Thursday, 10 September 2015

ORFORD NESS – DANGER UXB – Shhhh SSSI

Another story in the series ‘Travels with my Architect’
Part I: Shingle and Sun

A shingle spit fashioned by long shore drift
 One hundred and twenty miles northeast of Beaconsfield, on the Suffolk coast is Orford Ness. 
Trevor and I parked up, presented our National Trust IDs at the NT’s quayside office and caught the five-minute ferry to Orford Ness.

Orford Ness is a shingle spit connected to the mainland at Aldeburgh. It stretches along the coast to Orford. The River Alde divides it from the mainland. This strange place was fashioned by long shore drift along this desolate coast.  

Nice and quite, nice and secret, no wonder that during most of the twentieth century this shingle spit was centre for weapons development, military training and wireless communication.

It was a brilliant high-sun blue day and very little wind. All the while Trevor is taking exciting photos. We spent a splendid day tramping the designated footpaths, taking careful note of the unexploded ordnance.
 
Stay on the footpath
The National Trust do a splendid job in not ‘trusti-fying’ this place 'trust-fying' a term coined by Patrick Barkham (natural history writer for the Guardian) when speaking on Radio 3’s Arts and Ideas program in August.    


The site is also a designated National Nature Reserve and forms part of the Alde-Ore Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The Atomic Weapons Research Establishment had a base on the site, used for testing; many of the buildings from this time remain clearly visible from the quay at Orford, including the distinctive "pagodas".  Visitors are able to visit Laboratory 1, other parts of the establishment are only accessible on special NT tours.


Thoughtfully the National Trust have included a real Atomic Bomb in the visitor centre, although is has been disarmed. It looked remarkably small for such a big bang.

A place shaped by every tide