Acronym shortened from Urbanex meaning Urban Exploration. The URBEX adventure is enthralling, addictive, and oft misunderstood. URBEX gives me that rush I refuse to live without.
You get the picture? Well, not really.
You see, it all started with a thread on the SV forum that had some pictures from underground in Manchester, I was very enthused by the forgotten world beneath the streets and started looking around at other websites. This one (Click here for a greatly interesting website!) in particular really caught my interest, I lost two days just reading through page after page and looking at photos of various places that had been explored. It kind of got me thinking about what I would love to do these days, especially since my climbing and mountaineering days are probably over. Ever since I had an industrial accident at work in 2009, my shoulder has been too damaged for the hard climbing I once loved and the mountain bike is sat in the hallway looking polished and clean, hardly a natural state for a mountain bike .
So today we went to the tip to dump the old Fridge, (for some reason dumping the fridge in the woods is frowned upon these days!) after it broke down on the 24th of December! Once I had manhandled it out of the car by myself, which was surprisingly easy for such a large item, I dumped it in the right place and Carol drove us homewards, well until I asked what the large old building was on our left.
The usual way of Urbexing is to take a slow steady walk around an old site, maybe take a wander inside if it is quiet. But not us, we had petrol power and Carol has local knowledge. So sat in the warmth of the car, Carol took us on a tour of the Old Westlands Helicopter site and it was great fun. The road was a little potholed and the bumps nearly spilled my tea! So that was the Westlands site, still very much a hive of industry and with some of the biggest doors I have ever seen.
Next on our to do list for the day was a rather sad visit to our very dear friend Wayne. On New Years Day, Wayne's Brother Lee was tragically killed in a high altitude Balloon accident and we needed to pay our respects and tell Wayne that we held him and his family in our thoughts. Wayne and Carol have been friends for so many years and when she introduced me to him for the first time, I liked him immediately. He is one of life's good guys, an absolute (if slightly mad) genius motorcycle engineer and to hear that he was suffering, was something that made us want to give him our love.
So we took the A370 to Bristol and headed to Wayne's house. Mind you, we did take a slight detour so that I could have a quick look at an old lunatic asylum on the way, but that was only for an hour!
At half past two, Carol dropped me at the gates to Barrow Gurney Hospital, infamous for being the dirtiest hospital in the country before it closed in 2006. Now being new to the whole idea of Urbexing, I was like a frightened rabbit in headlights and was convinced that at any moment SWAT would pounce on me and haul me away to Prison.
Have you ever tried to be quiet in a place that is silent, except for the sound of birds? It is damn hard I can tell you, luckily for me, the roar of the traffic from the Longashton Bypass kept things peaceful! I took the road up from the main gate and caught my first building, a tumbled down and derelict two story affair that looked like it was soon to become a single story rubble heap all by itself. Inside the contents had suffered at the hands of vandals or just serious decay, windows were smashed and the whole place stank of decay. I was encapsulated by wonder. Here I was, exploring a falling down building that many thousands of people had been in before me! My one regret was that as an impromptu idea, I had left my head torch and camera at home. Oh well, live and learn, so enjoy the delights of a mobile phone camera.
So, with my heart beating like a double kick bass drum, I headed off once more and deeper into the territory of the creepy. Actually, creepy is the wrong word for a derelict hospital, sad would be more appropriate, after all millions of pounds were poured into keeping these places going and then one day, they closed up and have been left to rot.
My second building to explore. Woodside is a three floor shit hole, smelling of decay, plaster falling from the sodden ceilings and filth every where, not too dissimilar from when it was open no doubt! Again it was a real shame to see how much damage has been inflicted upon the place by vandalism, be it by thugs or even the contractors tearing the place down. There were maps littered across the sodden floor, and filth everywhere, I think we have got to this place just in time before it is completely destroyed and pulled down. One room was minus an entire floor, but with little sign of where it went. I am guessing that it just vanished.
In deeper we went until we found a stairway, so up we climbed. The next corridor was somewhat less spooky, but still damp, fungal and ruined. Why do people have to smash things? So very sad.
The sluice room was a mess, years of neglect and several acts of vandalism seem to have taken their toll, not one unsmashed sink could I find in the whole place.
This was one creepy corridor, with only the sound of my breathing to keep me company.
This is what happens when you leave a building to the elements. It is going to take more than a spot of bleach and a lick of paint to sort that out, even from the strictest ward sister in the NHS! However, although this is faintly sad,it did not prepare us for the most unsettling site of the whole day. Down a moldy damp corridor, behind a moldy old door, in a room of peeling paint and decay sat a wheelchair, with a hook and chain wrapped around it. It looked like a scene from SAW or Hellraiser. I can honestly say that at that point, I was ready to go.
Well, go to the next part anyway.
I can only imagine what this room was for, it looks so bright and sunny and it was probably lovely when it was in use. But with enough damp and decay, well you can see for yourself what a mess it was.
The shame just hit me every time I entered another derelict room, such a waste of public money to allow it to fall into such decay. My time was nearly up and I had to get back to the Car, but there was still so much to see. Like the saddest bus stop in the world.
The Corridor to nowhere.
Then I found the Doctor's Office and much to my surprise, they had gone out.
From here I found the old Lawn mower, which I am sure could be got running again if some one cared enough to try.
One final stop to peer into the Boiler House and then it was time to head back to warm car and a caring wifey.
This was quite a trip for me, our first time out and we sat in comfort as we drove around a busy industrial site only to be followed by the exploration of a soon to be demolished asylum. It was not as heroic as you might think, I shivered because I had not prepared for a trip out, I had not brought a torch or my camera, but luckily Carol had the sense to pack her new video camera and I was able to collect some shots with that.
So that was a day or Urbexing, it may not be quite as legal as we would like, but in my defense, I entered only buildings that were open, I took only photos and did touch anything that could be broken. All I left behind were the footprints I made when I stepped onto moldy carpets and through damp plaster. Would I do it again? If the opportunity came again I think that I would.
If you want to know more about this peculiar little hobby, have a look at these Websites.
There are so many places out there that we ignore because we want to go and explore the wilderness, yet we have wild places right in our cities. You just have to open your eyes and look at what has been left to rot right under our noses, these derelict sites don't last too long, they get bought up and smashed down for redevelopment, these are the Brown Field sites you learned about in Geography and they can be beautiful.
A big huge thank you to Carol for the guided tour of Westlands and for not minding that I like to look in weird places that no one wants to go to. I love you Angel XXX