This story is about an epic adventure we he had in the UK ages before I actually started travelling but it was pretty unforgettable and it's fun writing about it and I regularly get asked how teh f*ck did we get in the place, so I thought i'd include some of the details here. Scroll down if you want to skip the long-winded account of how we did this and see some incredible pics of inside the bunker.
Sometime during a cold winter a couple of years ago, I heard about a mythical underground place. Apparantly, somewhere out in the countryside vaguely near Bath where I was living at the time was located a huge underground nuclear bunker complex. This was the place where the government and royal family would be evacuated in the event of a nuclear attack during the cold war.
Supposedly, it had facilities and supplies for thousands of people to live and work down there in complete secrecy. A fully functioning underground city 100m below the surface complete with kitchens, offices, stores, a bakery, a hospital, a communications centre etc. I was initially unsure if this was just some urban myth or crazy conspiracy story...but I couldn't get the idea of it out of my head did some research and found out that this place does actually exist....lookk for yourself!
As it was only about a half hour drive away from where we were living, we set out with a small crew to go and see if there was anyway of getting inside this legendary place. On arriving in the army town of Corsham, we did indeed find some evidence of it - an old elevator shaft located above ground...we had our work cut out for us here though - the bunker is located directly underneath and active military base! The whole place was crawling with armed military police, a huge razor wire perimeter fence, signs warning of guard dogs etc. Hmm yeah, this aint gonna be easy!
We went back pretty well resigned to the fact that we probably weren't going to be able to get in without getting arrested, bitten or shot at. I still couldn't stop thinking about the possibility and started to gather lots of info about the place, collecting all kinds of maps, and scanning the google maps aerial photos of the place with a fine tooth comb.
We went back to the area with a vague plan that involved going across a railway track, and we thought this might be unguarded. We were cruising around the area but hit a dead end which was actually another massive fence with about 3 CCTV camera's pointed straight at us...so yeah that plan was a bit of a fail! We pulled up on a random piece of grass somwhere and chatted for a bit about alternatives, had a smoke etc. Then we realised there was an ominous looking blacked out landrover waiting across the way.
We made a move away from there and noticed that the landrover had started following us! So I had to boot my trusty Golf out of there as quickly as possible and try and lose the tail. We made a few random turns and I went off down a muddy woodland path. I hid the car as best I could kind of in a bush and we went off into the woods. This turned out to be a massively lucky break for us as we might not have considered exploring this bit of woodland otherwise. We were pretty much consigned to the fact this whole ludicrous plan was a waste of time but we took advantage of the fact that we were in some woods and kind of liked the idea that the bunker was probably right beneath our feet as we wandered around in a thoroughly dissociated state of mind.
It was starting to get pretty dark as we stumbled around the woods, losing one of our freinds in the process and worried we wouldn't be able to find our car again as we didn't even have a torch. At some point, we found a clearing in the woods with this huge zip line. It was probably about 15meters above the ground at its highest point, a decent an appropriately dangerous attraction but awesome fun to play around on. Well, we didn't find the bunker but hey this zipline will do!
On our way back to the car, we heard some scurrying around somewhere near us - there were some other people walking in the woods. Desperate for information, we shouted out into the darkness..."Hey...who's there? Do you know how about this bunker???". A voice shouted back through the darkness..."ah yeah! yeah there is a bunker here." We shouted back:
"How do you get in"?....
"THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR!"
"Can you show us??"
"Yeah, follow us!"
And with that, the mystery voice disappeared. We wern't able to find the owner of the voice or keep up with the scurrying. We'd come tantilisingly close to finding someone who could show us some clues but were too stupid minded to be able to keep track of them. We did however have renewed hope about the possibility of getting in and a whole load of new questions. Who were these people? What the hell and where the hell is the front door?? It was dark though and we thought we were probably being hunted by the army so we decided to give it a rest for the meantime.
A couple of weeks passed. I found it rather difficult at times to recruit mates to come to try and get it in. It is admittedly a pretty tough sell with the possibility of getting a criminal record and not even any particular idea of where an entrance is. I was adamant we needed to have another go though and that we needed to go during the daytime so we can actually see what's going on!
I would spend probably about 50% of my workday researching the place, finding out about every single little detail and reading about it's long history. The next time we went to Corsham, we went to explore Box Tunnel, which is on the main railway line between London and Bristol. This railway line actually runs directly above the bunker. What's particularly interesting is the side tunnel, which you can just about make out to the right hand side of the main tunnel entrance in this photo.
This was where all the supplies to the bunker would have been brought in, and also all the stuff and government people, so it was definitely interesting to us. We had a few trains beep at us as they rushed pass and saw us hanging around on the side of the track so we knew we didn't have long to check it out if we didn't want to get busted.
Annoyingly, the tunnel was full of water, starting off about knee height but the tunnel was angled downwards and as we went along it just got deeper and deeper. Not only that, but it was blocked off with a newly built brick wall. I guess they were wise to this trick. We even considered hiring an industrial jack hammer we could use to break down the wall, but as the tunnel was completely flooded, this idea really was clutching at straws.
Another avenue we explored was a couple of airshafts that lie outside the perimeter fence. We managed to find an airshaft that we could get a peek down into the bunker from. Hmm....yeah. An 80m sheer drop down into darkness. We could only just about make out the floor and it also looked flooded. I'd been in contact with someone over the internet that had done it this way. But you'd have to be either a very experienced climber with a lot of ropes and equipment to try this... or a complete nutter - but probably both.
We explored the surrounding area for hours uncovering dead end after dead end. Dejected, we went back to try and find that zipline we'd found in the darkness that earlier time to see what it was like during the day. We played around on that and I ended up with a seriously bruised ass after the rope that is supposed to stop you at the end of the line snapped and I went smack right into a tree.
It was only then that it occured to me to think about what the hell this zipwire was actually attached to on it's raised end. This 15m structure initially looked just like a hill, but we noticed it had an odd shape and was actually a completely overgrown brick structure. It hit me that this was probably the old mine shaft entrance to the bunker. The bunker is actually built inside an old stone quarry. It's where a lot of that old georgian bath stone came from!
So we'd found the old mine shaft entrance, but it was completely impenetrable from all directions. This must have been sealed off 100 years or so ago and even if we did get inside it, we'd need some seriously heavy equipment to get very far. I knew we were on the right track though and from these woods, we could get right up to the perimeter fence.
We scouted as steathily as we could round this bit of fence and that was then we noticed it. Another big mound of grass on the INSIDE of the fence, with a visible, padlocked entrance with bars over it. We had some binoculars with which we could check it out and our conclusion? The only way in here is going to be to penetrate the perimeter fence, sneak through the army base, get through the locked entrance and see if there is a way in.
I realised this was a savage longshot. We ran the risk of getting busted or going through a monumental mission to get into this padlocked entrance, only to find that the place is locked up again more securely further into the entrance and the whole plan would have been for nothing. But we had a possible route to focus on now, shit was getting serious!
Another couple of weeks went by while we worked out a plan and also picked up a load of supplies and equipment. We needed tools, powerful torches, detailed maps of the inside in the extremely unlikely even we did get in, booze, goodies etc.
One rainy winter night, at about 1am in the morning, I coaxed the other two two ringleaders of this plan out of bed (with significant reluctance!). I figured the rain would help to provide decent cover, less chance of a security patrol staying out in it and also helps to mask the sound of sneaking footsteps.
I can't detail the precise steps we took to get inside the perimeter fence, but I will say we did so with minimal damage to the fence and of course I got myself a souvenir "Danger - Guard Dogs" sign. We snuck through the base and made our way to the possible entrance we'd identified. Now this was padlocked, and we thought we were gonna have to break the lock but much to our relief, once we were in the base, we could see on the other side of the structure there was another entrance out of view from the woods and this was completely unlocked! Score!
Though our initial elation was quickly quelled. We got into the entrance structure, and there are stairs leading down. The stairs lead down to....two huge bulkhead doors.
Okay, so we'd found what must be "the front door!". There were four big, stiff handles we had to move in order to 'unlock' the door, which was not easy to do but we did manage it, only to find that the door was still locked. Dammit!! Bearing in mind these doors are specifically designed to keep both people and radioactive fallout away from the inside of the bunker, at this point we were quickly losing any kind of hope of getting in this place..
The bunker was locked from the inside and it wasn't going to reveal it's secrets to us easily. So how the hell did we actually get the thing open? Ha ha for the safety of the bunker and it's valuble historical contents, I'm not gonna reveal that here apart from the fact that it involved some 'out of the box' thinking and using some items we managed to find in the woodland area on the safe side of the fence.
And BOOM we got the door open and we were inside. With a CCTV camera pointed right in our faces on the inside of the door! We certainly wern't turning back at this point though. We found a spiral staircase winding downwards and were met with the main entrance escalator leading down into the bunker.
I knew about this escalator and finding this is pretty much the holy grail of UK urban exploration. During the cold war, this escalator was requisitioned from Holborn tube station in London to provide a practical way of shipping in the thousands of workers who might be required to man the bunker in the event of a nuclear attack.
It's interesting to note that this part of the bunker has it's lighting permanently on (which was handy for us). The truth is, this bunker is not completely abandoned. A skeleton crew of mining personnel work down there doing maintenance or something. This meant we had to be out of the bunker by around 4-5am at the latest otherwise we might encounter some surprised and angry workers down there!
I'm going to leave the pictures to tell the next part of the story. We did end up going back to the bunker a further three times, once with a crew of 10 people. Each time the security had obviously realised we'd got in, and tried to thwart us by locking up various doors, but we managed to stay one step ahead, leaving various additional entrances and ways in open for us as now we were able to open up the bunker from the inside and had also found a key room for all the internal doors. A bit of taekwondo helped here too.
Around this time I met Lowri who is a keen explorer and she is to thank for a lot of the awesome pics we got from inside the bunker on our later trips. Words can't really describe how awesome it was to actually manage to get inside this place we'd spent weeks planning for - and also the fun we had using the maintenance buggys to drive/race around and explore the bunker to it's full potential :)
Escalator A entrance. The bunker actually has two of these but the other one is unlit and skanky
Thats what I'm talking about!
Newbridge exploration crew!
It's not all doom and gloom down here.
Central communications centre. There were signs around the place warning that revealing secrets over the phone (unintentionally or otherwise) will result in imprisonment
Accommodation quarters. Ugh, yeah...prime bit of real estate that.
Office area. Some of this is seriously disintegrating and moulding. Hazard central.
See what I mean?!
Maintenance buggy mania
Buggy crew shot.
One day we found ourselves on the 'wrong side' of this warning sign when we didn't have our masks on....uuughhh yeah, lets get out of here QUICK!
Industrial size kitchen area
Air shaft fan. This is a huge fan that was actually ON so it was like a gale force wind in here
Lamson air pressure tube communication system. The one you put a message in a tube and it whizzes around the base.
Out of service lift shaft. Going DOWN?
An industrial something
Spooky underground base
One of several library areas. Lots of interesting stuff here including maps and atlases of the world, books on history, politics, military strategy and law and order and...also books on sexual development i.e. how to repopulate the world
Nothing in there unfortunately, strictly bring your own.
Soundproofed BBC broadcast centre. In the event of war, survival messages would be transmitted from this room.
Massive valve amplifier for the PA system
Anyone for coffee?
Don't you know, this is a one way street you complete cretin
Don't even think about breaking into Ministry of Defence property
So there ya go, that should give you a fair idea of what an explore like this entails. If you're thinking of visiting this or other places like this my best advice would be to do your homework beforehand and come prepared. It was completely pitch black for 90% of the bunker so powerful torches and a detailed map was necessary. There is no mobile phone signal and around 80km of tunnels most of it in total pitch blackness so you really need to stick together and count numbers regularly as getting lost down here would royally suck ass. Between us we took literally thousands of photos and what you see here is really just some highlights and scratching the surface of what's on offer.
Also, the place is infested with asbestos and mould spores so bring some protective masks and don't smash stuff up too much as this will release dangerous particles into your face.
You are most vulnerable to get busted on the surface...I remember a tense moment when we had our group of 10 crouching down behind a bush on the wrong side of the perimeter fence while we watched an army police car cruise right past us! Don't steal stuff, these are historical artefacts down here and you'll get in a whole lot of trouble if you get busted. I've been contacted by people that have been arrested trying to get in and even one group that got busted with dogs so watch out for stuff like that.
Part of me thinks that this place should really be made into an exhibit or a museum or something, afterall, billions of pounds of public money in today's terms were spent building a place that thankfully never had to be used. The general public deserve to get a taste of this amazing piece of history. To be honest though, that would kind of spoil the potential for adventure that this place offers if you do somehow manage to get inside this timewarp and see it in it's original, unrestored, dangerous and grimy as fuck glory.