There’s not many who’ve managed to find their way up the Number 7 gasholder at the old Nine Elms Gasworks, and the reasons for this aren’t really apparent until you actually have a go.
Yes, the site is still live, but the outlandishly out-of-proportion investment in security measures on site is probably the reason my gas bill is so damn high. 360 degree infrared sensors every 20ft or so, both at ground level and along the upper sections of the massive palisade fence which boasts razor wire running across its top and infracameras dotted about at key points in the yard, presumably connected to an alarm system in the on-site security mans lodge. Tripping any one of these numerous devices would most likely result in a timely response by the old bill, and you’d be in cuffs way before you could haul your sorry ass over that 16ft razor wire fence.
Sounds fun right?
While some of my more devoted friends have been devouring the rich pickings of old gasholders around the UK this year and systematically climbing and photographing as many as possible (with very impressive results), I only really had eyes for the hit parade. Number 7 was squarely in this list, and so, with a spare day on the cards (and the looming ‘redevelopment’ of the Battersea industrial estate), I contacted a couple of old hands and started jotting out ideas for a sensible plan of attack.
A three day wait and a £5 megabus was all it took, and before I knew it I was sat in a working mans boozer on nine elms lane with aps waiting for loops to show up. This was to be a precision strike. No roaming the streets looking for targets of opportunity, no talk of anything else, no mucking about. I had 9 hours till my megabus back home and I was here solely for this.
Armed with a new route in, we met up with loops, pondered strategy, shot the breeze, loitered for a break in the traffic on the main road and jibbed over a nearby fence, sprinting to avoid being seen by any observant rail workers or late night security guards.
Creeping slowly under the cover of the shadows cast by the harsh floodlights of the near by buildings, we made our way to the fence surrounding the site, managing to *just* escape being seen by roaming securitons far more times than were comfortable.
By ek. Missions that fence.
Once we’d negotiated that spiky sensor infested customer we had a pretty tricky void before us strewn with another shit ton of those wretched motion sensors.
A quick bit of thinking, scurrying and clambering and we were happily stood at the foot of old number 7.
Nowt for it then.
Compared to the hassle we’d just had to endure, the anticlimb cage wasn’t really any stress at all, and before we knew it we were elevating up up up and away to the top of this massive blue monster.
There’s no way in hell the workers who’ve been assessing this massive structure ever use the white steel staircase that spirals up to the summit, in short it’s fucked, and it seems like they’ve been combating the rust and the gaping holes by just painting it more.
At any rate, It didn’t take that long to get up the top, and within 5 or 10 minutes we were basking in the glory of a pretty stunning vista of the Nine Elms industrial wasteland.
The best though, was yet to come.
The natural gas that used to inhabit the structure has long been evacuated, making it safe to enter without breathing apparatus. Through a small door on the roof, one may enter into this gas spaceship and descend down into the darkness onto a rusty iron platform that looks out onto the abyss.
The thick oily stench from the stuff that was used to seal the container at the bottom hits you as soon as you walk in, and makes for one of the most surreal atmospheres I’ve ever encountered when combined with the huge reverberation time inside the tank.
Suspended from the roof of the gas holder is an extendible staircase that drops down into the darkness, with no sight of the floor below (even with our torches on full beam). It looked a bit fucked, and with that 320 foot drop we figured it’d be a decent idea to go one at a time. It’s a bit wobbly, but it must be perfectly safe (if you don’t wobble it too much)…
I went first, but my shitty LED headtorch didn’t even come close to lighting up the walls or floor of the holder. Once I’d gotten about 50 foot or so down I was surrounded completely in darkness, with the only thing I could really make out from my weak light being the steps in front of me. It was like an endless ladder into purgatory.
It’s rare I get to just sit and absorb the atmosphere in a space. Often the pressure of getting good photos, being concerned about being caught or just getting bored and letting off fireworks prevent any quiet reflection on the environment in question. On this occasion however, I was treated with two individuals who thought the same as I, and were happy to spend an hour lying on the oil covered floor in the almost pitch black listening to the slow dull creaking of this magnificent structure.
Shame it’ll be gone in three months.
props to kev for the inspiration.