My oh my, how long has it been since I posted a report? Exploring has become a low priority for me ever since I left the UK, even if I've always kept tabs on new sites shared here and on social media. Truth be told learning Mandarin and my lady have taken a much bigger priority in recent years, plus my lady is no fan of me going about it alone so that makes organising jaunts more challenging. I have visited a fair few sites around Taiwan, but compared to Europe there is so little here to get me to jump on the next train there because beautiful architecture is just so rare and even noteworthy industrial sites are few and far between; many places are just rotting concrete shells. So this report here is meant to be a compilation of my latest explores to date which I feel don't have enough bite to warrant standalone reports.
There will be more reports to come in the future, but since I left my torch and tripod in England it will be some time before I visit these. I trust the results will not be disappointing though.
亞哥花園/Encore Garden, July 2018
Visited with some colleagues and non-explorers.
I'd always been aware of this one, as it's situated close to my favourite hiking trails just outside of Taizhong where I live. But being me I never made a move until last year. It's an abandoned theme park in Dakeng district, opened in 1981 and was a hugely popular site that attracted around 1m people a year. Like several sites in Taiwan it was hit by the 921 earthquake in 1999 which severely damaged the area, causing attendance to drop dramatically. Eventually the financial losses incurred forced the place to close in 2008.
On most days there is a security guard with dogs at the top of the site, living in a shack. However as of last year the entire site has been repurposed as a rally racetrack. Pay $100 (that's £2.50) to enter and you can sit back and spectate, but before that we chose to explore the park first. Initially we were in full stealth mode, when we spotted people in hi vis vests dotted around the site as well as the guard's dogs barking at us, but after seeing others drive round with their scooters we realised it was a free for all for today.
What I found really fascinating about exploring in Taiwan compared to Europe and other places is how the fertile, humid tropical enviroment is far more hostile to built structures which means nature takes over rapidly once the place is abandoned; the restaurant was completely covered in thick, thick dust, and other structures had started to be completely invaded by tree branches.
Old arcade machines left behind
Because of thick shrub finding the entrance to this ride took a bit of careful searching, but we got to it.
It turns out as long as we stayed off the roads as much as possible, we were at free to roam whenever we wanted. The racing stewards didn't mind us at all. Unfortunately the outdoor auditorium was inaccessible because there were too many race cars on the route leading up to it.
Another thing that's incredibly striking about Taiwan and nature is the frequency of earthquake tremors. In my experience they seem to hit every few months, and in mountainous and rural areas can trigger minor (or major) landslides; look at the next 2 pictures and compare to older photos...
By stark contrast to the western world, obviously with a few exceptions Asians and the Taiwanese have utmost respect for abandoned sites. Whether this be rooted in a fear of the supernatural (people in the west believe in ghosts, but superstitions are taken far more seriously here), they treat abandoned sites as tombs and relics of the past to be treated with respect. It's because of this, little if any effort is made to seal any buildings from intruders and yet sites see so little vandalism. Security guards are rare, too. Another thing is that for several sites upon closure and abandonment the owners do not bother to remove items from buildings, regardless of their value. The fundamental exception to this rule being statues and religious iconography, because to leave these to rot is to bring huge misfortune on one's life.
So although decent sites are indeed rare, exploring those that are around are unique experiences in which you can really lose yourself and let your imagination run free.
I then made my way inside the buildings in the middle of the site, and was stunned to find the power still on. It turns out even on a Sunday there were workers inside. Unfortunately the site manager walked in, then politely asked me to leave after this photo was taken.
It's far from epic, but it's well worth sharing as it's so vastly different from Crapalot. I'm still alive by the way...
Thank you so much for reading, and it's a real pleasure to be back.
This turned out to be a good day out with @SpiderMonkey and Exxperious. This is a big site, by far the largest RAF base I've explored in terms of area covered, so we spent the whole day looking around it.
History of RAF Bentwaters
RAF Bentwaters is a former Royal Air Force station in Suffolk, named after Bentwater Cottages, two small houses that stood on the site of the main runway prior to its construction. Construction of the base began in 1942 for use by RAF Bomber Command and opened for operational use in April 1944. In December that year it was transferred to No. 11 Group, RAF Fighter Command. The runways were constructed in the typical RAF layout of one main runway diagonally intersected by two secondary runways, forming a triangle.
The base was used by the RAF during the Second World War, and then used by the United States Air Force from 1951 until 1993, primarily for efforts during the Cold War. Bentwaters was to play a key role in the defence of Western Europe during the Cold War when large numbers of USAF aircraft were assigned as part of the air arm of NATO.
Bentwaters was handed back to the UK Ministry of Defence in 1993 and was subsequently closed. Now known as Bentwaters Parks, the site is used as a business park and filming location. Owners are constantly developing the filming and production facilities available at the site. Movies and TV programmes filmed there include Derren Brown's Apocalypse, movies The Numbers Station and Fast & Furious 6, along with some Top Gear stunts, amongst others.
In 2007 the Bentwaters Cold War Museum opened, including tours of the fully restored “War Operations Room” and “Battle Cabin”.
Aerial view of the site after becoming Bentwaters Parks
Star Wars Building
The so-called “Star Wars Building” is surrounded by concrete blast walls and contains some interesting spaces including a medical room.
The Star Wars Building
Concrete blast walls
Entrance of the Star Wars Building
Built during the Cold War to securely store nuclear and conventional weapons, the bomb store was heavily fortified with three layers of fencing, razor wire, a swing-arm vehicle barrier, two gates, pressure pads, armoured guard house, guard tower and overhead cables to keep helicopters out.
We didn’t get passed the gate!
Entrance to the Bomb Stores
Armoured Guard House
One of the storage facilities with overhead cables
One of the store buildings had a couple of old fire engines parked up behind it....
Planes and Helicopters
There are all sorts of jet aeroplanes and helicopters parked up around the site, in varying states of decay and dismantlement.
Exxperious modelling his entry into "Miss Fighter Jet 2018"
The K-9 building contains spacious dog kennels.
Kennels inside the K-9 Building
The site has a lot of hardened aircraft shelters, or hangers, spread out across a vast area. Several are in use by private companies, and others are empty. A common feature of the hangers is the huge sliding doors that form the entire hanger's frontage – these slide to the side on rails to open up fully allowing access for aeroplanes.
One of the many hangers
Typical interior of the hangers
Original sliding door controls
The framework sits on rails and supports the huge doors, allowing them to slide fully open
527th Aggressor Squadron Hardened Aircraft Shelter
Deputy Commander Operations
This building had been out of use for quite some time and is suffering a lot of decay. The moisture and condensation cause constant rainfall inside the building, which was ideal for plant growth.
Deputy Commander Operations building
Runway, Control Tower and Maintenance Vehicles
We didn’t make it over to the control tower, which is situated within the live business park area of the site. The runway still has some of the maintenance and de-icing vehicles parked up.
The Control Tower pictured in 1972
The Control Tower today (poor quality due to crazy crop, as we didn't go over there!)
North/South runway with the control tower in the distance
The Hush House
Originally built as a jet engine testing facility with an exhaust tunnel, the Hush House was a soundproofed hangar where fighter
Exterior of the exhaust tunnel
Interior of the Hush House
The exhaust tunnel
Hush House control booth and viewing window
Thanks for looking!
Of course I got a selfie!
Visited back in November with Mookster after seeing the Typhoo Factory. Another one ticked off the list which has been kicking about for years. I really enjoyed this one; though quite bare and largely sealed, it had a lot of nice things to see down there. The air was pretty bad though in places!
History - Borrowed!
The ‘Shadow Factory Tunnels’ are what remain of Lord Austin’s secret plans that were created to increase the force of the British military against the German military aggression in the arms race that led up to the start of the Second World War.
Munitions workers produced Merlin engines to power Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes which were used to regain control of the British skies during the 1940 Battle of Britain.
The Shadow Scheme involved two stages; the building of nine new factories and the extension of existing factories.
This extension included here; the Longbridge plant. Australian-born industrialist and Conservative MP, Lord Austin, whom founded Austin Motors; had already contributed to the war effort during the First World War, turning his factories to munitions and engine production.
The tunnels which ran beneath Austin Rovers Longbridge plant are mostly all that is left of the plant; a large housing development increases in size upon the former footprint. These tunnels ensured that production of the engines and munitions could continue underground in relative safety.
After WWII; the factory returned to producing automobiles and the tunnels were soon abandoned. By the late 60s, the plant was the second largest car plant in the world.
After the collapse of MG Rover, the site saw its redevelopment. Famously; a mini was kept down here after workers damaged it in the 70s and it was hidden from bosses. The mini is now in a museum.
This is a very small portion of the tunnels. Lots is bricked up