When riffling though the plethora of exploration blogs on the internet, you’re confronted (if you choose the right ones..) with epic after epic: The best skyscrapers, the deepest tube and the most top-secret of the bond supervillan hide-outs. What you come to realise after you start to ramp up on the free-base like addiction of this ludicrous passtime, is that if you’re succeeding all the time, you’re just not trying hard enough. For every mammoth discovery, there are countless hours of wasted time trudging around cities at 2am climbing drain pipes into boring shitholes, preparing abseils to nowhere and struggling with rusted lids that lead to 2 ft deep inspection chambers. I like to think life is *all* about relativity, and it’s the fails we rack up that makes the wins that much sweeter.

SRT to nowhere.. by Tweek

January has been quite busy time for me really. I’ve spent most weekends in in the capital ticking off the big numbers and being shown a few other less-seen gems underneath the city by local friends. In and amongst this southern tourism I’ve been hammering away at a few bits and pieces back on my homestead with below par results, a trend I’m hoping to leave firmly in January 2012.

Venting frustration. Watching Millhouse descend to the centre of the earth.. to find a wall of breeze blocks

The above image was taken at the end of a long weekend of previously described deadends. Setting off to London with a car full of cameras, rope, waders and drain keys we were in pretty high spirits, geared up for a weekend of hitting up some top stuff. It was the weekend of the Crack The Surface part II premier , the plan being to hit the roofs Friday night, see some of London’s drains on Saturday and go to the pictures in the evening.
Landing in the smoke, we met up with andrew and dicky after a crawl through some particularly shitty road works and headed off to have a look at some of london’s famous tunnel networks. After loosing a waiting game with a pair of construction workers who were obviously init for the long haul, we headed west to skulk around in one of National Grid’s unkempt back gardens, only to find a level of security completely disproportionate to the target at hand. Back to the car.

The next day, rather than donning our wadders, we decided to head east, to the fine borough of Barking to investigate a derpy power station:


Speed’s selfless addition of the remaining Barking Powerstation buildings to the urbox tourist bureau’s hot derpstinations lineup back in December got me pretty keen for a look in, especially after Friday nights failings.
The mini electricity city in the South East of Barking is essentially a massive shithole, but there is something I quite like about it. The long trudge from our parking spot down those lonely roads to the sound micro-arcing from the surrounding pylons has a real 2000AD-esque feel to it, a vibe quickly dispersed once you rock up to Daggenham Sunday Market.

Once you get to the site of the Sunday Market, it’s not really surprising that the natives have passed this one up. From the outside, it looks utterly fucked, and it’s not until you get over the fence and into the control room of the remaining substation you realise what a hidden gem this is. It was of the same generation of its much more famous cousin at Battersea, and was active from 1927 – 1976, being replaced by the now current Barking Reach power station.

33kv Substation

Old wet acid batteries

Control Building

The tunnels themselves have been cemented on the substation side, so the only way to get to the old control building is through a yard which looks like a set from ‘The Road’, complete with grubby, emaciated cannibals. Stupidly jumping over the fence at 4.00pm on a Saturday afternoon, we quickly realised after peeking through one of the broken windows of the nearest shack there were two of said cannibals in the shed, 2 feet away from where we were stood heaving crap onto a burning pile of tyres out the front of the garage. We opted for the “lots of creeping about in circles making too much noise and shouting in whispers about what a silly idea this all is” option, before coming to rest behind a load of granite blocks at the far end of yard where we waited for them to knock off and go home. Amazingly, they both left within about 30 minutes of us getting to out little stone hide-out, and as soon as the sound of that knackered white transit had faded to a few yards down the road, we dashed along the yard and in through the front door with about 25 minutes of sunlight left. Cue speed shoot:

The basement of this one was a particular highlight, especially the old valve PA gear and Ferranti power meters (a product of a recent Mancunian project)

We did make it into the tunnels, but encountered breeze blocks at almost every point, they’ve either recently been busy or we missed a trick…

Once we were out, it was a quick trip to spoons for some grub before the London team rolled out the red carpet for the motion picture event of the season!

Quiet at the back

Our evening was finished by another failing of olympic proportions, after which we re grouped, headed to the countryside to scour fields for vent shafts. This didn’t work either.