Very early on Saturday morning Cliff and I drove to the coast, although we live in Suffolk it's a 2 hour journey zig-zagging eastwards to the far edge of the county. Months back we had booked to go on a tour of Orford Ness, we'd never been before. We hadn't payed much attention to what we were signing up for . . . and that turned out to be THE tour for 20th century military history enthusiasts!
For most of the 20th Century (1913 to 1993 to be precise) the 16 kilometre long shingle spit that hugs the coast of Suffolk just south of Aldeburgh, was the top secret research site for everything from the first forays into air warfare, parachutes and aerial photography through to testing the aerodynamics of the UK's atomic bombs and at the height of the Cold War the huge array of aerials of 'Cobra Mist' secretly eavesdropped on the Soviet Block. If this is your thing, read more here.
Luckily for me the sign above no longer applied! It was a grey day and there was a cold wind blowing off the North Sea, I settled for taking photographs rather than sitting on the shingle
Orford Ness is now owned by the National Trust, the shingle spit is a nature reserve of international importance . . . you may have seen it featured on the BBC Springwatch (watch Richard Taylor-Jones stunning film here start at 31mins in, available until Thursday 20 June 2013). I found the juxtaposition of the mysterious architecture and the encroaching shingle and plants, fascinating.
Inside the buildings, while our amazingly knowledgeable guide talked of boffins (and apparently the word was first ever used to describe one of the top researchers in these very buildings!) I searched out textures and geometric shapes in the decaying laboratories.
Glassless windows framed views across the vast expanse of shingle . . . much of it still out of bounds because of the danger of unexploded ordnance.
The next chapter in the story of Orford Ness will be about the plants and wildlife that are now the only inhabitants (apart from the day visitors that come across by boat from the mainland) and gradually they will hide the secrets for ever.
On the seaward side of the Ness stands a lighthouse –
Trinity House have made the decision that in these days of satellite navigation, lighthouses are no longer required the light will be turned off in a few days time and it will be left to the mercy of the North Sea which is eating back the coast at a rate of 5 metres a year.
Eventually it will collapse onto the shingle and be smashed apart by the waves.
You can see more of my photos of Orford Ness here:
I hope to go back to explore again soon... and hopefully see more of the birds and hares.