section of railway track that is still in situ, which is always nice to find. The only things to be careful of down this end are Network Rail workers and, so we have been told, a camera waiting for unsuspecting visitors to the tunnel. Explored with Veryhighguy and The J Man. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30:
  3. History The local history for this one is a bit vague, so we’re going off a few dodgy sources here. One of those includes a local lad we met inside the building who happened to be ‘salvaging’ trophies. With that in mind, it is unknown when the International Social Club was constructed. However, judging by the style of the building, and the fact that the social club only traded for the past twenty years or so, it could be surmised that it was originally a three-storey house that was built at the same time as some of its neighbouring buildings. In its current form, the building has a four-room underground cellar, a snooker room and main bar area with a stage and dance floor on the ground floor, a lounge and bar area on the first floor, and a one bedroomed self-contained flat on the top floor. The property is currently on the market with a guide price of £175,000. The brochure advises potential buyers that the building is ‘suitable for residential redevelopment’ and ‘benefits from central heating’. As for the reason for it being derelict, according to the local lad we met, the building was condemned and subsequently shut down due to a rat infestation. This information comes from an individual who, apparently, used to frequent the club on the odd occasion when he fancied the odd Carlsberg or lager shandy. Our Version of Events With a bit of time to kill over in Liverpool, we decided to go check out the International Social Club. It was fairly close to a couple of other buildings we’d been scoping out, so we agreed it was a good idea to pop in on our way back to the city centre. We found it without any bother; however, it just so happened that when we rocked up, so did a local chav. Clad in his dark blue tracksuit, we caught him sneaking onto the grounds trying to enter the building. At this point, then, we assumed he was meeting a few other local yobs to drink a couple of bottles of White Lightning in the cellar or smash the place to shit, or both. Nevertheless, no sooner had we thought these things did he emerge from the building once again, looking a little lost. So, we decided to confront him and ask him what he was doing. After a quick chat with the local youth, he declared his ‘interest’ in abandoned buildings but also admitted that he didn’t have any kind of torch or light with him. This was when he happened to notice that we were armed to the teeth with torches, so we shared with him our intention to enter the premises. Our new chavvy friend was elated at this news because we could now light the way for him. With the newfound knowledge he would be able to see where he was going, he led the way and showed us how to enter the building (which, as it turned out, was rather easy anyway). Once inside, we chatted with our new chavvy friend and did our best to convince him that ghosts don’t really exist. We didn’t seem to do very well in that department, unfortunately, so we told him that real ghosts only haunt pubs and clubs that had a good selection of beer, which this one didn’t. This seemed to settle Chayse’s (we made this name up, but it seems suitable) nerves and, from that point on, he started to reveal his true reason for being in the social club. He was there to steal a couple of trophies. By the time we were finished taking snaps, we realised his tracksuit pockets were filled with the things. We were about to ask him what he was doing, and how much he thought he was going to fetch for the merchandise, when we heard someone run (presumably away from us) up a set of stairs. This startled Chayse and, after checking to see the stairs were clear, he made a run for it himself. We never saw him again. Following Chayse’s untimely departure, we continued to explore the remainder of the building. All we really had left to check out was the top floor. Once we found the staircase that took us up there, we quickly discovered that the door was firmly locked. It turns out, as we discovered later when talking to two Liverpool-based explorers, that some guy is living in that section of the building, claiming it’s his home. In hindsight, then, it was probably this guy we heard bolting up the stairs, to make sure we didn’t wander uninvited into his personal living quarters. We did knock, but there was no answer, so, having explored the entire building at that point, we decided to call it a day and make our way back out. Explored with A Local Chav. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27:
  4. History “We’re excited at the opportunity to restore the Littlewoods Building and give it an exciting new lease of life that will put it on a national stage and finally give it the recognition that it deserves” Tim Heatley of Capital & Centric. The former art deco style Littlewoods Pools Building, which is rumoured to have been designed by Scottish architect Gerald de Courcey Fraser, was constructed in 1938. It was run by Sir John Moores and his brother Cecil as the headquarters of their retail and football betting company, Littlewoods, that was founded in Liverpool, and originally used to process betting slips from the Football Pools. At the time, with almost twenty thousand employees, the brothers possessed England’s largest family owned business empire. It was also the world’s largest football pools business. Following the outbreak of World War Two, the Littlewoods Pools Building, with its vast internal space, made a significant contribution to the war effort. When war initially broke out, the building’s enormous printing presses were used to print over seventeen million National Registration forms in just three days. The main workshop floors were later used to assemble Halifax Bombers and barrage balloons. The building also served as the nerve centre of MC5, the government agency that intercepted mail to break enemy codes. After the war, the Littlewoods Pools Building resumed its normal pools operations, and later became the headquarters for the Littlewoods Printing Division, JCM Media. However, Littlewoods huge success came to an abrupt end towards the end of the 1990s/beginning of the 2000s. Subsequently, as the various branches of the company were sold off, the former Littlewoods Pools Building was vacated in 2003, after the lease was sold to the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). The building has since remained unoccupied. For many years, the threat of demolition hovered over the rapidly deteriorating site. However, as of April 2017, the iconic building has been sold and is due to be redeveloped into a major film and television studio hub, to make it ‘the heart of Liverpool’s film and media industry’. It is anticipated that thirty-five million pounds will go into regenerating the site. Our Version of Events The old Liverpool Pools Building has been on the cards for a very long time. Unfortunately, it seems we’ve never been in Liverpool long enough to get it done. It was time to change this though, since we’d heard the building has now been sold and is due to be refurbished. With no time to lose, then, we made our way over there pretty sharpish. Initially, we were rather worried that we’d missed out on our opportunity to explore this site, as several other explorers have recently reported that they had difficulty accessing it due to cameras and security guards. True to their word, when we arrived we immediately spotted a chap sitting in his car outside the site’s main entrance. He looked kind of like an authority figure, but we weren’t entirely sure. We also, inadvertently, found the camera with the speakers while we were scouting out the other side of the building, after a strange bloke walking his dog lobbed a stick at it. Needless to say, the speaker went mental and informed everyone nearby that the police had been alerted. It wasn’t a great start. Despite the first few problems, we found accessing the Littlewoods Pools Building a doddle. So much so, we popped back the next day because we ran out of daylight while exploring it the first time. So, given it might not be an explore for much longer, any local Liverpool lads and lasses might want to pop by now while they still have the chance. We’d say it’s well worth a visit. Anyway, once inside we set about photographing the main halls, then moved on to the front reception buildings. Once we’d finished with those, we made our way over to the clock tower. Although it’s mostly stripped, it still offers some nice views looking out over Liverpool. There’s also a very photogenic room at the top, just before you ascend the last staircase to the tippy top. It took a good few hours and two visits to cover the entire site – other than the underground bits. The underground section we did find was flooded, and we didn’t fancy getting wet. At the time, we weren’t that arsed we’d missed it out. However, in hindsight there’s a wee bit of regret that we didn’t venture down there, especially since none of us are local to Liverpool. Still, we’re glad we finally got the rest of the building under our belts. Explored with MKD. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36: 37: 38: 39: 40:
  5. History Simpson Street School is a Grade II listed building that was constructed by the local council between 1904 and 1905. It opened on 1st May 1905 and was, apparently, originally known as Deptford Terrace Council School, Junior Department, and later Deptford Terrace Junior Mixed School. Whether this is true or not is another matter because Deptford Terrace is a completely different street to the north of the school building. It is reported that Deptford closed on 26th Match 1929; however, Simpson Street Council School, Junior Boys Department opened on the same site one week later. The school remained an all-boys school until 11th January 1943, when it was amalgamated with the Girls Department to form Simpson Street Council School, Junior Mixed Department. The school eventually closed on 21st July 1967 as a larger one was built nearby. Although the precise date is unknown, at some point in its history Simpson Street School fell into the hands of Sunderland Artist’s Group. Subsequently, it was ‘redeveloped’ into a number of workshops and used by artists for a number of years. There is little evidence to reveal why the artist’s group left the premises; it could be surmised that the group no longer exists as their website no longer works, or that they simply moved to a new site and renamed themselves. Whatever the reason, it appears that the building has been left to deteriorate gradually over a period of time. The fate of the old Simpson Street School is currently unknown. Our Version of Events Having just purchased a new car, we decided to take it for a spin. And what better way to break a car in than to take it on its first explore. We chose the Simpson School site for two reasons: it was close by, and, based on what we’d seen from Dave’s report, it looked like a decent little wander that wouldn’t take up too much time. We planned to have a get-together later in the evening, so we didn’t want to waste too much valuable drinking time. Finding the place was easy, as the name is a bit of a giveaway. Actually accessing it, though, was even easier! It only took several seconds before we were stood inside a building that had a very arty feel to it. However, this was slightly problematic, as we weren’t sure if the place was actually abandoned at first. After all, artist workshops tend to have that general derelict feel to them. Anyway, we found ourselves in room that was filled with stuff, and some of the junk looked like it had been placed there relatively recently. Fortunately, our initial doubts didn’t last too long, once we ventured downstairs. Apart from the first two rooms, the rest of the building teased our nostrils with the familiar smell of decay. On the whole, there wasn’t a great deal to see. A lot of the rooms have interesting bits and bobs in them, but nothing you wouldn’t expect to find in an old art college type of place. A few of the old art projects were perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the explore, along with some of the framed photographs we found. In terms of it being an ideal little explore if you happen to be passing, then, it’s spot on. It should take you about twenty minutes to cover the whole lot. That means you’ll have plenty of time afterwards to spend in the pub. Explored with MKD and The Hurricane. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23:
  6. History Heap’s Rice Mill, which is now Grade II listed, was founded by Joseph Heap. It was constructed in 1778, on Pownall Street, Liverpool. Originally, the site operated as a small processing mill; however, additional warehouse space was constructed as demand for rice in Europe increased. The warehouse space was later combined with the mill to form one single building. The reason for Joseph Heap’s success can be attributed to the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58 and the American Civil War in 1861-65 as these events meant British traders were forced to seek out trade in other areas of the British Empire. Heap was one of the first to establish trade in British-ruled Burma. By 1864 the company was sending its own ships to acquire one thousand tons of ‘Cargo Rice’ for its Liverpool mill. Joseph Heap & Sons Ltd. became wealthy enough to own its own shipping firm which was known as Diamond H Line, named after their house flag. In the mid-1800s, during a period of expansion, Heap’s company constructed a number of new warehouses at various other sites across Liverpool. These buildings were used for the storage of sugar, and as additional office space. The sugar warehouses were later adapted and amalgamated into the rice mill industry. At this point in time, Joseph Heap & Sons Ltd. vessels were sailing as far as the East Indies and Australia. The original mill would also become the one that ground rice for Kellog’s Rice Krispies in 1927. Despite several changes in ownership, Joseph Heap & Sons Ltd. main mill was still fully operational up until 1988. After this time, some operations were transferred to a new site on Regent Road. Parts of the mill on Pownall Street continued to operate until 2005. Twelve years later, however, and Heap’s original Rice Mill has decayed badly due to water damage, to the extent that it was due to be demolished in 2014. Nevertheless, a petition to save the site resulted in it being categorised as a listed building by English Heritage. This means the imposing structure remains one of the earliest and last surviving warehouse complexes in a once-thriving industrial area. It is also an important reminder of Liverpool’s rich mercantile history and overall prominence. In terms of its future, it is reported that the building is due to be converted into luxury apartments. However, the £130 million residential development has been heavily criticised because the developers threatened to pull out if they were forced to keep the interior. Subsequently, it is likely that only the original façade of the mill will survive; the interior is due to be sleek and modern. Our Version of Events In the mood for a bit of action and adventure, we decided to have a drive over to Liverpool. We had a bit of business to attend to over in Scouse Land first, but plenty of time before that to get a couple of explores under our belts. We didn’t really have much of a plan, but since there are many places on our to-do list over in the North West, we had high hopes we’d get something interesting done. After taking a look at a site we’ve had our eye on for a while, and deciding the street was too busy for us to access it, we wandered back to where we’d parked the car. It was on the way that we spotted a very large derelict-looking building that was just ripe for the picking. It didn’t take us long to realise that this was the old Heap’s Rice Mill (the name is written on the side of the building) and that it’s rather historic. Finding access to the rice mill was a bit of a ball-ache to be honest. All of the ground-level doors and windows are covered with heavy-duty metal doors and shutters, so there’s no getting past those. We spent the next half an hour wracking our brains and were on the verge of giving up when we realised the way in was right in front of us. This raised our urbex-deprived spirits and ten seconds later we were inside the old mill, staring up in awe at an incredible bridge and several large tanks. The place felt absolutely huge from the inside, and it was fucked, in a nice, photogenic kind of way. The only downfall was the phenomenal amount of green fetid bird shit dripping from the roof, which was weird because there didn’t appear to be any living birds. Splodging our way through a good inch of crap, we made our way to the far end of the enormous alleyway we seemed to be in. From there, we found a staircase and made our way up with the intention of finding the roof. However, by level three we soon discovered that the former metal staircase had become so corroded a huge section had fallen off. This forced us to backtrack a bit, until we found a stone staircase. This was much more sturdy and took us to the top levels of the building. Roaming around up here, though, is quite risky, so if anyone happens to pop to Heap’s Rice Mill after seeing this report, watch your step! You should take Historic England’s description of the building, the one that says the premises is ‘mainly 7-storeys’, quite literally. Many of the floorboards have disappeared, and those that remain are completely rotten. We moved around very tentatively up here. Other than a few bits of leftover machinery and random bits of kit, there isn’t much to see throughout the building, but the extreme decay is pretty cool to see. The best bit of the explore, by far, was what we found in the basement. At first, we thought we’d discovered a normal cellar sort of setup. But, we stumbled across a small stone staircase that took us even deeper, until it reached a beautiful brick-lined tunnel. Unfortunately, the tunnel was sealed at the end, but we’re assuming it probably led all the way to the docks at one time. It seemed to head off in that general direction. After wandering around in the basement for a while, we agreed we’d seen most of the building and decided to call it a day. We didn’t have a proper place to stay, so we still had to find a spot to camp. On that note, then, we made our way back to the main street and set off in search of a place to drink a couple of beers and catch fifty winks. Explored with MKD. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30:
  7. History Farringdon Hall Police Station was built in the 1960s and, at one time, it was the main station serving Sunderland West. However, in 2014, following a move by Northumbria Police to cut costs and reinvest money in front-line policing, the station was one of many in the north east earmarked for closure. Sections of the four-storey building were closed down in stages, until the last remaining officers were moved from the site at the end of 2015. Farringdon Hall is currently on the property market with an asking price of £400,000. The property description describes it as being a spacious building that provides ‘open plan and cellular accommodation including the old custody suite and cells’. An additional perk is that it offers two separate parking areas. Nonetheless, since becoming abandoned there has been little interest from potential buyers. The only thing the old station seems to be attracting is vandalism. Depending on how you look at it, then, it could be argued that the building is continuing to serve its original purpose as there are still a lot of local goons and yobs inside. Our Version of Events Exploring Farringdon Hall was a last-minute idea after we happened to find ourselves in the land of the Smoggies. We were heading back after an afternoon of hunting for a car and, after spotting Krypton’s report on 28days, decided we might as well have a quick nosy inside. For the most part, we’d say the explore is OK. As Krypton has pointed out, there’s not much point in venturing upstairs. The only reason why you might spend twenty minutes visiting this place lies on the ground floor, and it’s called the custody suite. This is a medium-sized section of the police station that’s designed to process and detain people who have managed to find themselves on the wrong side of the law. In here you can find a reception area, a small medical room, a couple of interview rooms, a fingerprinting/photography room, several cells and a storage cupboard that would have contained documents and all the inmates’ belongings. Once we’d checked out the custody suite, we made the mistake of making our way upstairs. Other than a couple of kitchens, virtually all the other rooms were completely stripped. It is perhaps worth taking the stairs all the way to the roof though. It’s always good to seek out the view from the top. Explored with MKD. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29:
  8. History Ouvrage Latiremont is a gros ouvrage (large work) of the Maginot Line – a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles and weapon installations built by France in the 1930s to deter invasion by Germany. The site of Ouvrage Latiremont was selected and approved by the Commission d’Organisation des Régions Fortifiées (CORF) in 1931. It cost eighty-eight million francs (approximately twelve million in pound sterling) to construct the fortification. The design of Ouvrage Latiremont is known as a casemate fortress – a fortified or armoured structure, also referred to as a vaulted chamber, from which guns are fired. Once completed, 75mm and 81mm guns were installed and a second phase was planned, to add additional 75mm and 135mm gun turret blocks. However, the second phase of the development never went ahead as the funding was allocated elsewhere. Latiremont has two main entrances and six combat blocks (three infantry blocks and three artillery). It also comprises more than five kilometres of underground tunnels and galleries; these are at an average depth of thirty metres. A small narrow-gauge railway system, which was connected to a regional military railway system, once linked all six sections of the fortress and it was used to transport supplies, such as equipment, food and ammunition. There were said to be several stations inside Latiremont which were large enough to service and store large trains. Once fully operational, Latiremont was placed under the command of Commandant Pophillat. Pophillat had twenty-one officers and five-hundred and eighty men of the 149th Fortress Infantry Regiment at his disposal. Following the 1939 invasion of Poland, Britain and France declared war on Germany. Thereafter, between the September 1939 and June 1940, Latiremont fired over 14,4 52 75mm rounds and 4,234 81mm rounds at German forces. The fortress, though, was not directly attacked until June 1940. On the 21st June 1940, the German 161st Division led by Colonel Gerhard Wilck, which brought 210mm howitzers and 305mm siege mortars with them, launched their attack against Latiremont. While the attack was underway, a small number of German units moved to the rear of the Maginot Line where they were able to cut power and communications. Despite heavy resistant from Latiremont and nearby fortress Fermont, firing ceased on 25th June and both garrisons surrendered to the German forces on 27th June. For the remainder of the war, the area was used for a German propaganda film, to document the June 1940 attacks, but it did not see any further significant fighting. In 1951 the French government attempted to restore many of the northeastern ouvrages, to defend against a potential advance by the Warsaw Pact. However, following the establishment of the French Nuclear Strike Force, the importance of the Maginot Line diminished. Latiremont was subsequently abandoned by the military in 1967. Today, the fortress remains abandoned and has suffered heavily from water ingress. Our Version of Events Aside from drinking beer, this explore was our reason for being on the other side of the English Channel. We weren’t certain at all if the place would be doable, but after reading about it we decided it was probably worth the risk. Nonetheless, towards the end of our trip there was a sudden drop in team morale. This resulted in us taking a vote in an Aldi car park, over French bread and Biscoff, on whether or not we should crack on and drive for three more hours to reach Latiremont, or turn tail and check out a few old manors as we headed back to the ferry terminus. With the votes all in and tucked nicely into a hat, we made a short ceremony out of revealing the results. In the end, the remainers won, four to two, so there would be no leaving Europe just yet. We finished off our Biscoff and spent our remaining Euros on food in Aldi before we set off for Latiremont. Our combined wealth got us a couple of tins of beans, a box of mushrooms and some spices to sprinkle on top. Someone did offer to buy our car in the car park after we got the supplies in, but we had to insist we really needed it to get home to England. The potential buyer still didn’t seem to see that as a problem though. It was quite a mission to shake him. The drive over to the border of Luxembourg was very pleasant. We played some banging tunes and arrived at the location with plenty of time to spare. At first, we had anticipated that finding the fortress in the forest would be quite a challenge, but as it turned out we stumbled across it within ten minutes of being there. Gaining access to the gros ouvrage was a little more tricky of course – it is a military fortress after all! Once inside, we found ourselves in a standard-looking bunker. There were signs and evidence that guns had been positioned in here, and at first we thought that was that. Most bunkers we’ve entered have been fairly compact and bare, and you can usually get through all the rooms very quickly. Our minds were blown, then, when we discovered a lift shaft and, after peering down to see how high it was, realised we couldn’t see the bottom. Obviously extremely excited at the point, at the prospect the place was going to be absolutely huge, we began to make our way down a staircase next to the lift shaft. We made our way down the steps, which went on for a long, long time, until we reached the bottom where we found ourselves in a cold tunnel surrounded by enormous blast doors. It was at this point we realised we’d underestimated how big this place really is. For the next few hours, then, we made our way through different snaking tunnels, and explored many side rooms and chambers leading off from them. One of the best parts of the explore that we came across was some sort of old gun turret. There were plenty of others things to see as well though. This place was certainly a bit of a time capsule. The only problem, however, was that we started to lose track of where we were inside the fortress. It’s very easy to get lost in the labyrinth-like corridors and rooms and we’d eaten all the bread earlier in the day, so making a breadcrumb trail had been out of the question. Eventually, we felt as though we were well and truly lost so decided it was time to find a way back to the surface. It took a little while, and a few false turns, before we found a tunnel that sort of looked familiar. We followed it and, thankfully, ended up back where we started. All in all, then, this explore was absolutely fantastic – certainly one of the best military fortifications we’ve ever explored. It’s also steeped in interesting history about the war. Anyone who happens to find themselves near Luxembourg should definitely pay this place a visit. You never know your luck after all, you might find a way inside like we did. Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36: 37: 38: 39: 40: 41: 42: 43: 44: 45: 46:
  9. History Château D’ah was constructed at some point in the mid-nineteenth century. For many years, it was owned by an aristocratic family, before it became, for a short time at least, a small apostolic school (part of the Apostolic Church). The school closed shortly after the outbreak of World War Two, leaving the house abandoned for a period of time. Somehow, it survived the heavy bombardment of the German invasion, while the town around it crumbled. It is not known who purchased or occupied the château after the war ended. By the later 1950s, the château was purchased by Rémy Magermans, a famous printer and photographer. Magermans founded his company in the late 1940s and moved into the property as his business expanded. As the château comprised a large amount of land, he was able to construct a printing workshop next door to the manor. Magermans owned the building until he passed away in 2009. Since becoming vacant, many people, including photographers, artists and vandals, have visited the site and it has gradually deteriorated. Our Version of Events After a good session in Brussels, sampling the fine beer of Belgium, we set off in the direction of Luxembourg. Our grand aim was to find an incredibly large underground fortress, but since that entailed a fair bit of driving we figured we might as well check out a few abandoned châteaus along the way. Château D’ah took our fancy because we’d seen some shots of the main downstairs corridor and a very striking staircase. In hindsight, though, if we’d known how fucked the place was going to be, we probably would have given this place a miss and checked out a couple of other locations we had on our list. In terms of gaining access to the site, it was incredibly easy. Vandals have seen to it that anyone can waltz inside these days. Once inside then, we were initially very disappointed. All of the decorative wall paper was ruined, the staircase has been trashed and is rapidly becoming heavily decayed, and everything else around us has been smashed to pieces. Upstairs, things were even worse. Our advice to anyone planning a visit here would be to skip these floors. Other than the reasonably good view from the roof, it’s a complete waste of time going up there. However, there was one really good part to this explore, and it was the reason we decided to post the report. To be perfectly honest, we stumbled across the basement by accident. It turns out that a group of sleep-deprived explorers with severe hangovers aren’t the most observant, so it’s a wonder one of us actually discovered it. Anyway, after noticing it we staggered our way down the stone steps to the bottom. Having only expected to find one room down there, we were pleasantly surprised that there were several rooms and a strange brick corridor. In the end, we spent longer down there than the château itself. We found it was quite photogenic. Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26:
  10. History The village of Doel is said to date back to 1267. It was originally known as ‘De Doolen’ (‘border water’) and up until the eighteenth century it was essentially an island surrounded by flooded plains. For many years, due to its unusual geographical location, it was unclear which country Doel actually belonged to – whether it was the region controlled by Spain or the independent State of the Netherlands. The design of the village that exists today has been dated back to the Eighty Years War (somewhere between 1568 and 1648) and it remains largely unchanged; it is completely surrounded by old seawalls and has been built according to a checkerboard pattern (the village consists of three streets parallel to the riverfront, four streets perpendicular to those, and all of it criss-crossed with alleys and small corridors). Doel also boasts many historical buildings. Some of these include Belgium’s oldest stone windmill (which is not abandoned), Reynard Farm, the Old Hoefyzer (a farmstead and inn site), and the Baroque Hooghuis that once belonged to the family of seventeenth-century artist, Pieter Paul Rubens. However, despite its obvious historical significance, just before the turn of the millennium the Belgian government announced that Doel was destined to be demolished to make way for the enlargement of the Port of Antwerp. All the residents in the village were offered cash premiums to sell-up voluntarily, and they were encouraged to take up the offer by being told that any refusal would lead to expropriation and the offer of much less money. As a result, by 2007 there were fewer than three-hundred and fifty people left in the village – a reduction from approximately one thousand three-hundred. In an effort to save the village, plans were launched to open the site as an open-air museum, with various famous artists painting murals to deliver the message: ‘Don’t take our village away.’ Nevertheless, other artists were soon attracted to the site and began to use the buildings as canvases for their own work. Now, only a few buildings remain free of graffiti; these are the homes of the last residents in Doel. They are the villagers who have shown resilience against the government and, despite facing attacks by squads of riot police, which has resulted in the streets being strewn with rubble and the start of some of the demolition work, they continue in their effort to save the village and their homes. Even with their efforts, though, these defiant individuals are acutely aware that the gradual deterioration and destruction of the village only strengthens the likelihood that the port will, in the very end, win. The only good news to emerge is that, in response to the imminent outcome, plans have emerged to dismantle and rebuild, brick by brick, some of the historic sites in a neighbouring town. This is to ensure they are preserved for the enjoyment and education of future generations. Our Version of Events On our mission to consume lots of good beer, we left Bruges and set off in the direction of Antwerp. However, just over an hour later we found that we were almost upon the great city. We’d neglected to take into consideration how small Belgium is so we had a bit of spare time to kill before it was time to get pissed all over again. To break up the drinking and sober up a bit, then, we decided to go take a quick look at the [mostly] abandoned village of Doel we’d read about some time ago. Finding the place was easy. We simply drove in the direction of the great big nuclear power plant that towers over everything within its vicinity. What is more, with few residents still living in the village itself, there was no dodging and diving to get onsite. Instead, we simply drove straight into the heart of Doel. It felt very strange to be driving along streets that seemed completely abandoned. There was nothing especially spectacular about the place given that most of the buildings are simply empty shells and homes, but there was still something rather cool about the whole experience. The best bit, of course, was being able to find a parking spot right in the middle of the explore. That never happens! All in all, it didn’t take long to walk around the place. We had a bit of a mooch down every street, and peeked inside a fair few of the buildings. But, as we quickly discovered, there’s very little left inside any of the structures. The only interesting thing we found in one of the houses was a small kitten and around twenty dishes of rotten food. Unfortunately, the cat bolted as soon as we entered the building, so there wasn’t much we could do to try and save it. We didn’t have anything edible on us to lure it back either, only strong Belgian beer. Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26:
  11. History Castle Wolvenhof, also known by many as Château Du Loup, was designed by J. Vercoutere and constructed between 1912 and 1914 for the industrialist, Gaspard Vanden Bogaerde. It was one of two castles built in the area. With the outbreak of World War One, Bogaerde and his brother Émile, the owner of the second castle, volunteered to enlist in the Belgian army and they were subsequently sent away to fight. While they were away, German forces commandeered the buildings and the site was converted into a prison camp and a small airfield named Flugplatz Abeele. Towards the end of the war, Castle Wolvenhof sustained a significant amount of damage as much of the wood, including the very expensive floorboards, was torn out and used as firewood. Following the German defeat, the two brothers returned to their properties and spent the next few years renovating them. The Bogaerde families continued to live in the castles long after the Second World War. However, in 1999, both buildings were sold to the city and the grounds were opened as a public park. Today, although it is a heritage building, Castle Wolvenhof is abandoned. Yet, after someone, presumably the city, invested 322,500 euros in the property in 2016, restoration work has begun. The aim of the project is to bring back the building and return it to its former glory. It is unknown what purpose the building will serve once the restoration work is complete; one source suggests it will remain a central part of the park in which it is situated. Our Version of Events Although we’d just returned from New Zealand and had barely set foot on English soil, we decided that a new trip was in order, to make the most of the good summer weather Europe has been experiencing. So, with an epic explore in mind, somewhere along the Maginot Line, we decided to travel through Belgium to reach it. Our decision to visit Belgium was twofold: we could see a few abandoned sites along the way, and drink lots of Belgian beer. The first stop on our travels, mainly for a quick break after driving from the north east, was the legendary Château Du Loup. Surprisingly, finding it was easier than we’d imagined, and gaining access wasn’t as hard as we’d anticipated. However, no sooner had we stepped inside the building did we set off an alarm. From the inside, though, it didn’t seem to sound too loud, so we decided to crack on and take some snaps anyway. For the next half an hour, then, we raced around the building trying to take a photo of each room. The entire time it felt as though a farmer might turn up, or some kind of Belgian security guard, but, fortunately, neither did. In the end, we were able to leave without further incident. It was only when we were making our way back outside that we realised how loud the alarm really was. It was clearly attracting quite a bit of attention from the people who were making good use of the surrounding parkland too. At this point, then, we decided to casually join the general public and take a wander around the park. Our blending in seemed to work rather well, other than the fact our French and Flemish skills don’t go much further than ‘Hallo’, ‘Ik ben op zoek naar, John’ and ‘Bonjour’. Still, it was enough to get us back to the cars. After that, our next destination was Bruges, with plenty of time left in the day to drink lots of beer! Explored with Ford Mayhem, MKD, Rizla Rider, The Hurricane and Husky. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24:
  12. History The Wallaceville Animal Research Centre, located in Wellington, New Zealand, was a Government-owned veterinary and animal research centre. Following the establishment of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture in 1892, a new facility was commissioned to undertake research on livestock, which could then be applied to help farming communities across the country. The laboratory was eventually constructed in 1905. Before this time, research had simply been carried out in temporary makeshift laboratories in Wellington. New Zealand’s only Government Veterinary Surgeon, John Gilruth, was appointed as Wallaceville Laboratory’s founder and officer-in-charge. Gilruth had spent many years investigating stock diseases in New Zealand and France, so he was already a chief veterinarian, government bacteriologist and fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. According to historical records, Scottish-born Gilruth went on to become the Administrator of the Northern Territory in Darwin, Australia. However, his blunt, dynamic style of leadership, which was often viewed as being arrogant and insensitive, resulted in the Darwin Rebellion in 1918. Subsequently, Gilruth was forced to resign from his position and evacuate the Northern Territory under the protection of HMAS Encounter, a military cruiser. As for the research facility in Wallaceville, it continued to expand over the years as more land surrounding the original building was drained and cleared. In the end, over two hundred people worked for the veterinary facility and one hundred acres of land were developed into laboratory buildings and pastures for farm stock and growing oats and other crops for animal feed. However, following plans to relocate the site at the beginning of the millennium, the facility closed in 2007. After the move, the site remained abandoned until 2014, when part of the site was redeveloped into a business park. The remaining farmland and pastures were later sold to a private owner for property development. Our Version of Events And so, we come to our final explore in New Zealand, before we made the incredibly long journey back to England. We were in Wellington, ready to catch our flight but decided there was still time for one last dirty derp. In the end, there’s always time for a quickie. After quick head’s up from Urbex Central NZ, then, we found ourselves stood outside the oldest veterinary facility in the southern hemisphere. Gaining access wasn’t particularly difficult, despite it being situated on a relatively active business park. We simply strutted in with ninja-like skills and managed to squeeze through an inhumanly-sized hole in the roof, right at the tippy top. Once inside, it was immediately obvious that touching anything would be a very bad idea, as it would probably result in us contracting a form of AIDs. The contents of various cardboard boxes we found happened to have chicken varieties, cow ones and a couple of strains belonging to pigs. There were plenty of other vials of diseases scattered throughout the site too, which made our initial paranoia about cutting a finger or grazing an arm even more pronounced. Fortunately, though, we seem to have made it out unscathed. All in all, then, the explore was really good. There was plenty of stuff left over, and we had to sneak around a bit to avoid being seen by anyone wandering around outside which is always fun. The entire building still had a 1905 feeling to it too, since everything looked dated compared to a modern-day laboratory such as GSK. We spent roughly forty-five minutes inside, and then called it a day because we’d managed to take snaps of every room. Getting back out, however, was a mighty task since it suddenly became extremely busy outside with cars and people passing by. Somehow, though, and we’re really not quite sure how, we still managed to avoid getting caught by anyone as we retraced the steps we’d initially taken to get inside. Farewells and Some Acknowledgements On and off since 2014, we’ve been travelling back and forth between the UK and New Zealand. This explore stands as the last explore we’re likely to do in New Zealand for a good while because the coffers are now almost entirely depleted. At this point in time then, we would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone we’ve met, explored and gotten caught by the police with, particularly Urbex Central New Zealand. In particular, we would like to thank our friend, Nillskill, for sharing locations and taking the time to travel around most of the country with us. In total, we managed to explore over one-hundred and eleven sites together. You will be missed, but we look forward to your proposed visit to the UK at some point in the near future. We would also like to mention a few more names of those we’ve met along the way: Bane, Gunner, Zort, Nadita, Harley, René, The Mexican Bandit and Dylan. It was a real pleasure to have met you all, and we’re happy that we managed to spend some time exploring together, even if one of you does insist on being called Zort in everyday life. Stay safe, ladies and gents. Cheerio. WildBoyz. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: [/url] 12: 13: 14: [/url] 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25:
  13. History Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is a Category I Historic Place located in a large suburban area of Wellington, New Zealand. It was constructed in 1955 using concrete, and its design, which is indicative of a post-war utopian vision, was heavily influenced by the American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It was Wright’s belief that structures should be in harmony with humanity and the wider environment. Once completed, the building was thought to have been one of the most contemporary fire stations in the southern hemisphere. Certain features helped to reinforce this image, such as the temporary accommodation inside the station that was said to create a sense of community and camaraderie, the control room that allowed fire engines to be started and stopped remotely, the main doors which could be opened automatically and new technology that could be used to record phone calls. The post-war modernist style of architecture, with its aesthetic smooth surfaces and curves, became very popular throughout Wellington in the 1950s because it represented progress and modernity for a newly emerging city. Following a review of the New Zealand Fire Service in the mid-2000s, and some restructuring due to population dispersal of the city’s growing number of residents, it was decided that three stations in Wellington City would be shut down – those in Lower Hutt, Petone and Point Howard. Lower Hutt Central Station was subsequently closed in 2007. All of its crews and engines were split between three new strategically placed stations at Alicetown, Avalon and Seaview. Since its closure, Lower Hutt Fire Station has remained unoccupied and neglected and this has resulted in it being heavily vandalised. Our Version of Events There’s not a great deal to say about this one.Urbex Central happened to mention they knew the whereabouts of an abandoned fire station, so, in their company, we decided to go take a look. We were immediately sold on the idea after they brought up it still had poles. That’s about the only thing it had going for it mind you. Since being abandoned in 2007, the station has been well and truly stripped of anything of value so it’s largely just a shell these days. However, as noted above, the poles do still exist, and they were easy to find across the site because they sit behind ‘Pole Drop’ doors on the upstairs floors. So, if you happen to be passing by, make sure you pop in and have a quick session on the poles. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: [/url] 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20:
  14. History Holcim, originally named Aargauische Portlandcementfabrik Holderbank-Wildegg, is a Swiss-based building materials and aggregates company that was founded in 1912. The company expanded across Europe in the 1920s, then the Middle East and Americas between the 1930s and 50s. By the 1970s, the company had begun to expand into the Latin Americas and Asian countries. Today, the company employs over seventy-one thousand people and it holds interests in over seventy countries. Following a series of significant mergers with other companies, Holcim has become one of the largest cement manufacturers in the world. The company’s name was changed to Holcim in 2001 – it is short for Holderbank and cement. Holcim’s Cape Foulwind cement works opened in 1958. However, as it has reportedly become cheaper to import cement from Japan, the plant was closed in 2016. The power was turned off on the 29th June, after the remaining eighty workers went home at midday, and the Holcim Cement Carrier left Westport harbour for the last time carrying the remaining 2,500 tonnes of cement from the wharf silos. To help support its staff, Holcim started a Tools for the Future programme to equip workers for after the plant closed. The scheme offered courses that would give their staff skills in other forms of employment, such as barista and chainsaw training, and guaranteed each worker a toolbox. All workers received tools for their toolboxes when they met targets, up to the final closure date of the plant. As a result of the closure, one hundred and five staff and contractors lost their jobs. Their final gift from Holcim was an umbrella and a ratchet set, to add to their toolboxes. Immediately after the plans to close the site were made public, The Buller District Council began looking for new businesses to occupy the land to ensure the survival of Westport and nearby villages; the town’s port grew because of the cement works and it was the area's main source of income. However, a year on and still no redevelopment work has taken place. Although there are plans to turn the site into an eco-park that could make energy from rubbish incineration or turn waste timber into bio-diesel, farms or an industrial park, the council have been unable to find new companies or buyers willing to establish a base in such a rural area of New Zealand. Today, only seven security guards, who were all members of staff at the plant, remain to protect the site until it is sold. As for the town of Westport, a number of houses are now up for sale as many local residents have been unable to find work in the area. Unfortunately, it seems likely that Westport will suffer heavily in the long term as a result of Holcim’s closure. Our Version of Events Holcim’s old cement works has been on the radar for a little while now. However, because it’s located on the desolate West Coast, we’d never had much reason to head in that general direction. Fortunately, though (for us), a major storm hit New Zealand the week we decided to go off and do some exploring, so, to flee the bad weather, we ended up in Westport. As we arrived, the rain had eased into a light drizzle for the first time in days. Yet, despite the change in weather, we still weren’t very optimistic that we’d get onto the site since there were several security cars parked outside of the buildings at the front of the site. Since we’d driven all the way, though, effectively into the middle of nowhere, we decided to have a crack anyway. In the end, access was a lot easier than we imagined, although it did entail a fair bit of walking. And once we were in, we managed, somehow, to completely avoid secca. There was the feeling that one of them could suddenly appear the entire time, since the site had many nooks, crannies and entranceways; however, we got lucky and didn’t encounter anyone until we were on our way back to the cars, back on the right side of the fence. As for the site itself, it was absolutely massive. Most of the interior was quite cramped and full of strange looking machinery, and some areas were flooded. The exterior was perhaps the best part of the explore as it had a very imposing feel to it. It kind of felt like we were extras on a Star Wars set at times. There were some sections to the front of the site that were difficult to access due to secca, and because the entire plant was coated in a thick slimy layer of cement we were unable to climb up some of the high-rise sections. There’s definitely scope to revisit the site then, to have a look at the couple of parts we didn’t manage to visit. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: [/url] 28: 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36:
  15. History Bastion Point, also known as Kohimarama, is an area of land that overlooks Waitemata Harbour, in Auckland. Originally, the land was occupied by Ngāti Whātua, a large Māori tribe consisting of four sub-tribes that settled in Tāmaki. However, when Western colonisation of New Zealand occurred, the land was ‘bought’ and confiscated by the New Zealand Government for ‘public works and development’. However, in 1895, with the threat of a Russian attack imminent, the New Zealand Government decided to build a military outpost at Bastion Point. The area of land had a commanding and strategic advantage against any warships entering the harbour below. Once completed in 1886, the fort, which was named Fort Bastion, had two disappearing guns and two six pounders, with underground passages connecting each of the sites together. However, the Russian threat waned by the 1920s and this resulted in the fort being abandoned. Fort Bastion was reactivated in the 1940s, following the outbreak of World War Two. However, as a memorial had been built over the former artillery storage tunnels, the position of the battery was moved slightly. The fort was then fitted with twelve pounder guns, which were later replaced with six pounders, and two guns at water level (where the Tamaki Yacht Club now sits). A large boom that linked Torpedo Bay with Bastion Point was also placed across the harbour to prevent enemy submarines from reaching Auckland. The last things to be added to the renovated fort were an anti-aircraft battery, three searchlight emplacements, an observation post, a radar station and a camp to house the expanding military personnel required to man the new installations. Soon after the war, Fort Bastion was abandoned once again. Over the years some sections of the site were demolished to make way for a memorial garden. The remaining parts of the fort fell into a state of disrepair and were gradually lost as the surrounding bush shrouded them. The remainder of the fort survived because little development work went on in the area owing to territory disputes that eventually culminated in the 1970s. Fierce arguments over the ownership of the land arose as the Ngāti Whātua tribe wanted the area handing back. The tribe did manage to occupy the land for five-hundred and seven days at one point, but the New Zealand army were sent in to forcibly remove the protesters. In the end, two-hundred and twenty-two of them were arrested. Despite the eviction, though, the land was eventually placed under Māori ownership in the 1980s. It was handed to the Ngāti Whātua tribe, along with some financial compensation. Since then, little interest in the fort has been shown; therefore, it remains neglected and forgotten. Our Version of Events After a fairly successful day exploring Auckland, we decided to meet up with another explorer who knew about some old tunnels that existed over near Kohimarama – one of the city’s suburbs. Apparently, very few people know about their existence because they are well hidden in the bush, so it seemed like a good idea to go check them out. It didn’t take too long to drive across the city to Kohimarama. From there, we ditched the cars and climbed over a small fence to get into the bush. At the tree borderline, you could just make out the remains of an old concrete staircase, but it was very easy to miss if you happened just to be passing by. We followed the staircase, which was harder to ascend than we initially thought due to the dense vegetation. The stairs started to disappear after a while too; they were absolutely caked in moist earth and dead foliage. The climb continued until we reached a large block of concrete that was heavily worn and cracked. Then we traversed slightly to the right to get behind it, to reach a small cave-like opening. The portal to the old tunnels wasn’t what we were expecting at all. It looked very similar to the coal mine we found in Bishop Auckland – bloody tiny! Nevertheless, our new friend, René, told us that the tunnels were inside, so, leading the way, he cracked on and disappeared into the hole. We followed him, with our fingers tightly crossed in hope that what we were about to find was going to be worth it. The first few metres were tough going with bottles of beer in hand, as it was tight and muddy. After that, though, the cave started to transform into a crude concrete tunnel. The concrete tunnel led us into a large chamber that was supported by three large columns and a long metal girder. We crossed the room quickly because it was incredibly hot inside, and headed into another passage that gradually turned to the right. At the end of it, we discovered a collapsed section of the fort and a small room to the right, behind an iron door. And that was all there was to see, unfortunately. However, even though the explore turned out to be a short one, it was still cool to be able to stand in the remnants of Fort Bastion. It always amazes us how this sort of stuff manages to survive, despite being abandoned for well over seventy years. Explored with Nillskill, Nadita and René. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9:
  16. History “Originally the station [Otahuhu A] was designed to be maintenance free but this proved to be a fallacy early on. Although we all knew very little about gas turbines, we learnt quickly that there was a great team environment” (Allen Morrison, former generation technician). Otahuhu Power Station is located in Otara, in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. The site holds two decommissioned plants: Otahuhu A and Otahuhu B. Otahuhu A, a gas turbine plant, was constructed in the 1960s. When it became operational in 1968, it had four 45 MW gas turbine units and, for three years, it contained the largest turbines in Australasia. Two additional units using Rolls-Royce Olympus gas turbines were installed in 1978, to cope with the demands of a rapidly expanding city. The turbines in Otahuhu A were retired from electricity generation in the late 1990s. However, they remained in service to provide reactive power to Transpower NZ, the owner of the national grid. Active power is the energy used to power our homes and various devices, while reactive power is used to regulate voltage in an electrical power system. This prevents damage, such as the overheating of generators and motors, reduces transmission losses and helps to maintain the ability of the system to withstand and prevent voltage collapse. The turbines were finally decommissioned in November 2013. The Otahuhu B site was commissioned in January 2000 at a cost of $350 million. It was a natural gas combined cycle plant that used a Siemens V94.3A(2) gas turbine in single-shaft configuration. When it was first commissioned, the plant capacity was 385 MW; however, upgrades to the equipment had to be made in 2005 to increase the amount of electricity being produced by the plant. It’s capacity subsequently increased to 404 MW. Otahuhu B was still a relatively new plant when it closed its doors in September 2015 (it had only been run for half of its expected life). Sadly, of the thirty-three people working at the plant, fifteen were left without jobs, while the rest were transferred to other Contact sites. According to Contact Energy, the former owners of the site, the plant was turned off due to the increasing development of renewable energy across New Zealand, such as the new Te Mihi geothermal power station. One report also indicated that ‘New Zealand has a surplus of generating capacity at the moment and this means that generators have less control of the price. To make money they need to keep the system on the edge of a shortage. Shutting down Otahuhu is consistent with this objective.’ Otahuhu Power Station was sold to Stonehill Property Trust for $30 million in February 2016. Both plants are due to be cleaned of asbestos, dismantled and sold off as scrap. It is expected that the land will eventually be sold off for commercial and industrial use. Our Version of Events It recently came to our attention that the old Otahuhu Power Plant closed its doors back in 2015 and is now due to be demolished, so we decided to go have a wee look. Having heard that demo work was already in progress, though, we weren’t expecting to find much, especially after catching a rumour about the police blowing up the control room as part of a training exercise. Our first glimpses of the site showed our speculations to be accurate. Site A, the oldest part of the power station, is currently semi-demolished and it has many, many holes in it. Obviously, this made accessing it very easy, but we were a bit disappointed to find we’d missed out on our chance to see the turbines. Nevertheless, as with most power stations, there was still plenty of stuff lying around, so it wasn’t a complete waste of a journey. The control room was certainly interesting too, for it did indeed look like someone had lobbed a few grenades around in there. Nevertheless, after spending a good hour on the site, we decided we’d revisit the site during the day the following day, as it was difficult to take photos and not get caught waving torches around – especially when the building didn’t have much of a roof left. We returned the next day and gathered the snaps we’d been after. Then, we decided to head over to site B, the newer plant. At this point, we weren’t sure whether the site was closed or not, since there were two car parks nearby and they were full of cars. What is more, all of the lights were still on, and a few machines were still casually humming away. Yet, despite having initial reservations, we crept onto the site, albeit very slowly. The entire place looked like a live power station; it seemed as though it could be put back into operation tomorrow, and it felt like we were going to accidently bump into someone – a worker or security guard – at any moment. There was some evidence that demolition work might have begun from the outside, or at least some redecoration work, but we really weren’t sure which at this point. We must have been on the second site around two minutes before we noticed that we may have wandered directly into the path of a camera. That’s what worrying about bumping into workers does to you… Nevertheless, rather than run away we decided it would be worth the risk to crack on and get inside the main building. After all, opportunities like this only come round every so often. So, that’s what we did. In the end, we’re glad we did because inside we found ourselves surrounded by fine quality industrial porn. We spent the next forty minutes or so convinced security would be onto us at any moment, so every single sound made us stop in our tracks. As it turned out, though, no one turned up to give us a bollocking and escort us off site, so, all in all, it ended up being a great explore. Explored with Nillskill. Otahuhu A 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: Otahuhu B 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36: 37: 38: 39: 40: 41: 42: 43: 44: 45: 46:
  17. History “The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.” (Hunter S. Thompson). As far as we are aware, the history of this location remains mostly unknown. In terms of the architecture, the building is similar to most houses across New Zealand; it is a wooden structure with a corrugated metal roof. There is a bit of evidence within the house, and on a couple of forums, that suggests the building was a former biker gang clubhouse. Although we found a remembrance card inside the premises with the Plimmerton Motorcycle Club (a group located just outside Wellington) logo on the back, it is likely the house belonged to one of the one percenter motorcycle clubs, as it is unusual for the ninety-nine percenters to have gang houses in the middle of nowhere that are full of beds, booze and drugs. There is also a considerable 207 kilometre distance between the house and Plimmerton. One percenter gangs emerged after the Second World War, when there was an abundance of ex-military Harley Davidson motorcycles and many ex-servicemen looking for brotherhood and the same rush found in battle. Since the 1940s the ‘1%’ have spread and formed different chapters across the world, including New Zealand, and they are famous for being outlaws. The members of one percenter gangs normally wear an identical patch on the back of their jackets, and they gain their reputations through violence, smuggling drugs and extortion. Our Version of Events All in all, this was a great little explore. From the outside, the place looked like an absolute shithole, and from the inside the condition we even skankier. However, we have a very keen interest in motorcycles, so the moment we realised we were standing in some kind of old biker den, the explore instantly became an epic (in our minds anyway). We started in the kitchen to begin with, where we could see a couple of old ammunition boxes, empty moonshine bottles and a remembrance card honouring Ricky (Snake) Howse (AKA, The Snakester). Judging by his photograph on the cover of the card, he was a real, Harley-ridin’, badass. The house reeked of dirty bikers, with the distinct smells of oil and old leather lingering in our nostrils. Even Throttle, Modo and Vinnie seemed to have moved in, happily chilling in the fridge that was just to the left of us. Next, we stepped into the corridor. This led to a couple of single bedrooms that were heavily decorated with images of motorbikes, scantily-clad women and old biker signage. One of the bedrooms had a fair bit of gear it in, including some old biker clothing, and it gave us the overall impression that it was perhaps the gang leader’s dirty den. The next room along was similarly decorated, but it was virtually empty in terms of furniture. The best room was still to come, though, and this was the next one along. We peered inside from the doorway and discovered a heavily decayed room with the remnants of nine old beds. The smell was bloody awful, but it was cool to imagine that this is where the gang once slept. Out from the troop room, there was a large communal area fitted out with several chairs, sofas and a dead sheep. Whatever happened to the sheep wasn’t pleasant either. It was spread across a large proportion of the floor and across an armchair near the window. We guess the bikers must have had mutton stew for their last supper. Just behind the seating area was a bar space too – it looked perfect after a day’s hard riding. All in all, the place wasn’t huge, but there was plenty inside to keep us occupied for a good while. After checking out the main house we had a quick wander over to two exterior sheds too, in the hoping we might find a couple of old Harleys, or some parts at least. However, we weren’t so fortunate. The wooden structure turned out to be some sort of animal holding room – presumably for the killer dogs that likely guarded the premises. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22:
  18. History This report is based on a ‘Californian’ bungalow – a style that is popular in New Zealand – that was built in the 1930s. It lies in the heart of the city of Wellington and as an ‘untouched’, ‘fully furnished property’ has been valued as being worth half a million dollars ($540,000). However, in its current condition the roof is no longer attached to the walls and it has been deemed earthquake prone. A brick wall was also removed for safety reasons following a recent earthquake as it was adjacent to a pedestrian walkway. What this means is that potential buyers cannot view the interior, by order of the City Council. Nevertheless, it is anticipated that the premises will still be sold and most likely demolished to make way for a new build. It is reported that an elderly woman has owned and lived in the property since 1966, but she vacated the premises at the end of 2016. Little is known about the woman; although one report suggests she was once a nurse. Several neighbours recall seeing the woman outside on the porch of the house feeding a tabby cat. Others say they often saw her sitting outside in her car. Sadly, what happened to the woman remains unknown. Our Version of Events It was eleven o’clock and we were stood opposite a dilapidated looking house on the other side of the street. All the doors and windows were heavily boarded, so we weren’t quite sure how we were going to get inside. We crossed the road, waited several seconds for a couple of people to pass us, then hopped a low wall to get into the alleyway that runs alongside the property.We figured if there was going to be any form of access it was probably going to be found around the back. Next, following a bit of creative thinking, wefound ourselves inching our way through a tight gap that we could just barely fit inside. The passageway we’d discovered was filled with years of grime and other things we’d rather not think about, and the air was incredibly stale and harsh against our lungs. After what felt like a lifetime of crawling flat against the foundations, we emerged through the floorboards and found ourselves inside some kind of cupboard. Rather disappointingly, no relief from the bad air was to be found though as the room absolutely reeked of the rich stench of piss. Gagging slightly, we hurried to pull ourselves out of the hole so we could stand up and try to find a room with better air quality. We promptly left the cupboard and found ourselves standing in the main corridor of the house. Since the lights were on, we could see into most of the rooms from here. We were thankful the lights were on too because the entire property was practically bursting with utter shit. At this point, we attempted to set up our tripods, but this was a challenge in itself since there wasn’t much room to put them anywhere. But, we somehow managed it and so, being very careful not to touch anything for fear of catching something incurable, we cracked on and started to explore the house a bit. At this point, though, we decided we’d make the whole endeavour a quick one. If anything, the heavy smell of piss was getting worse; it was so bad in the corridor it brought tears to our eyes. There was certainly plenty to see inside the building, especially in the dining/kitchen area, and it would have been great to have learned more about the previous owner to help preserve her history, but the very dated food substances we stumbled across put us off a wee bit. Fifteen minutes later, feeling satisfied that we’d seen everything there was to see, we were pretty keen to get back in the filthy hole again. There were a lot of old photographs and pieces of documentation lying around that gave some insight into who the old lady was, but in the end the smell became unbearable. In hindsight, it smelt a bit like there sewage pipes had malfunctioned. Anyway, putting that thought aside, we emerged back on the street in record time. The tight squeeze that had previously seemed challenging was in fact a doddle. After that we felt pretty damn dirty – the level of dirtiness you feel when you’ve been exploring non-stop for several days – so we headed off in search of an industrial car wash. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17:
  19. History Green Lodge Naturopathic Centre is located in Halstead, Essex. One naturopathy journal article indicates that the centre opened in 1988 and that the site was once part of a residential care home. However, little else has been written about its history. What is known is that Green Lodge became a centre for Integrated Natural Medicines and it set up a complete medical infrastructure according to naturopathic principles. Naturopathic philosophy claims to be a science, art and practice. It argues that if the body is left to its own devices, or encouraged by a skilful physician, it can heal itself and regain harmony and balance without the use of drugs. The philosophy behind the practice follows the idea that we are all individuals with certain ‘habits’ (poor diet, inadequate exercise, taking harmful substances, attaching ourselves to possessions, negative psychology etc.) which create ‘obstacles’ that disturb our normal, natural functioning. It is argued that our habits are difficult to eradicate with medicine, and that we lose our ability to recognise we are unwell if we do not seek treatment. Naturopathic research goes on to suggest that it is the only form of treatment that can ‘lead us back to the right track’, by offering an approach that is sensitive, compassionate, empathetic and personal. Nevertheless, some professional doctors refer to this type of practice as being a pseudo form of medical treatment that offers little more than a Placebo effect. At Green Lodge Centre great emphasis was placed on the ‘Lifestyle Assessment’. In other words, each patient’s dietary habits, daily routines (at work and home) and environmental circumstances would be recorded. After the initial assessment, the centre would look at the detailed medical histories of patients to further piece together their physical and mental characteristics. Finally, the third part of the naturopathic assessment at Green Lodge involved an Iridology investigation (a close look at the structure of the iris and sclera) to uncover deficiencies and malfunctions which might otherwise go undetected. Sometimes additional examinations were conducted, such as pulse, urine and tongue analyses. Once all the above information about a patient was gathered, a treatment programme would be carefully selected to address the cause their problems. The community at Green Lodge was said to have been 2000 strong. It included a range of people, including children, monks, nuns and refugees from Tibet and the South of India. However, the centre closed sometime after 2012. It is not known why the centre closed, and there is little evidence to suggest that the centre and its staff relocated. Since its closure a nearby care home has used the site to store old equipment. Our Version of Events This epic tale begins with us searching for a secret derp that’s hidden deep in a forest. Among the fresh, hayfevery, grasses, blooming flowers and trees, we followed a well-trodden trail. Clearly many other explorers had attempted to visit this derp before us, so to call it secret is a blatant lie. The further we walked, though, the more dense the trees, ivy and nettles became, so maybe others before us had given up their search before reaching it. Eventually, the trail led up to a red bricked structured that was heavily coated in a dark green moss. We’d found it! Without further ado, we soon found ourselves inside a fetid-looking bedroom, which looked as though it was regularly visited by the local goons. It was disheartening. Nevertheless, we’d walked this far, so it was time to whip the cameras out regardless of our disappointment. We set about taking a few shots of the heavily decayed rooms we’d found, then moved on towards a building that looks as though it was an old stable. Unfortunately, as we quickly discovered, this was full of shit and a mountain of old care home equipment that’s slowly being consumed by vines and nettles. At this point, the pair of us split up and I decided to inspect some of the junk, in the hope I’d find something photogenic. That’s when I came across a good-looking old red bicycle that was standing next to a rotten wooden piano which was teeming with life. After the stable, which in hindsight might have been a barn, it was time to move on to a large building just ahead of us. This is when we were greeted by those suspected radgies mentioned earlier, who in the end turned out to be alright since they saved us the effort of having to look for access. Once inside, we realised that the building was mostly fucked. There were a couple of cool features, such as the swimming pool – but even that’s filled with old zimmer-frames. There was also a ‘herb room’ that was still filled with herbs; however, after spending all our time looking for one specific herb, we failed to discern what the others actually were. Still, it was an interesting room. Towards the end of the explore, we started to notice that the corridors had begun to fill with the immediately distinguishable smell of a skunk rolling around in ragweed. Some have likened the pungent odour to the fragrance of ‘God’s vagina’. So, we went to investigate and soon discovered that a group of fourteen year olds had managed to get their hands on a stash of ganja. It would appear that tastes have improved significantly since the days of consuming White Lightening in the underpass – either they beat us to the herb room, or they have well paid paper rounds… Anyway, at this point we felt a bit dodgy, so we decided to leave the local goons to their little session of self-discovery. We headed back to the dark forest and foggy meadows with our fingers crossed that the fuckers hadn’t traded our tyres in for their bag of herbs. Explored with Ford Mayhem and Sx. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30:
  20. History The Chapel of St. Luke, designed by Elcock and Sutcliffe (two prominent architects at the time), was the chapel attached to Runwell Mental Health Hospital. It was constructed in 1937, alongside the hospital. Once competed the entire site was viewed as a pioneering development in mental health hospitals and the project boosted both architect’s reputations significantly. The hospital was divided into several specific zones, separating buildings and patients according to purpose and diagnosis. The Grade 2 listed chapel was placed at the principal junction at the top of the drive. The chapel, which has a cruciform ground plan, is constructed of white brick with heavy ashlar masonry. Its design is reported to be in an eclectic Mediterranean style with clever positioning of windows to light the alter and nave. Some of the building’s key features include the tiled mansard roof, an apse at the east end and a circular stair tower with a spiral staircase to the north of the apse. As for the furnishings, the altar, riddle posts, organ, choir stalls and lectern are all made of varnished timber. The pulpit, organ and choir stalls are all said to have jazz modern fluted frieze (a particular type of design), and the lights in the main nave take the form of roman lamps. Closure of the hospital was announced in the late 1990s. The entire site was gradually closed down, bit by bit, for many years after this date though. In the end, it did not close until 2010, as this was when the final closure and decommissioning of the site was eventually set. By April of the same year, all staff and patients at the hospital had been moved out. Today, only a handful of the site’s buildings have survived demolition, which started in 2012; these include the water tower, the Chapel of St. Luke and part of the administration building. It is rumoured that the chapel’s bell tower is now the home to a colony of bats, and that Chelmsford County Council are looking into ways of finding alternative accommodation for the creatures so that the building can be reused. Our Version of Events While cruisin’ around one of the new housing estates in Runwell, the Chapel of St. Luke appeared on the horizon. Without too much ducking and diving, or getting impaled on fences, we quickly found ourselves on the grounds of the chapel. At first glance, we thought that the building matches the style of the new housing estate that now surrounds it particularly well. The church has a modern feel to it, but, unfortunately, there isn't much left of it. After a quick sing song on the piano and a failed attempt at playing the organ, it was time to head back to the car and get back on the road! There wasn’t very much to see so it was a quick in-out jobbie. Explored with A-Jay. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14:
  21. History Unlike the railways in Europe or northern America, New Zealand tracks were rudimentary. They were built cheaply and hastily using light iron rails that had a narrow 3ft 6in gauge. Even the tunnels and bridges were minimalistic and usually made as small as possible to get the railways up and running as quickly as possible. It was always the intention, though, that the lines would be improved in the future as traffic and available finances increased. The four-hundred and sixty-two metre long Chain Hills Railway Tunnel, also known as Wingatui Tunnel, was one of the tunnels built in the 1870s, during New Zealand’s brief period of industrialisation. The line itself was constructed to improve transportation of coal and other natural resources across the land to major ports, where the goods could then be shipped elsewhere. Like the Caversham Tunnel, the Chain Hills Tunnel was largely dug out by hand, but it is unique in the sense that it is a Victorian styled brick tunnel that would have taken longer to build than some of the others that were carved out. The Chain Hills Tunnel also sparked much excitement in Dunedin during its construction as workmen made an interesting discovery while making a cutting at the southern end of the tunnel. Thirty-five feet under the ground, which it is thought was once swampland, a large number of moa bones were found (a flightless bird endemic to New Zealand). The bones ranged in shape and size and were in a very good state of preservation owing to the high alkaline levels in the soil. The Chain Hills Tunnel was completed in 1875, and it was measured as being four hundred and sixty-two metres long. Progress was aided with the construction of brick kilns at either end of the tunnel, as this meant materials did not run short because bricks were constantly available throughout the project. However, finishing the tunnel proved to be a difficult and dangerous task. For years the project was plagued by regular flooding, which slowed progress, and workers were also encumbered by the hardness of the stone they were cutting through. Alongside these issues, six months before completion a rock fall occurred at the north end of the tunnel. The incident claimed the lives of two men, Patrick Dempsey and Thomas Kerr. A third man was severely injured as both of his legs were shattered, leaving him crippled for the rest of his life. In the end, the tunnel did not remain in service for very long either as it was abandoned in 1914. A new dual-lane tunnel was constructed further south which meant there was no longer any need for the Chain Hills Tunnel. In the short period of time the Chain Hills Tunnel was operational it claimed another life – that of Irishman George Thompson. Reports indicate that late one evening in 1895, George took a shortcut through the tunnel to get home. Although there are several niches in the tunnel it is likely George was unaware of them, or simply too far away to reach one, before he noticed the oncoming train. Since its closure, however, no more lives have been lost. For a while the tunnel was used as a popular way of passing between Abbotsford and Wingatui, and for moving sheep between the two locations. Nevertheless, since the 1980s the tunnel has been closed to the public due to the deterioration of the tunnel’s structural integrity and subsequent health and safety concerns. In recent years there have been plans to redevelop the tunnel into part of the proposed Otago Central Rail Trail (a cycle and pedestrian track). But, due to lack of funding and ongoing concerns surrounding the structural integrity of the tunnel, especially with the increased risk of it being damaged by an earthquake, the project has come to a standstill. The only recent work Dunedin City Council has carried out on the Chain Hills Tunnel has been to shift two vents from sewer gas reticulation pipes, to stop them from venting into the tunnel. Our Version of Events Having just returned from a South Island trip the previous night, we had no intentions of going exploring, until Nillskill rocked up that is. He was passing back through Dunedin so we decided while he was around to have a crack at the old Chain Hills Tunnel that’s been on the cards for quite a while. We understand there was a public open day a few months ago, but going to an event like that would take away one of the most interesting parts of exploring – figuring out how to slip into these places. We loaded up the car with the usual gear and raided the fridge for all the beers we had spare, then set off in the direction of Mosgiel, a town that is apparently well-known for its local legends and myths. The drive didn’t take too long, which is always good, but the next hour or so we spent trying to find the damn tunnel was a right challenge. To avoid a couple of nearby farms we headed into a patch of native woodland. This would most likely have been quite pleasant, if we’d been able to see where the fuck we were going. But, as we didn’t want to risk using the torches with the farms being so close, we ended up getting very lost among the trees and bushes. After following a few false trails, we did eventually stumbled across the entrance to the tunnel. Just the faint sight of it in the distance raised our disheartened spirits. The next challenge, though, was to get past a locked gate. Fortunately, this wasn’t as bad as it had first appeared, probably due to the fact that we’ve had plenty of practice in the art of contortion over the years we’ve been exploring. To keep it brief, despite some initial doubts about our ability to contort through the space available to us, we managed to worm our way inside. As expected, the inside of the tunnel was incredibly muddy. Even sticking close to the walls didn’t help very much. As for the tunnel itself, though, it was, aesthetically speaking, very pleasant. It reminded us of an old Victorian railway tunnel you’d find in the UK. The condition of some of the bricks in the Chain Hills Tunnel are quite poor too, which enhances its overall photogenicity. Other than that, however, there isn’t a lot else to see. That’s the nature of old railway tunnels unfortunately. We did find a couple of niches and a few pipes belonging to the sewer system, but they’re pretty standard finds in these places. Eventually, after what felt like a fair bit of walking, we found ourselves at the second gate. For some reason, the authorities had left this one open, probably due to the fact that the tunnel is inaccessible from this side. Whatever the reason, it gave us an easy exit from the tunnel, where we found ourselves on a narrow muddy trail surrounded by dense forest. Apparently, if you continue down the track for a while you eventually reach the present day railway line, but it’s quite difficult for anyone to access the tunnel from this side. We didn’t walk down the trail to find out if this is true mind, since we had a bottle of whisky to get started on back in Dunedin. Explored with Nillskill. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14:
  22. History ‘Legend has it that McLean, then aged nearly eighty, walked in to the offices of England Brothers Architects and told the clerk he wanted the plan of a house. He was offered the blueprint of a conventional four-roomed cottage popular at the time. McLean retorted abruptly – “Not four rooms, but FORTY!” He was then ushered into the office of R. W. England.’ (Christchurch City Council). McLean’s Mansion, formerly known as Holly Lea, is a Category 1 heritage building that was designed by Robert England. It was built for the seventy-eight-year-old Scottish philanthropist, Allan McLean, between April 1899 and September 1900 by Rennie and Pearce Builders. Once it was completed it became, at the time, the largest wooden residential structure in New Zealand, built almost entirely out of kauri (a type of evergreen tree). The mansion, which is said to have been inspired by Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire, is based on a fusion of styles of Jacobean architecture and additional Victorian features. Once completed, the building had fifty-three rooms in total. There were nineteen bedrooms, nine bathrooms, six servant rooms, a library, a kitchen, a large basement, a large dining area and additional function rooms. Analogous to other Jacobean buildings, many of the interior features were elaborate and ornamental; most the handiwork of Christian artisans. A number of the ceilings on the ground floor were extravagant coffered ceilings. Finally, the balustrades and newel posts on the grand staircase featured thistles and flowers, all emblems of Scotland, to remind visitors of the owner’s homeland. As for the furnishings, most were of an exclusive design specifically selected by the housekeeper and an expert from Paris. Both were sent to Britain with instructions to buy there, or from Europe, regardless of the cost. The following descriptions of different rooms in the house provide a good impression of what McLean Mansion’s interior looked like: … an enchanting wood carving of the traditional bear and her playful cub up a seven-foot tree. Along one wall a mirrored mahogany stand displays a fine group of bronze and marble statuary. Nearby is the handsome grandfather clock… and along the opposite wall stretches an outsize in high-backed winged settees upholstered in glowing burgundy. There is a dramatic contrast here between the mirrored reflections of dark polished woods, the gleaming white ornamental ceiling and portico, and the time- defying Persian carpet… The antique chairs, covered in regency brocade are feather-light… Several twin-light wall brackets supplement the ceiling lights. Paintings of Flemish and Scottish scenes hang in groups from brass rods. The green and chartreuse fitted carpet makes a perfect complement to its white and gold background. Round the white marble fireplace the ornate brass fender makes a glittering splash… Nevertheless, despite the extravagance, the residence was only used privately for thirteen years. After McLean died in 1907 he ensured that his wealth and mansion would be left to help others who were less fortunate than himself. Under the provisions of his will, McLean stated that his mansion was to be used as an institute, providing ‘a home for women of refinement and education in reduction or straitened circumstances’. The mansion remained an institute for thirty-eight years, before it was sold to the Health Department and used as a dental nurses’ hostel in 1955. During the 1950s a lack of staff was a major problem for the New Zealand School Dental Service; however, McLean’s Mansion made it possible to launch a recruitment drive as many new trainees could be offered board and lodge in the large building. The only consequence of this alteration was that after the sale of the premise most of the extravagant furniture was taken away as it was not suitable for the building’s new purpose. The building remained a hostel up until 1977; after this time, though, the house stood empty for ten years while the government sought to find a new use for the building. Eventually, by 1987, the old mansion was purchased by Christchurch Academy, a vocational training organisation. Today, McLean’s Mansion is something of an oddity that stands out as belonging to a different era because it is surrounded by modest residential houses and modern commercial buildings. What is more, McLean’s Mansion was badly damaged in the 2011 Canterbury earthquake and, despite its Category I heritage status, the Canterbury Earthquake Authority (CERA) immediately issued a demolition notice. However, this caused a public outcry by the local community. As things stand, all demolition plans were halted, but the owners of the premises have not been able to find a buyer who is willing to restore the property. The cost to restore the building is estimated to be $12 million. Our Version of Events It’s always good popping back through Christchurch and seeing how the city is slowly being brought back to life. Compared to what we saw when we first arrived in 2014, things are certainly looking very different! Having said that, there are still plenty of abandoned things to see, especially in the suburbs. So, after a quick drive around the city to see how the reconstruction projects are going, that’s precisely where we headed. Our aim this time round, though, or at least part of our overarching aim, was to visit McLean’s Mansion because it’s still standing but may not be there for much longer. After all, it has been left to rot and crumble for six years now. All things considered, it didn’t take us too long to find the building. We would like to suggest that it was our awesome detective skills that helped us locate the mansion, but the fact it stands out like a sore thumb compared to everything else surrounding it is probably the real reason we found it so easily. Maybe a sore thumb isn’t a good comparison, though, because the mansion’s architecture is stunning compared to everything else nearby. Anyway, we’re digressing, this time round we were much more cautious as we sought to find a way inside. Unlike the good old days when the city was a veritable free-for-all, there have been massive improvements in security in recent years as there are certain people who have grown intolerant of people sneaking around Christchurch’s abandoned buildings. For instance, the recent rumour is that the mansion has been fitted with alarms and sensors. Whether this is true of course is another matter. Fortunately, it seemed the alarms were taking a quick break when we entered the property, and no one turned up to turf us off the premises. This left us with enough time to have a good look around and grab some snaps. Our overall opinion of the place is that it is looking very fucked these days, owing to the deadly combination of vandalism and earthquakes that have plagued it for the past six years or so. Now, rubble is scattered absolutely everywhere throughout the mansion, and several sections of wall have collapsed altogether. The place reeks of mould, mixed with a dusty woody scent, too, probably on account of the fact that the building is still largely a wooden construction. This is not to suggest the building is uninteresting, though. In fact, the architecture is pretty unique and much different to anything we’d find in the UK. There were a few oddities to be found in the mansion as well, such as a dentist’s chair and the legendary staircase decorated with well-known Scottish flowers. All in all, then, we’d suggest that McLean’s Mansion is a place worth visiting. Hopefully, if some funding is found to repair and strengthen the structure, it will continue to be an important part of the city’s heritage for many years to come. Explored with Nillskill and Bane. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26:
  23. History The foundation stone for Oamaru’s former hospital (known locally as ‘the hospital on the hill’) was laid by Deborah Shrimski (the wife of Samuel Shrimski, who was himself a reputable businessman) on 2nd April 1872. All of the shops in the town were closed for the entire day to commemorate the event. After that, the hospital was constructed remarkably quickly and it opened at the end of the same year; although, the first patient, twelve-year-old James Riddell, had been admitted the previous month. The new public facility had four small wards (each equipped with two beds each), a day room, a surgery and two rooms for the warder and his wife. An additional attached wooden building housed a kitchen and wash house. In its first year, sixty-three patients were admitted to the hospital. Although a fee was expected where possible (£1 weekly), the committee in charge of such affairs never pressed for payment. Unfortunately, though, this lenient and humane attitude toward health led to some patients, who were more than capable of paying, avoiding to do so. Over the years, as New Zealand’s population grew, so did its facilities to cope with the increasing number of people. Oamaru Hospital was one of those services that was extended and improved, and by the 1980s the site was completely transformed. Nevertheless, the beginning of the 1990s brought new Government health reforms and with them uncertainty as Area Health Boards were abolished and replaced with bureaucracies whose aim it was to ‘rationalise’ health costs and delivery. Subsequently, new hospital charges were introduced and many hospitals, including Oamaru’s, had to be downgraded. Despite largescale protests which saw half of Waitaki’s population attend a citizen’s march, hospital services were ‘rationalsied’. By 1997, all surgical operations requiring anaesthetic had ceased at Oamaru, and the Maternity Annexe was closed. This resulted in many jobs loses. Things changed for the better, however, in 1998 when the Government announced that a $5 million loan would be provided towards the construction of a new Oamaru Hospital. Essentially, the funding was attained thanks to a community of lobbyists who had spent years trying to secure the continuation of services for the Waitaki population. A new hospital was constructed in 2000 and all services and staff were moved to the new site. Thereafter, the old hospital on the hill was closed. The original plan had been to redevelop the old buildings into a residential area; yet, the only development that took place between 2000 and 2016 was the conversion of the former maternity annexe into the Eden Gardens motel. As for the rest of the site, it rapidly deteriorated due to vandalism. Today, most of the site has been demolished, to make way for a proposed residential housing estate, but work on the project has stalled as parts of the hospital have had to be used as landfill for stabilisation purposes. Our Version of Events The old Oamaru Hospital site is one we’ve visited several times, usually on our way up to Christchurch as it’s an ideal stopping-off place. Each time we’ve visited, though, we’ve normally just loitered by the car while the Urbex Central boys have gone off to take photos of some ‘amazing boiler house’. I can’t say we’d ever been in an interesting boiler house before, so we were of the opinion that it was a bit of a desperate explore. However, what we didn’t realise when was that it contained an enormous boiler system and several additional rooms. For some reason, this part of the hospital survives and remains relatively intact. This is probably due to its relatively concealed location. Anyway, on this occasion, we thought we’d bite the bullet and go take a look at this ‘epic’ forgotten place. And, I can say now that I’m glad we did go do some investigating. Props to Urbex Central for actually finding it too, since there’s nothing immediately obvious about the place at all. God knows what possessed them to wander down there in the first place. Once you find it, then, the first thing you enter is a kind of locker room and toilet block. If you pass through this you find yourself at the top of a staircase that takes you down into the boiler house itself. At the bottom, there are three doors to choose from. The one to the immediate right takes you into the boiler room, the one to the left into two smaller rooms that house some heavily decayed machinery and the one behind takes you into a room that eventually joins the large boiler house. We started with the main part of the building and were instantly awestruck at what we found. The entire room, which was pitch black, was filled with plenty of archaic machinery, mostly from Northern Ireland. The smell of damp and decay was quite powerful, but that was to be expected I guess and the place doesn’t really get aired out very often. All in all, we spent around thirty minutes inside the building. It doesn’t take very much time to wander around it all, but there is plenty to take snaps of. Explored with Nillskill and Bane. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20:
  24. History Even though the small town of Milton was connected with the goldrush years in the 1860s, it was actually founded as a milling town at the beginning of the 1850s. It is rumoured that this is how the town received its name – Milltown is said to have been shortened to Milton. The Bruce Woollen Mill, which was primarily a vertical woollen and worsted manufacturing mill that made blankets, rugs, carpet and apparel fabric, was one of the later additions to the industry as it was not established until 1897. A considerable amount of money was invested in the mill as much of the company’s machinery was specialist equipment imported from Britain. If anything, then, this indicates how prosperous the industry was at the time. Although there are no records of the prices of the machines, a government website reveals that the estimated cost to run the mill initially was £6,000 ($998,000 in today’s NZ currency). However, despite the huge investment, the doors at Bruce Mill did not stay open for long as a devastating fire destroyed the building four years later. Although no one was killed, only the brick walls were left standing after the incident. The mill was rebuilt in 1902, though, thanks to the high demand for woollen products at the time. Thereafter, no further disasters occurred, and by 1923 the company had, apparently, produced the first Swanndri shirts (hard-wearing wool bush shirts). In the same year renovations had to be made to increase the size of the building to meet increasing consumer demands for their growing range of products. The main classical styled office building was the last building to be constructed as part of the expansion plans. Yet, by 1962 Bruce Woollen Mill was taken over by Alliance Textiles. The mill was run smoothly thereafter, without further incident – up until 1992 at least, when forty-nine workers were locked out for refusing to sign new contract agreements. This would result in a group of thirteen protesters assembling outside the gates for the next six years. This was the longest industrial action in New Zealand trade union history. Unfortunately, the protests did not amount to much as Alliance Textiles closed the mill in 1999, with the loss of fifty-four jobs. It was reported that it was no longer economically viable to run the mill due to cheaper products being imported from China and India. Despite the closure at the end of the 1900s, Bruce Woollen Mill Ltd. was re-established for a few years by a consortium of Wool Equities Ltd. and a group of manufacturers and wholesalers in 2012. The mill reopened as a manufacturer of woollen, merino possum, worsted and hand knitting yarns Nevertheless, the Bruce Woollen Mill went into receivership in January 2016. As a result, it is said to have had a considerable impact on the local community in terms of the job losses incurred. Our Version of Events We’d spotted Bruce Woollen Mill while we were checking out the old bacon factory in Milton, but decided we’d come back the following day to have a crack at it during the day. It’s easier to get photos during the day after all. The only problem, though, was that we weren’t quite sure if the place was abandoned or not. Therefore, we spent a little while researching the location, and eventually came across a few articles that indicated it was indeed partially closed. Well, that was good enough for us. It was time to find a way inside! Getting in wasn’t particularly easy, especially since workers from the live section of the factory kept coming outside to satisfy their nicotine addictions. However, we persevered and crept around the site checking out all the nooks and crannies, hoping one of them would reveal a way inside. In the end, our searching turned up nothing, except access to an old workshop – a part of the site that looked a lot more fucked than the other buildings. At this stage, though, we were out of options, so we decided to have a poke around inside anyway. Industrial porn is industrial porn at the end of the day, and sometimes you just have to take what you can get. As it turned out, the workshop we’d managed to access wasn’t too bad at all. The entire place was alive with the rich smells of oil and used metal. The wooden benches and floor boards were littered with hundreds of screws and heavily stained with years of grease. The sheer amount of old-school equipment in there was great to see too, and it even had the classic stash of VHS porn tapes lying around. It’s likely that we would have spent longer in this room, testing out a few of the machines to see if they worked, but this didn’t happen because we happened to find a door hidden among the shadows at the very back of the room. It goes without saying, our curiosity got the better of us and we couldn’t help but take a peek to see what was on the other side. Sure enough, it led into another room. It was a good start. This one was much different, however. Suddenly we found ourselves inside a small warehouse that was filled with cardboard boxes and metal carts. At this point we started to get a little excited, wondering if we’d perhaps found a way into the actual woollen mill as this section appeared to be an old storage area for products ready to be transported. So, with this in mind we cracked on and made our way to the other side of the building, where we found a set of industrial rubber curtains. Little did we know at the time, but this was our last obstacle – the last thing between us and the juicy machinery on the other side. One by one we passed through the curtain and, on the other side, we found ourselves standing before rows upon rows of pure industrial goodness. We’d managed to wander into the closed part of the old woollen factory, and it was fucking amazing. There were cogs, switches, levers and buttons everywhere we looked. For the next ten minutes or so, then, we were all happy snappers. If anything, mind, there was too much to take photos of! However, in our excitement we inadvertently ended up wandering into the live part of the site, where the production line was still up and running. So, from this point on we turned from being excited schoolboys into epic ninjas with unrivalled stealth skills and, somehow, managed to work our way around the workers and active machinery. It was great, being among whining machines and the whirring of drilling that coming from somewhere on the far side of the factory floor. Somehow, though we’re not quite sure exactly how, we managed to remain undetected the entire time we were inside the old woollen mill. At one point all of the machines even stopped, meaning our footsteps and camera taking noises suddenly seemed unbelievably loud. But, the guys working inside seemed oblivious to our presence. Nonetheless, after a further half an hour or so we decided that we’d pushed our luck far enough and that it was probably time to call it a day. We still had a bit of daylight left and more explores lined up, so it made sense to leave while we were still ahead. The battle to resist the urge to take more photos was intense on our way out, but eventually we managed to get back to the bus without incident. It was time to get back on the road and get a few more explored under our belts. Explored with Nillskill and Bane. Equipment being assembled in 1897 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16: 17: 18: 19: 20: 21: 22: 23: 24: 25: 26: 27: 28: 29: 30: 31: 32: 33: 34: 35: 36: 37:
  25. History Audio is a former three-storey brick nightclub that was built sometime in the 1970s. It is close to the centre of Darlington and was once a popular circuit bar and night time venue that brought big name DJs to the town. However, like most nightclubs in Darlington, the venue attracted a ‘troublesome’ crowd which ultimately affected its reputation. Over the years the nightclub has been known as ‘Mr Bojangles Nightclub’, then ‘The Lounge’ and ‘Cactus Jack’s’, and finally ‘Audio’ and ‘Buffalo Joes’. There are two main trading floors inside the building, both of which were completely independent of one another and traded as two separate businesses. The ground floor was accessed via an entrance lobby that is located at the front of the premises. Some of the key features on this floor include: a cash desk, cloak room, DJ booth, raised seating zones and small stage areas for performers. The first floor’s features include: its own lobby, open plan trading areas and dance floor, a DJ booth, seating around the edges of the room and an additional VIP area. The second floor has never been used for trading; it comprises office space and staff changing areas. It is not known when the club closed, although it is likely to have been after 2010 when the venue reopened after being revamped. An estimated £200,000 alone was spent on the first-floor transformation, which included the installation of a new state-of-the-art sound system. Prior to this, it had been earmarked for demolition as part of a £500,000 Oval shopping complex initiative. This project, however, never took off, so the nightclub remained. Our Version of Events It's a little bit of an overdue report this one. We explored it all the way back in February, but never got around to doing the report as we still needed a few external shots - which we forgot to take at the time because we were too focused on the after-exploring drinking session we were due to head to... With a couple of hours to kill before we were due to have a WildBoyz gathering, we decided to have a quick drive over to Darlington to check out a site we’ve been keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, that place was still sealed up tight so it’s still on our to-do list. However, as a result of that failure we did discover that an old nightclub that seems to have been abandoned for as long as any of us can remember was accessible. We weren’t expecting to get inside either, since from the street outside it gives the impression that it’s impregnable. Despite all appearances, though, we did in fact manage to get inside. As far as derelict nightclubs go, this one wasn’t bad. There was still a fair bit of stuff left over, and the building wasn’t completely trashed either. Clearly the local chavs think this one is sealed too. Anyway, we found ourselves on the first floor of the building to begin with, inside a weird room that feels as though the designer managed to get a massive discount on purple furniture at IKEA one afternoon. From there, we made our way downstairs and, rather bizarrely, found ourselves in a kind of saloon. This part of the explore was perhaps the highlight as some of the taps still worked behind the bar. Needless to say, we had a bit of fun testing those out and seeing how rancid alcohol becomes when left alone for too long. There is a second floor to the building as well, and this basically comprises office space, a small open-air roof area and staff only rooms. However, we couldn’t really be arsed to take many photos up there. What is more, since there are no boards on the windows in that part of the building lighting up the place with our torches would have been a bad idea as there is a very active car park right outside. You’re not missing much, though, as there’s nothing of interest up there. After that, then, we decided we’d seen everything there was to see and that it was about time we met the others for some beer and a few games of poker. Explored with MKD. 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10: 11: 12: 13: 14: 15: 16:
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