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UK Health and Safety Testing Facility, Harpur Hill - April 2016

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Up on the bleak moorland, just outside the small spa town of Buxton, is Harpur Hill and its large 222 ha Health and Safety Testing Facility. Funded under the Government’s Private Finance Initiative, the £56 million laboratory was constructed back in 2002. Years ago, back in 1938, Harpur Hill was a remote RAF base that housed bunkers and an underground ammunition store; therefore, the land was found to be suitable, and still rural enough, for redevelopment into a testing facility. Presently, part of the site has been used to reconstruct a Jubilee Line, using old London Underground trains. It aims to recreate the 7/7 London Tube bombings so the safety of future carriages might be improved. The facility warns that whenever red flags are flying at designated posts around perimeter, a toxic explosion on the site is imminent. Other experiments at the site have involved crash testing trains, heating up shipping containers packed with fireworks and replicating other notable accidents. 

According to local rumours, although public footpaths run through the grounds of the facility, the site is closely monitored by sensors, and watched by CCTV cameras, and they observe your every move! A team of camouflaged ‘Area 51’ style guards also hide in the bushes and patrol the perimeter on half-hourly rotations. The locals say so, so it must be true. What is more, aside from normal workers, it is believed that a team of scientists live onsite; apparently, they have been sighted exercising on the grounds, but they are never allowed to leave. Finally, the old tunnels are said to still be in service, but whatever goes on down there remains a tight secret.  

Our Version of Events

Anyone who has read our previous reports will know that for a while we rolled around in a bright orange car – not by choice we hasten to add. For this explore, though, we decided to ditch the old beast, and go for something more covert, given that this site sounded like Fort Knox. Our choice would have been a tank, to bypass the ‘Area 51’ style guards, but nowhere we know had any of those available. Instead, we had to settle for a blue car; we could only hope it would blend in with the surrounding countryside. 

Doing our best to look like ‘hikers’, with Peter Storm boots, plastic anoraks and a bit of tweed, we abandoned the new motor in a layby and joined the footpath that leads towards the facility. To avoid the ‘commandos’ in the bushes, we pretended to look like lost walkers, gazing hard into the sky as though we were trying to find the North Star; we hear that’s how ‘propa’ hikers navigate. Eventually, after leaving several false trails in our effort to shake the guards, we reached the perimeter fence. However, by now it was lunchtime, and being hikers we’d brought our sandwiches and Ginsters pasties with us, so it was crucial we sat down to eat them. The lukewarm flask of tea went down nicely at this point too, it’s thirsty work trying to be stealthly. 

After making some final adjustments to our thick woollen walking socks, we decided to orientate the map and check our bearings. A couple of pasty crumbs deceived us at first, as we thought they were buildings, but because one of us has gained our Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award we were eventually able to spot the mistake. So, guessing we were right on the right course, we set off once again. Judging by the brown wiggly lines on the map, it looked as though the motion sensors were dead ahead. Of course, being prepared for every eventuality, we’d brought air-freshener with us to combat this obstacle. A great plume of Air Wick’s 4 in 1 Lavender scent was released in front of us as we walked; we hear that ‘pro urbexers’ do this to make motion sensor laser beams appear. Don’t worry, for those of you who are wondering, we did a couple of stretches right after we got the air freshener out, to make us supple enough for a game of Twister, and to squeeze between the beams if necessary. 

Several moments later, despite our tactics, security must have spotted us because a pack of scientifically altered dogs from the laboratory were on our tail. Ignoring the legendary advice that you shouldn’t run on a full stomach, we hit legs. The great steroid injected beasts were right behind us now, foaming at the mouths and growling loudly. Being prepared ‘urbexers’ though, we reached into our High Gear rucksacks and pulled out three fresh steaks – Tesco’s Finest, from some made up farm somewhere. Ford Mayhem lobbed them behind us as hard as he could manage. The trick seemed to work, as the dogs quickly stopped and devoured each other in the frenzy. 

The four of us, breathless after running, reached the final perimeter; it was a large 32.7 foot palisade fence with razor wire fixed on top. As we grumbled amongst ourselves, that the ‘locals’ had failed to tell us about the fence, we decided to take a break and come up with a plan. Feeling hungry once again, and knowing we had to keep our energy up, we pulled out a gas stove and a couple of Wayfayrer flat-packs (sausage and beans). An awkward silence ensued as we tucked into our meal; knowing that you might lose a testicle climbing a fence puts a bit of a downer on things…

… And then we stopped daydreaming about the local rumours. In reality, there were no guards, motion sensors or any air freshener. The modified dogs weren’t real either, they were sheep, and, as far as we could tell, they weren’t modified in any way at all. Other than passing through a couple of muddy fields, reaching the underground trains was actually fairly straightforward and largely uneventful. It did feel a little odd being sat on a London Tube train with Peak District scenery in the background of course. Overall though, it was great to see and experience the site as it was interesting to see London Underground trains ‘out of context’ so to speak, and because some great work is being done here – we only wish we’d been present when they put fireworks inside a shipping container. 

Explored with Ford Mayhem, Meek-Kune-Do and Husky.

*No tweed was worn for the duration of this explore. 





















































































































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Awesome pics but the report is funny as fuck! Loved reading it, if only it were real. I was looking forward to pics of modified dogs haha! Epic. :thumb 



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On 5/7/2016 at 1:16 AM, Urbexbandoned said:

Awesome pics but the report is funny as fuck! Loved reading it, if only it were real. I was looking forward to pics of modified dogs haha! Epic. :thumb 



:) Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. 

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