Some tourist attractions feel like a glossed over, sanitised version of the real thing. Often millions are spent on audio visual this, interactive that and often loose a bit of sight of what the main event is. This is certainly NOT the case with Kelvedon Hatch ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker, which we visited yesterday.
Kelvedon Hatch was built as an RAF Control base, the subsequently adapted to to enable central government to continue operations during the event of a nuclear attack and subsequent fall-out period and act as a HQ for the UK. The nuclear proof underground bunker has it’s own power station, blast doors, tunnels and a two big, red ‘it’s hit the fan’ telephones.
A huge space – I got the feeling that we were only allowed to access a small area – had everything needed to allow the intended 600 strong team of government Ministers and officials including the Prime Minister, advisors, scientists and the like to operate for several months. A global / BBC broadcast centre, large scale administration halls, a huge telephone exchange and a military defence operations base were amongst the technical resources we saw. The living spaces included a full infirmary and medical theatre a mess hall and 3 way share dormitories allowing for 8 hour on, 8 hour off, 8 hour sleep rotation patterns to allow a bed to be occupied all the time by the 3 shift rotation.
Getting there early was a good idea. We had the place almost to ourselves which helped get a feel for the isolation that the intended inhabitants would have felt. Rather than being roped off and/or behind glass screens as is (understandably) the case in so many tours, Kelvedon Hatch lets you walk right through most of the areas and touch the objects, sit in the chairs and really have a feeling of what it may have been like. Most of the displays don’t feel like they were carefully placed, they feel like they were literally just left in-situ. The back story is that the government origionally aquired the land from Mr Parrish, the farmer who subsequently bought it back when it was de commissioned and turned it into this fascinating tour.
As mentioned, a lot of the rooms were pretty much ‘as is’ with nothing more than a rather comedic shop dummy being the only touristic flourish. The fact that SECRET bases like this operated until just a few years ago is quite amazing – what’s more amazing is to think that they probably still do – imagine what todays ‘state of the art’ emergency HQ would look like.
As a fan of TV’s LOST, largely due to the ambient noises being fed through the original tannoy, this bunker really reminded me of The Dharma Initiative buildings in it’s scientific ‘stuck in time’ feel combined with the odd array of military and domestic odd objects, charts and artefacts.
If you’re in the area, this is defiantly worth a visit. Poignant and fascinating. More photos to follow, but one of the things that really blew me away was the script at the top of this dropping – if you’ve not read it year, give it a read.
More info : www.secretnuclearbunker.com