I have become one of those people who looks at an empty, derelict building and thinks: ‘Can I get in there?’
I’ve even specifically cycled to buildings just to ‘stake’ them out.
Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately as my mother would see it, I’m not a very good law breaker and am easily deterred. For instance on a recent stake out to the old Radford Mill site near Garden Street in Nottingham I walked away within minutes after seeing the Warning: Guard Dogs on Site sign.
If I stop to think about this it’s probably fairly unrealistic that dogs have just been kept at this old mill for god knows how many years… But am I going to risk it? Not a chance.
More recently, as Matty and I walked home from town after a few ales, we passed the old Forest Mills buildings off Alfreton Road, which are currently being pulled down by the council. We skulked around the edge of the site, threatening to go home and get our camera – ‘and just get in there’, and making other such brave comments. It was then a bloke appeared out of the shade and said ‘you wanna get in?’ – as if selling tickets for entry.
‘Yeah, yeah’ I muttered, desperately trying to disguise my Home Counties accent for something a bit more street.
‘Don’t think much is left in there,’ he said darkly, as much to himself as to us. ‘I know a bloke that got in that one,’ he said, turning his arm 180 degrees across the dark sky, towards a 1960s tower block that had just been emptied and was earmarked for demolition. ‘He stripped it, got about £5k of lead,’ he continued.
‘Crikey,’ I said (I couldn’t help it, it just slipped out), thinking I’d probably written stories about his mate.
‘Anyway, you want to get in? I can get you in’, he said, our eyes falling back to the site we had been scouring just minutes earlier.
‘Errr yeah, that would be great,’ I found myself saying. ‘Although not tonight, we’ve, errr, got to meet some mates now.’ And with a dramatic glance at my watch and a slightly over-zealous gasp, we were off on our way home.
You get my point. As fascinated as i am by old empty buildings that are laced in history and scattered with little pieces of life from another time, I’m just not really cool enough for all this ‘urban exploring’.
But if a door is left open, that is another matter.
My first experience of ‘urban exploration’ was when I stumbled across this old corn warehouse in Nottingham, which used to belong to the Great Northern Railway. Built in 1850s, it has stood empty for years and was pretty much gutted by a fire that ripped through the building in 1996.
I was doing a spot of homework for my photography course and wandered over to its main entrance, on Manvers Street, to take a few snaps.
But as I was taking pictures of these seemingly impenetrable gates I was interrupted by a couple of teenagers. Truth be told, I was lying on my back at the time, trying to get some ‘arty shots’ that never actually worked out.
‘You into urban exploration?’ I suddenly heard. Lowering my camera down from my face, I saw a girl and a boy peering down at me.
I think I might have said something intelligent like ‘what’s that?’ as I peeled myself from the floor, ignoring all the stones and grit stuck to my skin.
‘We go into old places and record it, take pictures and stuff,’ replied the girl, who must have been about 14 tops. ‘We can take you in here if you want’, she added, pulling away a wooden panel at the side of the locked gates.
I was tempted. I nearly followed them in, but I held back, a little unsure about my new friends.
‘Just don’t go in on your own,’ one of them warned me. ‘Full of skag-heads and homeless people. Two women were murdered in here,’ she added.
And with that as their parting shot they trampled over the wooden panel and into the unknown. I gingerely put my head through. There was a grassy hill leading into the unkempt grounds with weeds almost the size of trees and grass as long as wheat…. I decided to just perch on the hill and take a small picture.
I knelt down into the grass (avoiding the needles) to change my camera lens and at that penultimate moment where both lenses are off and the camera is naked to the elements, I heard rustling and voices. I looked up to see a bloke and a girl walking towards me. Holding eye contact with my camera only, he greeted with me with an ‘Alright’ while her eyes rolled around in their sockets. As I took in the dark rings around their eyes, and their pale, hallowed faces, I felt certain that they could hear the loud thumping of my heart as I debated whether to try and run back down the hill or just play it cool.
I attempted the latter, I think I squeaked an ‘alright’ back as I
casually furiously changed my lens. They staggered past me and were soon lost in the jungle-like weeds ahead. I turned on my heels and ran the hell out of there.
Two days later I was back. With back-up… in the form of Matty. And after walking through the needle-strewn grass we reached an entrance of sorts….
As we approached it, we heard someone call out. As we have discussed before on this blog, I am a massive scaredy cat, so news that we had company naturally terrified me.
The man shouted down, ‘I just wanted to let you know I’ll be coming down the stairs. It’s pitch black in parts so I didn’t want to alarm you.’
Well, what a lovely chap, I thought. But as we walked into the darkness and started climbing the stairs I did think, ‘it’s probably a trick, what if he’s just luring us in…’
Suddenly I found myself thinking of the two homeless women that were found in the building in 2005. Was this how it started for them, I wondered.
We soon passed him on the stairs and he was most pleasant.
So… what did we see?
Passing all the dark, leaking, empty rooms – one of which had numerous tents in it – we finally stepped onto the roof.
See Matty is a much cooler ‘urban explorer’ than me and my mental, over active imagination.
Nevertheless, as we headed back down the rickety stairs (at a quicker pace past the tent room) and into the wilderness, stepping over bottles of Buckfast and fag packets, I mentally made a note to add ‘urban explorer’ to my CV.
If you want to see some more impressive explorations, take a look at this site called 28 Days Later, which has some wicked stuff on it.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This is, of course, a fictional tale. Under no circumstances have I ever considered breaking and entering and certainly not trespassing. These pictures were borrowed from someone naughtier than me. And no, that’s not Matty in the picture, it’s his pesky doppelgänger, who gets us in all sorts of trouble.