Federal-Mogul camshafts

It’s always a little bit strange when you discover sizeable factories out in the sticks! You’ve got to assume its closure had a profound impact on the local villages!?

FederalMogul-14The Weyburn Works near Elstead developed during the first half of last century, and by 1937 employed 300 people manufacturing lifeboat engines and parts for cars and planes. Later it merged to become Weyburn Bartel, before being bought by global car component manufacturer Federal-Mogul and trading as Federal-Mogul Camshafts Ltd. As part of their growth strategy Federal-Mogul had also acquired another UK company who was one of the world’s largest manufacturers of asbestos-based products. That acquisition rather bit them back courtesy of liabilities for asbestos-related claims, driving the main USA-based Federal-Mogul company into Chapter 11 bankruptcy between 2002 and 2008, with its UK subsidiaries similarly under management by administrators. Whilst the company overall weathered the storm, sadly the impact on the Weyburn Works was more serious. About half its 140 strong workforce were made redundant in 2007, and despite the site continuing to supply customers including Perkins and BMW, the remainder followed with the closure of the site in late 2008.

I’ve not been out and about for ages, and with a trip up the A3 needed for other reasons, decided to get up early and pop into a couple of small sites on the way. Also I’ve a new bargain Canon EF-S 10-18mm wide angled lens that I bought last month and wanted to try it out properly!

FederalMogul-60I’ll be totally honest … if you’re passing and have an hour to kill do take a look, but don’t go out of your way for Federal-Mogul! A frankly empty and smashed up site, and most of the few bits and pieces that appeared interesting in early reports from several years ago have now gone. In particular there was a piano, that apparently moved around site, that has now definitely met its maker! The site had its own social club, and the space above that was clearly let out as a trading unit, latterly for “Love Stone” selling expensive marble floor tiles. Ironically mounted samples of those are some of the few things that aren’t smashed up!

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Micheldever fuel reserve/depot

Retro post from : Autumn 2013

Micheldever-55
The railway goes under a tunnel; the A303 goes over the top of the hill.

Micheldever fuel reserve was built just prior to the start of WWII to store fuel for the RAF, most likely for Farnborough which is about 15 mins up the railway from it. Basically a set of 30 large tanks built in a former chalk pit and covered with a huge sloping concrete outward face. The fuel was moved by rail to/from the reserve which has its own siding, and the mainline to London runs straight past it. Thus as a kid I always used to look out and wonder what the huge military looking concrete hill/bunker was. At some point it started being used commercially and the depot was in more recently times labelled as being operated by Elf. Crack on *cough* a couple of decades from those childhood years, and I’ve travelled past the fuel depot innumerable times to/from town for work and always kept a keen eye on it. Over the years it was apparent it wasn’t active anymore with the largest building ultimately being breeze blocked up, and things increasingly looking derelict.

Micheldever-79
Waiting to have the tracking done, with the fuel depot in the distance.

I had to go and get new tyres on the Vee, and so that meant a trip to the “world’s busiest tyre site” … Micheldever Tyres. Hence, I decided it was time to finally go and take a peak at a site that I’ve literally looked at with interest all my life from the train. A quick search showed others had been there, and with summer undergrowth giving more cover and making scrambling down the chalk face where the concrete meets the hill feasible, I dusted off my exploring bag.

The resulting pictures are far from my finest work. My used and abused 18-55mm kit lens I’ve always used for exploring started playing up a few months prior to this visit whilst on holiday. It focussed when it felt like it, and even then wasn’t particularly accurate. Cue on-and-off manual focusing and fuzzy pictures.

Micheldever-24
One of the longer tunnels into the hill.

The site had been stripped of much of its wiring by metal thieves and smashed up a bit by local kids, but it was great to final have a look around after so many years of wondering about it. Disappointingly not many of the entrances go any distance into the hill. There are a few work rooms, a cross cutting tunnel between a couple of the entrances, along with a couple of longer tunnels. The tanks are marked as having been cleaned out in 1995, so it seems like it really was a couple of decades since it was last used. It hasn’t been noticeable as long as that – strange how some things fall into dereliction quickly, but others appear to be in use for longer than they are, taking years until their desertion becomes totally apparent!

As a present day update, it seems that National Rail are in the process of disposing of part the site. That surplus land appears to consist of the large flat area atop the tanks/hill, which had already been cleared of the few remaining concrete structures when I visited, which will be used for a bio-energy power facility with recyclable waste being brought via the railway. Also it appears that the freight yard/sidings, that have been similarly unused for some years, will be improved for use as a new freight interchange. There’ve been some heavily graffitied car transporter wagons “parked” in the sidings since 21st August 2009, a date clearly documented since seemingly it was an arrival of some excitement for local train enthusiasts as per this thrilling video.

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The Urbex preface …

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by old and derelict buildings! Indeed one of my earliest memories was being intrigued by a fire damaged derelict vicarage when visiting my best friend Alan when he lived near Bolton … I was four at the time! Similarly throughout my childhood on our annual holidays to the Lake District I spent many a happy hour exploring old mines and the like. Thus since long before the Daily Fail seemed to run an article every other day with some HDRed pictures of some spooky building from somebody after their few minutes of fame, I’ve been sneaking around interesting places exploring them and taking pictures.

Over time I’m going to move all my old pictures on to this new version of veehicular.net, so please bear with me.

You should never forget that urban exploration can be dangerous with many hazards, and that appropriate safety precautions should always be taken. Sites are frequently not open to the public! I do not accept any responsibility for anyone who decides to visit the locations that I have and anyone doing so does so at their own risk. I do not condone any criminal activities!

Tots TV … what happened next!?

Retro post from : June 2014

I’m a Tot,

Je suis une Tot,

Tilly, Tom and Tiny,

We’re the Tots on Tots TV

When son#1 was very little, one of his favourite TV programmes was Tots TV. We owned most episodes on VHS and I had to watch them many many times! If you don’t remember Tots TV, it had three main characters … Tilly, who was French, Tom and Tiny … and they lived in a secret cottage in the woods!

Ultimately they grew up, maybe fame went to their heads, they left their secret cottage and perhaps moved to Hollywood where they discovered drink and drugs and never returned!

TotsTV-04Their cottage? Well it sits unloved and derelict in a copse in a middle of a field on a farm in Warwickshire.

I’ve not got out exploring much over the last few years, courtesy of a dearth of stuff local to me and generally too little time. However, after 9+ years of the Vee being my “daily” driver, I finally gave in and got a second car this year, for local stuff but also for business miles that I’ve always tried to avoid in the Vee. It’s a mighty 3-cylinder 1.2 Polo, nicknamed “The Beast”. Cheap for me to run but more than comfortable and capable on the motorway for business trips, and ideal for son#1 to drive in evenings/weekends since he’s 17 this year! Given a first business trip North in it, it seemed rude not change out of my suit and negotiate irate farmers, barbed wire fences and rampant nettles and brambles to pop in and relive the old times.

In a remarkable coincidence, some other famous children’s characters from this era lived in the corner of the next field! The Teletubbies!

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Crookham Court School

My exploring life is littered with numerous places I never quite got around to, and then it was too late. Crookham Court is one of those, and I paid the price since this was basically a fail! I’d most seriously intended to go last year when it was seemingly wide open for ages, but I dragged my heels where I’m always busy and then heard it’d been properly secured so forgot about it again. However, last month I’d been up the A34 for a few days and so whilst pondering things I could do on the way home remembered Crookham Court. Naturally a quick search showed that it’d been more accessible a month before, but yet again I was too late! Even so I decided I’d check it out …

There’s a rather dark cloud over Crookham Court, or more specifically its later life as a boarding school.

Crookham-56The current Crookham Court was built in the mid-nineteenth century on the site of a previous manor house that was destroyed by fire. As was frequently the way with grand family mansions, the current building grew over the remainder of the century with several further phases of building. Also as was often the way with such mansions, at some point it stopped being a family home. Given the proximity of RAF Greenham Common, for a while it was a school for the children of the nearby RAF personnel. Whilst most recall Greenham Common’s active use being into the early 1990s, the RAF actually departed in 1964, before the base was resurrected in 1967 by the USAF courtesy of the needs of the Cold War. Likewise post-RAF Crookham Court was resurrected as a independent boarding school for boys.

Crookham-05That boarding school was operational from the early 1960s, but in 1988 several cases of child sexual abuse involving staff members came to light. The school featured in a BBC investigation on the programme That’s Life, leading to three members of staff being convicted in 1990, including the owner of the school! The school closed in 1989. Another member of staff was convicted in 2012. Needless to say the school’s notoriety features in several bits of scrawled graffiti.

My approach was pretty amateur to be honest. I took a quick look at the aerials, could see that there were houses by the entrance and actually through the site at the bottom, and so didn’t come in that way. Initially I couldn’t even get near since the road past was closed by the police courtesy of an accident! Ultimately I found somewhere appropriate to park up, and it wasn’t too difficult to find my way from there. The trouble was that main building was still totally sealed up, well certainly to somebody on their own. I did find one possible way in, but it was a drop-down one-way route and even then I suspect blocked once inside, and when you’re on your own you can’t take such risks. So instead I mooched around various outbuildings, and at least got my first smell of exploring in a while. The largest outbuilding had most notably been used as a science classroom which was cool, but with hindsight I totally missed out one end of that building that I reckon was used as a chapel or similar from others’ pictures. The most edgy moment? I approached the outdoor swimming pool, heard a buzz, and suddenly realized I was stood half-a-metre away from a very active wood hornet nest in the wood cladding of a building!

I’d still love to see inside the mansion proper, so next time I’m that way might try my luck again!

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