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Five Years of Urbex (Text & Picture Heavy)

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So here I am. Half a decade after my first ever explore on a beautiful summers day, June 12th 2009. I can remember that day like it was yesterday, it was the day after my last AS-Level exam and I had been looking forward to my first proper explore for some time after finding out a good friend of mine I'd known for years through another of my hobbies had been doing this stuff since the late 1990s. Hellingly was the goal for us and two of his other friends that sunny afternoon and little did I know how dramatically my life would change. I can still remember the feeling I got when I first climbed through one of the many smashed out windows and set foot inside a derelict building for the first time, I can remember the sounds, the smell and the feel of it under my feet like I am there right now and that is something which will stay with me forever and part of the reason why Hellingly is my favourite out of all the Asylums I have managed to do so far.

Looking back since that day five years ago I can't believe how far I've come, from starting out with what at the time was already a four year old Fujifilm point and shoot camera and no tripod, to the setup I've got now. If someone asked me five years ago where I thought I'd be now I'd never have been able to answer it, as I never envisioned I'd have explored over 200 times all over the UK, as well as four trips to the continent and another coming up in July, as well as the biggest trip of my life to the USA later on this year being planned as I speak. I've gone through finding and losing love in abandonments as well as losing my best ever explore buddy to a woman, meeting so many awesome people I never would have encountered otherwise some of whom have become close personal friends and others I wouldn't say no to exploring with again if the offer arose, and others I'm shamefully still yet to meet up with! I was part of a now infamous encounter with Beardy, had three car accidents, outran police dogs pursuing us, met the hottest policewoman in the whole of France, encountered the worlds angriest farmer in rural Belgium, had two very narrow escapes from serious injury as well as so much else I can't even begin to describe it all here...in short I've had five amazing years of generally being where I shouldn't with equally amazing people and long may it continue. Thanks to everyone I've met and explored with over the last half decade and to all others for helping me with related stuff, I couldn't have done it without you. Literally. Had my mate not introduced me to this properly chances are I'd still be an armchair explorer like I was for a good four years prior to 2009!

So five years and 254 explores later (don't even ask me to work out how many individual sites!) I am going to let these pictorial highlights and personal landmarks do the talking (well maybe with a little bit of narration....). This has the added bonus of you being able to see just how far I have progressed photographically as well!

Genesis....Hellingly June 12th 2009. My revisit in November 2009 is still to this day one of my favourite explores ever.

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But it wasn't until I visited West Park six times between August and October 2009 things really took off for me...the visit in early September was marked by us encountering the odd fellow wearing only a red lacey vest top and womens underwear running out of the adjacent forest shortly after a policeman had driven off...

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Wispers School in Haslemere in December 2009 provided probably the biggest adrenaline rush and one of the closest calls I have ever had exploring, about half an hour in we heard car noises outside and dogs barking, so we hid upstairs listening to people and dogs moving around downstairs, before we moved and ended up in the old servery, I reached out for a door handle and as I touched it a tremendous amount of barking erupted directly behind the door which made us totally leg it, we flung open a tiny inset door built into one of the bay windows and didn't stop running until we reached the road, it was about as intense as things have ever gotten for me. Later it transpired the police used to use the place for dog training...

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Fairmile in the snow December 2009

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RAF Upper Heyford January 2010, here I would meet someone who would later become both my girlfriend for much of the year as well as an awesome explore buddy to boot. I revisited RAF Upper Heyford in March 2010 with Landie Man and TBM and got collared by the fuzz who searched us, but as we are good boys nothing came of it.

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Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford April 2010

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Pyestock, June 2010...I made four visits to Pyestock in 2010 and this was the most successful, but the experience in April when we were probably the first group of explorers to encounter the security with their new Land Rover Defender was bizarre, as a game of cat and mouse underneath the Weir Road bridge ensued with them parked on the road on top of us then backing off then coming back repeatedly.

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GT July 2010, only a couple of days after it first surfaced.

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BIBRA, Carshalton August 2010. Barely anyone got into this place because of how well secured and alarmed it was, it's the only place I have ever been which has given me a really bad feeling, the whole atmosphere of the place was heavy and hard to stomach. We set an alarm off and got the hell out of dodge as we knew it was wired straight into the local police station...

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Abbey Mills Pumping Station November 2010, we turned up not knowing it had been very recently sealed up after some braindead morons left the access open, but by a massive stroke of luck we ran into a contractor who was milling around outside waiting for a delivery, and instead of chucking us out like we expected him to he said 'how'd you get in, over the back?' to which I replied yes we had, and then to all our surprises he let us in and gave us a guided tour! Very shortly after my visit a huge eff-off fence went up around the entire place.

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Reading Courage Brewery December 2010

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Centre for Human Sciences Farnborough January 2011, I made four visits to this woefully under explored site just down the road from Pyestock, which featured some truly awesome sights including the enormous climatic cold chamber, dummy fighter plane cockpit rigs and more

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Crane, Oxford January 2011...my first and so far only crane climb

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Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals Basingstoke March 2011. Organised as an 'official' tour after closure by the actual staff and members of the security team, this was a fantastic afternoon to see what was there as any attempts to get in unofficially would have been met with complete and utter total failure!

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Mitchell Grieve Needle Works, Coalville, March 2011. My favourite factory of all time.

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Hanging a giant England flag from the local Grain Silo, April 2011

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Denbigh April 2011, the infamous group visit which resulted in Beardy speeding out onto the public road and allowing his dog to attack one of us

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That house I wish I'd never found, June 2011

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RAF Upper Heyford Hospital Boiler House, the place that tried to kill me with stupidly difficult access but was worth it as barely anyone got to see this part of UH, hence it's totally untouched nature!

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RAF Greenham Common GAMA Site, a lifelong dream of me and my fellow urbexer was finally realised on the 2011 August bank holiday weekend. Simply one of the most amazing mornings of my life watching the sun rise over the missile silos.

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Mobil Oil Grease Blending Plant, Birkenhead October 2011, the culmination of my first ever multi-day urbex roadtrip and another favourite.

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Malvernbury Care Home October 2011

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RAF Upper Heyford Commissioned Officers Club October 2011. The best bit of the massive Upper Heyford site by a long way and only doable with permission as it was right behind the still open base police station....

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Mansfield General Hospital April 2012, a true great of the UK urbex scene. Managed to evade capture by the police in here too, hiding in a tiny room for about half an hour. Then met the security guard who was a lovely guy and who let us stay as long as we needed!

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Pembroke Defensible Barracks April 2012. My great-grandfather was killed here in 1942 by a mine explosion during a training exercise, me and my family along with families of the 18 other men killed that day were invited to the 70th anniversary ceremony held at the Barracks, and afterwards I couldn't not sneak off and wander round much of the largely derelict barracks. The family who own it organised the ceremony and at the time of my visit one of the wings was already converted into their own private house, with the others to follow.

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Grands Moulins de Paris, my first ever continental site May 2012. And still by far the most dangerous place I have ever explored.

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ECVB Musem Side May 2012...perhaps in hindsight jumping the fence without realising 20 metres from where there are contractors cutting the pipe you just landed on to bits wasn't the best plan, but for some reason they didn't seem fussed....

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IM May 2012, still the best industrial site I have ever done, back when it was a mintaaaa

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That other sad house I found, June 2012. Later became known as Beekeeper's House when the inevitable tourbus found it.

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Just an ordinary house in an ordinary street July 2012

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Downings Malthouses Gloucestershire November 2012, almost fell through the top floor here, after I heard a very loud crack from underneath me and the floor sink it's fair to say a little bit of poo may have come out as I quickly hopped backwards!!

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GKN December 2012, I had made numerous visits to here beforehand but this one sticks in my mind as the most ridiculous, it was pouring down with rain outside so all the rain was draining into the tunnels through holes, the sound was absolutely amazing.

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Sleaford Bass Maltings February 2013

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Maison Boon March 2013...the first day of my biggest trip to date, a week long roadtrip around Belgium. And of course it was the day me and my mate got attacked by the angriest farmer I've ever had the displeasure to meet, and then find out his wife has been busy letting down our tyres. And after the guy vanished a shotgun fires over the house. I've had an aversion to isolated houses ever since.

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Mechanics Institute March 2013, a place I had always wanted to see ever since I began this.

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SCPA Lab, March 2013...the coldest explore I have ever done! 2 foot deep snow and 6 foot drifts, a temperature of -9 celsius plus the wind chill factor which made it feel more like -15 celsius!

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IM Cooling Tower March 2013

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Upper Heyford Hospital April 2013

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GT April 2013, in a bad bad way

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Grands Moulins again, July 2013...slightly bad idea going in at night, although meeting a lovely welcoming party of nine French Police officers a couple of hours later was a surprise, as it included one complete and utter babe of a police woman.

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Willington Cooling Towers August 2013

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CH Brickworks November 2013

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Chateau Congo December 2013

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Tone Mills March 2014, I first visited on a freezing cold day at the beginning of 2012 but this was a little bit warmer!

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Hartford Mill Oldham, March 2014...a real nice oldschool explore until some little scrotes set fire to it while we were in there, in broad daylight on a weekday! (Phone photo)

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Sheffield Ski Village May 2014. piloting Landie Mans death sled down here is a shedload of fun!!

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Cannon Brewery Sheffield May 2014, another place I had wanted to see for quite some time indeed ticked off.

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And lastly, the last site I did at the end of my last roadtrip in May which was the last explore before today. Sileby Maltings.

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If you made it this far without getting bored or fed up cheers for reading my wafflings and roll on the next five years!

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That was an enjoyable read! You have been to some lovely places, and heres to another 5 years and more :beer:

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Absolutely top rate... what a story! You've had some seriously epic adventures and all I can say is... that letter...!!! Very touching...!

It's the only thing I've ever found in all my time exploring that has literally stopped me in my tracks, such a sad story associated with that house.

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That's pretty cool. Definitely not too text heavy at all…it's nice to hear epic/scary stories distilled to a few lines - anyone who's been out exploring can imagine what it was like, no need for reams of text! :thumb

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