Micheldever fuel reserve/depot

Retro post from : Autumn 2013

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.

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.

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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