First report in a couple years, still been getting out and about but just been very busy with other life admin for reports, got a day at home on the sick twiddling my thumbs so thought i would write summit up about our trip to red sands last year. Did the trip with bigjobs, paradox, riddlers, FB, slayaa and a few other guys who i think are registered but post on the forums even less than me so god knows what their usernames are.
Bit of History
The Maunsell Forts are armed towers built in the Thames and Mersey estuaries during the Second World War to help defend the United Kingdom. They were operated as army and navy forts, and named after their designer, Guy Maunsell. The forts were decommissioned in the late 1950s and later used for other activities including pirate radio broadcasting. One of the forts is managed by the unrecognised Principality of Sealand; boats visit the remaining forts occasionally, and a consortium called Project Redsands is planning to conserve the fort situated at Red Sands.
In the summers of 2007 and 2008 Red Sands Radio, a station commemorating the pirate radio stations of the 1960s, operated from the Red Sands fort on 28-day Restricted Service Licences. The fort was subsequently declared unsafe, and Red Sands Radio has moved its operations ashore to Whitstable.
Previously, forts had been built in rivermouths and similar locations to defend against ships, such as the Grain Tower Batteryat the mouth of the Medway dating from 1855, Plymouth Breakwater Fort, completed 1865, the four Spithead Forts: Horse Sand Fort, No Mans Land and St Helens Forts which were built 1865-80; and Spitbank Fort, built in the 1880s, the Humber Forts on Bull & Haile Sands, completed in late 1919, and the Nab Tower, intended as part of a World War I anti-submarine defence but only set in place in 1920.
There are seven towers in the Red Sands group, at the mouth of the Thames Estuary. These towers were previously connected by metal grate walk-ways. In 1959 consideration was given to refloating the Red Sands Fort and bringing the towers ashore, but the costs were prohibitive. In the early 21st century there were threats that the fort could be demolished so a group called Project Redsands was formed to try and preserve the fort. It is currently the only fort that can be accessed safely from a platform in between the legs of one of the towers.[
Wanted to do this since seeing bigjobs and FBs trip out their on the kayaks through the mist, if you havent seen it already definitely well worth a look, makes for a better read than mine will anyway! We didn't fancy the kayaks this time so we all got the outboards out and set sale with some horsepower behind us.....untill mine died, i say until it died, it never really got going, overheated and cut out in a puff of smoke in the first 5 minutes. That was my first outboard, i had a smaller backup outboard just in case of any such incidents as the first bigger outboard i had literally collected off ebay on the way down. anyway long outboard story short, i got towed out by bigjobs, that was once we eventually got in the water, everyone else had already been out one night but me and sarah were late to the party so we came in first thing. i say first thing, we were late to meet up with jobs and ended up chasing the tide with all the gear, would get half the gear out to the waters edge then by the time the other half was in the same spot the bloody tide had moved another 10m! We did eventually get in the water and headed out to the forts.
On the approach to the sea fort we passed through some leisure boats circling the forts taking tourists out to see the forts, no doubt all wondering what the hell was going because just as we pulled in the riddlers came zipping down the rope and landed in FBs rib like a pro navy seal. We got the boats tied up and ascended up to the forts to crack open a beer and enjoy the views! FB and riddlers decided they were going to have a pop at getting up one of the other struts to see if they could get a line across vertically with the crossbow to sort out a traverse, they got the line across but then beers and food happened so no one went for the traverse. Had a lovely evening on the forts, amazing sunset watching the freight ships chugging past. FB and jane went for a jolly out to the wind farm Time for tea and bangers and mash was on the menu but i had forgotten my camping gas, luckily i managed to bodge my camping stove onto a big bottle of calor gas which had been left on the fort, bit of rubber hose a few cable ties and a bit of dismantling on the burners part and the bangers mash was a success!
We woke up to fairly choppy waters, made for a rushed and slightly tense departure in the morning, the choppy waters had snapped one of the lines holding the boats in position ready to ab down into. The boats were now drifting about 10m away from the bottom of the ab rope. cant remember who it was now, either fb or riddlers had to ab down and try and drag all the boats over back in line underneath the ab rope and then get a line out to replace the snapped one. We got lucky with the rope that did snap, if the other line had snapped the current would have dragged the boats into the struts and the barnacles would have torn the boats to shreds and we really would have been up shit creek. oh yeah i forgot, at this point we had yet another dead outboard! the riddlers pull chord had snapped off the day before, i went on the hunt round the forts and found a rusty old socket set in an old toolbox so the first job once back in the boats in the choppy sea was for law to try and get his outboard sorted. luckily the sea did begin to calm down as we were all abing down into the boats and we set back off without any major incidents. It was a big realization just what a relentless and unforgiving force the sea can be, as an awesome and adventure as this is its one that can go wrong very quickly. There had been plenty of prep and investment gone into this adventure, we made sure everyone had suitable life jackets, radios, flares, everyone had rope experience, big help having someone who knows their way around an outboard engines etc etc, its certainly not a walk in the park operation! big thanks to jobs, for getting everything all rigged up prior to our arrival, it sounds like you all had a rough time of it getting up there the first night!
Riddlers doing his navy seal impresson
Right tools for the job.
bed for the night
The bangers and mash will go on!
Thanks for reading and bigger thanks to everyone who made it happen. see you again in 2 years for another report!
In 2017, during a holiday to Japan, I visited the Hakone area, south-east of Mt Fuji, via day-trip from Tokyo. One of the stops was Mt Hakone – accessed via cable-car from lake Ashi.
Due to timing, we only had a few minutes a the top of Mt Hakone. This was my first encounter with the eerie - Komagatake Ropeway top station.
(Above pic is a screenshot from Google Maps street view)
In 2019 on another visit to Japan I decided to make a point of visiting this mountain again – to get close look...
In 2017, only the ground floor of the station was open to the public, holding only a ticket counter, small gift shop, a photo booth, and some vending machines. The stairwell to the second floor was blocked off, and the sign for the bathrooms was covered up.
(Screenshot from Google Maps street view)
This enormous concrete block, perched on a cliff edge of Mt Hakone serves as anchor point for the cable car, and looks out over lake Ashi.
Its showing the signs of its age. Wikipedia says it opened in 1963.
It feels strange that something this run down is still in operation...
In 2017 – I desperately wanted to have a look upstairs of the creepy building, but didn't want to risk trying to sneak past the stairs from the lobby...
In 2019, the blocked sign was removed from the stairs!, and I guess they opened up the bathrooms on level 2. As soon as we entered the lobby, I decided to dash for it... my wife happily exploring the gift shop downstairs.
The blockade on the stairs was now moved to the second floor – with only the bathrooms accessible.
With no tourists on this floor yet, I figured – this is it - now or never!, and I jumped over the boom and headed upstairs – careful to listen for any noises from upstairs...
My heart was pounding as I snuck further! I had to stop shooting a bit as some tourists just around the corner from me came up the stairs to visit the bathrooms... (noises from camera shutter...)
As I went higher, you could see that the walls of the upper floors were never even painted. I wonder if they have ever been in service since 1963!
I guess when they build this behemoth, they envisaged a restaurant and maybe visitor centre, maybe accommodation in the upper floors?
A wooden trimming on the stair handrail as you approach the top floor.
The top floor-
A chair against the wall,and some colourful stickers against the glass doors. The only colour in this dreary building.
I'm guessing one of the top-station employees comes up here for their lunch break...
The top floor is basically empty, except for some communications gear that was probably installed much later.
After this I snuck back down. I regret not checking if any of the bathrooms were open.
More external shots:
I think these are heat-lamps,keeping the motor-controllers from freezing.
Besides this top station building, the only other structure visible at the top is Hakonejinja Mototsumiya temple.
A blue tile on the ground along the path to Hakone-jinja
The temple shows no signs of life...
On the way back down:
As we were ascending the mountain, from the gondola, you can see some wooden cabins in the forest below... Some of them looked a bit worse off... I decided to go have a look when we came back down...
There was a sign board next to the road leading up the the cabins – The Hakone Prince Dog Cottage. It is spring – sakura season.
The cabins near the bottom of the mountain were still looking ok – they were probably still being rented out, but there were no signs of any visitors or staff.
As you go higher up the mountain, it was clear that some of these cabins have not been in service in years. Completely overgrown, full of moss, algae and weeds.
A tree growing out of the front porch suggests the age of disuse.
Peering through the mosquito netting, I can see and old CRT TV and VCR
There are downed power lines and more trees. Some of the side roads leading to the cabins are completely overgrown. I don't think anyone has walked down there for years.
No more Mario-cart for you
Looks like this one has a fridge, that probably held those two tubs of whatever.
After this encounter, my first experience in “urban exploration”, I started noticing, in the town where we stayed (Atami), and along the roads of Yugawara which we drove through, there were plenty of eerie relics-
(Screenshot from Google Maps street view)
and many run down and abandoned places-
I made a point to explore further...
A roadside visitor centre / rest stop, found across the road from a toll-gate. No idea how old this is – its definitely not in operation anymore. No name to it in Google maps.
I pulled off to the side of the road and walked across the empty parking area. It had a crazy amount of parking space. I don't think it was ever full.
There was a small van parked out back, and a guy messing around. No idea how it got in – both entrances were barred.
Mt Fuji in the background
Remnants of a hotel or possible a rec centre / maybe hot-spring pool-
There is some underground structure as well. Looked too dangerous to explore.
The upper structure, attached to the mountain, leads you to go further up
Very overgrown up there. I couldn't get over the bridge to go further up.
The bridge lead over an artificial waterfall
I was making a lot of noise cracking through the bamboo... I ducked down for a bit while a traffic warder appeared.
Overgrown pedestrian walkway. There is literally nothing on the other side – just the steep mountain. I wonder how many people have ever crossed that bridge.
I think this is the “town office branch” - maybe a local council building. Only half of the building is still in use. The other half is piled full of junk.
A walkway over the road-
Leading to a school – also abandoned...
This school really intrigued me – I thought there might be some good photos to be had.
At the point, as I entered into a courtyard area, there was a car with a guy in it. He saw me to I just waved and pretended to be a dumb tourist. I continued to take a few pics, but he came out of his car and followed me for a bit...
I pretended to leave. The guy went back to his car – then I doubled-back to check out the gym!
Not being able to explore this area further, I left, however, later that day I noticed on Google maps that there is supposed to be a pool at the back of the school! - and also there is a road going up towards the back. Since we'd be travelling back past this area, I decided to give it one more go.
At the back of the school is a forest, leading up a mountain. The road stops quite a while away, and you have to make your way through the forest towards the school. Lucky for me, a path was cleared here, leading parallel to the school. I guess to prevent forest fires from reaching the school.
First obstacle was this ditch or embankment. About 1.5m deep.
As I got near the back of the school where the pool was supposed to be, there was a big ravine. I had to go down there, over some embankments and down a further set of retaining walls.
Everything was wet and covered in moss. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to climb back up the walls. It was pretty quiet out here. Only me struggling through the bamboos.
I reached the pool!!
There was a thicket of bamboo growing around it...
An abandoned hotel on the shore-
When we got back to the small town to return the rental car, I spotted this place walking to the train station-
I couple more random shots
Albania is one of those countries where I didn't really know what to expect. Recent history saw the collapse of communism in the 90s which caused the economy to crash. Since then It has made remarkable economic progress, growing from one of the poorest nations in Europe to a middle-income country, with poverty declining by half during that period. We travelled from north to south and back again taking in a few places along the way. The people are friendly, the food is good, it has decent weather, and everything is extremely cheap. Here's some of what I got up to with Adders, extreme_ironing, Otter and Reenie.
In the main square of Tirana the National History Museum has this famous mosaic called 'The Albanian' on the front. It tells the story of how Albanians have fought against invasion and occupation throughout the centuries.
Just down the road are these colourful government buildings
In the middle of the countryside we passed this communist monument, the 5 red stars symbolising communist ideology
Shëngjin Naval Base
After an epic fail elsewhere we headed to this small naval base which turned out to be pretty cool. I've already written a separate report on this so I won't include much about it here.
Fier Power Plant
Fier Power Station was Albania's largest thermal power plant having 6 identical groups of 31 MW each, totalling a capacity of 186 MW. The plant was decommissioned in 2007. Much of the site next to it was a fertiliser factory powered by the plant. The whole site has been completely stripped now, leaving just bland shells of buildings. The imposing chimneys and cooling towers however remain visible for miles as a reminder of its former importance.
Old security office next to the original gate
Always wanted a shot of adders pissing
Cooling tower ladders have long since been removed
The best bit about this place was taking in the views from one of the factory towers, although the staircase was a bit of a headfuck
Factory buildings below
The turbine hall. Amazingly two security guys appeared from nowhere and made us leave before we could grab any shots of the inside. You're really not missing much though as the turbines have been removed along with everything else. Why anyone is securing it is completely beyond me!
Kombinati Metalurgjik, Elbasan
Elbasan is located about 50km from the capital of Albania, Tirana. The Kombinati Metalurgjik steel works, a flagship of the Albanian industry, was built between the 1960s and 1970s. The complex was built by Chinese engineers with the assistance of Albanian specialists. The levels of pollution caused by the plant were the subject of much controversy in the 90s. The size of the site is colossal but only a few buildings remain operational today. Much of it is derelict beyond repair or has already been flattened.
Most of the buildings you see in the distance here are barely standing. You can see the remains of a blast furnace to the left.
The only buildings worth a look were located right next to the live site. This one was locked up tight with several dogs acting as security inside.
Next door a few buildings were wide open
Buckets for pouring molten steel
Small control room. After this we went back to the car and found an old man shaking his walking stick at us angrily so we left.
There were a few more buildings full of stuff that we didn't manage to get into as they were well locked up. Definitely a bit more to see here I think but nothing too epic.
Përrenjas - Locomotive Graveyard
The country's first standard gauge line was built in 1947. From then on the construction of the country's rail network underwent significant development as Albania was considered to be the only state in Europe not to have standard rail service. By 1987, 677 km of railway had been constructed in total, linking the main urban and industrial centres for the first time since the end of World War II. Train transport was the main transportation method until 1990. After the collapse of Communism, and increase in use of motor vehicles, the network fell into disrepair. Today the country's rail network is almost entirely defunct. In Përrejas we visited this group of abandoned diesel ČKD T669 locomotives.
Përrenjas abandoned station. There was a man inside there who didn't appreciate us climbing on the trains
Pyramid of Tirana
On 14 October 1988, the pyramid opened as a museum about the legacy of Enver Hoxha, the long-time leader of Communist Albania, who died in 1985. When built, the pyramid was said to be the most expensive individual structure ever constructed in Albania. After 1991, following the collapse of Communism, the museum closed and for several years it was repurposed as a conference centre and exhibition venue. During the 1999 Kosovo War, the former museum was used as a base by NATO and humanitarian organisations. Since 2001, part of the Pyramid has been used as a broadcasting centre by Albanian media outlets Top Channel and Top Albania Radio. Numerous proposals have been made to demolish the structure but the majority of Tirana's citizens are against the demolition. In 2017 it was announced that the pyramid will not be demolished, but refurbished. In 2018, a new project was unveiled that would turn the Pyramid into a technology centre for youth focused on computer programming, robotics, and start ups.
Inside I bumped into a sleepy eyed squatter who invited me to take a look around.
We meant to have a pop at this under construction skyscraper overlooking the main square but unfortunately ran out of time
Not a particularly impressive view from up here but certainly a unique one
A few friends we made along the way
A bunker full of goats all set for the apocalypse. Just one of the 173,371 bunkers in Albania!
Thanks for looking!
Visited with 3 non members not really knowing much about the place other than it looked pretty cool from the outside. Damp and water damage had done a pretty good job on the place but it was still well worth visiting and the start of an amazing day.
Can't really find much on this place but before its abandonment, it was owned by a local water authority in relation to the nearby reservoir of the same name.
these animals were positioned exactly like this when i found them, honest...