"One of the most thrilling reads of the 21st Century"- Marilyn Monroe

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Return to Ironbridge Power Station

  (DISCLAIMER: As an overall nice human being, I do not force entry, vandalize, steal, or disclose means of entry or location if it isn't obvious. I do this to protect locations and respect them. Trespass without forced entry is a civil offense rather than a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. I simply photograph and leave everything as I find it. I do not condone breaking and entering, and I do not condone what I do. I'm a danger to myself and a terrible role model )

Hello everyone.

Aaaages ago, I snuck into Ironbridge Power Station, and the media ran a scandal article on the whole thing, quoted my blog in a way that made it look like an interview, and annoyed me. In fact it's started a repetitive theme on this blog of bitching about the mainstream media, or perception management, as I often call it.

A short while later, on the 30th January 2016 I recieved a message from my favourite evolutionary throwback, an angry Urban Explorer on the internet, that said "You have royally ballsed up Ironbridge for explorers now. True explorers dont give out sites to the media especially decent live sites. Nobody will be getting in now."

Evidently if this guy is an example of a "True explorer" then "True explorers" are defeatists because this Spring I did it all over again.

*Cue dramatic music*

Before I get to the rest of my photos, I'd like to thank everyone who donated to my charity fundraiser. My hair is now being transformed into a wig for cancer victims, and we raised quite a lot of money between us for the Little Princess Trust. I did attempt to get the local media backing it, but since Muslims aren't responsible for cancer, they weren't really interested. The media had an option here to be interesting and informative, as they'd like us to think they are, but from their perspective, a news story requires two important ingredients: a villain and an audience. Their stories establish an Us vs Them dynamic. The media cannot be seen to shine good light on a villain. Which is why if Jeremy Corbyn ran into a burning maternity ward and single handedly rescued every baby in it from the fire, the mainstream media would just complain that he didn't put socks on their feet. Know what I mean? This is the same thing on a smaller, more local scale. This being the local media, and me being one of those dastardly rooftoppers that they won't shut up about. I did politely reach out to them for help with the charity fundraiser, twice by e-mail and also by social media. They unfortunately declined my attempt at using their powers for good. But luckily good did prevail because we raised loads of money anyway, exceeding our target, and a cancer patient now gets to wear my hair. Let's not dwell on what we could have accomplished with support from the local media. The attitude we want is one of victory. You guys shared my fundraiser, and those who could donate did. And now the Little Princess Trust get over £370, a cancer patient gets to feel more dignified and I get a very cold head. We've all done very well. I'm truly humbled by the support. Thank you for your donations and kind words. To the anonymous donor who said I look like an egg: Ouch! That hurt! Its not the first time I've been compared to an egg, seeing as I've only been laid once!

Here's a screenshot from the fundraiser. Click to see it big.

That's pretty impressive. Well done to everyone involved.

For me the haircut was actually really hard to come to terms with, because I'm vain, arrogant and I have an ego so big that if it had mass it would upset planetary rotation. Not at the expense of others though. That is the saving grace. I love myself unconditionally and you should love yourself too. I'm equally as flawed as you, and if I can find it in myself to love myself, then you deserve that too. See what I mean? My ego is contorted in an odd shape. I will be honest, I love my hair. But it was receding anyway. Even if the haircut hadn't happened, I'd end up without it after a brief period of looking silly. It would gradually thin out, and then go forever. At least now it hasn't gone to waste.
The haircut has, however, revealed that I have a spot of alopecia on the back of my head, but not being one to let this get me down, I had a friend draw a smily face on it. 

On with the adventure!

We entered the power station stealthily, because contrary to what the local media told us last time, there is plenty of security. I know they wanted you all to think that this was just open for anyone to stroll into, but there's a strong security presence, regular patrols, cameras everywhere and they do call the police on intruders. Sure, my photographs didn't show any security but that is purely because I didn't photograph them. I mean, why would I?

What's strange is that my original blog post mentioned this security, but for some reason the media, in spite of having my blog there for source material, chose to say something completely contradictory. 

(Click the picture to see it big)

Now I guess you could say that I said something to the media contradictory to what my blog said for some reason. After all, this news article claims that the dialogue is an interview, or at least makes it look like it is. It even specifies that I "explained" the situation to them.

So I guess you could argue that if I'm explaining to them the details of my adventure, I might say something contradictory to the blog post, if my cognitive abilities aren't too sharp. Except later on in the alleged interview, I seem to be doing a pretty good job quoting it myself.

Wow. What a good memory I have. It's almost as if they didn't interview me at all and just quoted my blog, and then changed what they wanted to make a scandal.

That doesn't sound like something a newspaper would do if it cared about facts. In fact some might even call it lying. I mean look at the part where they quoted me on the security presence, right after saying that there wasn't any! They contradicted themselves on the exact same article!

But lets not waste time on the subject anymore. Look, I've brought you fresh material. 

This canal is currently mostly dry, but runs underneath the cooling towers, which belchED the water out as steam when the power station was operational.

 This sprawling industrial labyrinth in Ironbridge Gorge is often said to be part of Ironbridges industrial herritage but it's actually a relatively recent addition to the area.
Ironbridge is often said to be the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Like all claims to fame, it's slightly inaccurate and should come with a bit of smallprint. The Industrial Revolution started everywhere, but Ironbridge was the place where the technique of smelting iron was perfected, which led to the cheap production of iron, and the creation of the towns iconic bridge from 1779 to 1781. Since so few of these kind of bridges still exist, it's become somewhat symbolic.
There's more to it, of course, but that's the... *drumroll* abridged version!
*Cue tumbleweed*

The power station that we're exploring today is unmissable due to its four gigantic cooling towers and it's large chimney. This is actually the second power station, designated Ironbridge B, and was proposed after World War II when the need for electricity increased. Construction began in 1963 and it finally opened in 1969. It was decomissioned in November 2015, and was recently announced to be facing demolition in 2017. In fact it was this news that led me to take one last look, and get much deeper into the power station than I had before. 

 One of the nitpicks from the local media was that since I don't force entry, that basically translates to anybody being able to get here, and some poor trespasser could get hurt. It is a very valid point. Not being an expert in anything industrial, I have no idea what half this stuff does. But I do know that it's dangerous. I'm fully aware of the risks involved here, and I don't condone any reckless immitation of my actions. I'm a terrible role model. I'm about as appropriate a role model as Theresa May is an appropriate prime minister.

To drive home this point, and hopefully discourage anyone from being inspired by me, I'm going to point out every opportunity I had to kick the bucket in this adventure, by explaining every hazard that I encounter. I wouldn't actually be the first to expire here. Allegedly during construction several workers actually fell from the top of the cooling towers. That's not a fun drop! Luckily I can't get up the cooling towers, although I'm sure the view would be spectacular. But already, as you can see, the canal does still have a few feet of water in it. Should I decide to go for a swim, I could possibly expire by asphyxiation. There are rubber rings along the canal, so I'll assume this has already happened before. Safety measures are almost like those signs that appear in workplace kitchens saying "No licking other peoples cheese" or "please don't unplug the fridge." Someone had to have done these things for the powers that be to take preventative action, right?

 So for the final decades of the 20th Century, this wonderful labyrinth provided Shropshire with electricity. It won a conservation award in 1973 and went through a number of ownership transfers in 1990.

 Obviously my objective was to get to the interior portions of the plant but as you can see, most of the entrances had been sealed.

 Here are a couple of brine tanks. Brine is a solution of salt in water. So basically these tanks were full of seawater. This can be added to my list of things at Ironbridge that can kill me. Seawater is poisonous, although not many people know it. Drinking small doses is fine if, say, you're at the beach and you go swimming in the sea and accidentally swallow a load of it, but drinking it indefinitely for hydration is counterproductive because the body needs to pee out the salt on a greater scale than the amount of liquid consumed, resulting in removing water from cells, interrupting nerve conduction, sickness and eventually causing seizures and irregular heartbeat.
So there you have it.

From here we could see the main building, with a gigantic chimney next to it. The chimney is actually the tallest structure in Shropshire, and the 5th tallest in the UK.

Ironbridge Power Station had a series of unfortunate luck in the later years of its life. There was a major fire in 1998 after two chemicals were accidentally mixed incorrectly. The fire lasted most of the day and the media coverage urged locals to shut their windows to avoid inhaling anything toxic. Up until this point, schools were allowed to have guided tours around the power station but after this incident these tours became a thing of the past.

Later on, in 2006, Friends of the Earth declared the power station to be the second worst polluting power station in the entire UK, which in an era of promoting environmental friendliness must have struck a huge blow to its reputation. By 2008 it was operating on much fewer hours than previously, and was really pretty unneccesary, and in 2014 there was another fire. It began being decomissioned in 2015.

 So here are some tanks containing caustic soda and sulphuric acid. Caustic soda is often used for preparing wood to be transformed into paper, creating cleaning agents, food preparation, creating alluminium and also removing impurities from crude oil. Historically its been used to detect Carbon Monoxide poisoning, because adding a few drops of it to a blood sample would turn it orange if it was infected. But in spite of its uses, it's a pretty lethal substance to have around. In the past it's been used to dispose of dead farm animals, by placing the animal carcass in a sealed chamber of caustic soda until it broke the flesh of the animal down into a liquid. The same method is used to dispose of roadkill and the Italian serial killer, Leonarda Cianciulli, used it to turn his victims into soap. And he wasn't the only one to do so! Drug cartels in Mexico have been known to dispose of bodies in the same way.

So as we're pointing out the risks of exploring Ironbridge Power Station, here I am looking at a massive tank that has the ability to best blind and burn me at best, and at worst turn me into soap.
And we havent got to the sulphuric acid yet!

 This little clock seems to indicate that all of the acid is long gone, but it is known for being highly corrosive. Not only will it give a chemical burn to whoever comes into contact with it, but since it readily absorbs moisture it can cause secondary thermal burns to the skin by dehydrating it at the same time.

So Ironbridge Power Sation is a pretty lethal place. It's certainly no playground, and I recommend against venturing into it unless you know what you're doing.

 Across from the caustic soda and acid tanks was this little eye wash station, for health and safety purposes. If a worker did happen to get this stuff into their eyes, theres help readily available. In spite of the power station being decommissioned, bottles of eye wash still sat in the eye wash station.

 There's also this emergency shower, should the substances get onto ones body. I wonder if its still operational.

Here's another little threat to ones life, a pit of water, fortunately fenced off and signposted.

This... thing... was labeled faulty in 2013, and presumably never fixed.

A lovely thing to find was graffiti! On my first visit, the place was remarkably unvandalised, but now as you can see, the place has had many trespassers.

But disapointingly, everything was boarded up.

The chains on this ladder were not to stop people climbing it. No, they were loose and could easily be removed. What I realised was that this is a trap. The chains could possibly be heard rattling if they were moved, and any unmonitored camera could be checked if the chains were found to be not as they were left.

This place is huge and covered in ladders. Without security, I could lose myself here for hours. However, the ladders had the disadvantage of putting us high up, where we would undoubtably be seen.

 Dotted around the site were these yellow telephones, now presumably disconnected, but still containing gloves and equipment, perhaps placed there on a workers last day at their job.

 This yellow bin is a spill kit. It contains chemical absorbant pads, and socks, and other equipment used in the event of a chemical spillage. All of the equipment is still there!

Sadly on our quest to get into the interior, we realised we were going to have to take the risk. As any rooftopper should know, the upper windows are the easiest point of access into abandoned buildings, and the risk of being exposed was perhaps worth the reward. We found that by looking up, there were plenty of access points. It was simply a case of finding the path of least exposure.

 So here we are inside the power station, and as I mentioned before, I have no idea what it is I'm looking at here.

Its very surreal that all this equipment has been left up here, and that in spite of the clutter everything had a purpose once, and now it's just gathering dust.

The roof of this building had some pretty interesting things to see too. I guess you can add Gravity to that list of things at Ironbridge Power Station that can kill me!

From up here I took a photo of one of the cooling towers. Ironbridge Power Station has four of these, and they're a fairly noticable part of the scenery. These are the cooling towers that I mentioned before, that construction workers actually fell from and died. It's certainly a long way down! The bricks were given red colouration identical to the local soil so that they matched better with the surrounding landscape, making them unique in Britain.

On the roof were all kinds of bits and bobs....

 There's a little door here which warns that there's no floor inside. So the floorlessness of Ironbridge Power Station is yet another hazard we had to navigate around.
I actually think it's a valid thing to point out in places like this, construction sites, and places that are being decommissioned. Sometimes there won't be any floor, and thats a huge thing to take into consideration.

 As you can see, even up here some of the doors were still boarded up.

 But the view was good. Take a moment to use anything from these pictures, such as stairs or ladders, as a frame of reference. This place is HUGE.

Returning to ground level, we found more graffiti, perhaps telling of the majority of intrusions being mainly on ground level. I've actually explored a number of places that I've been told are inaccessible, but I have found that one simply has to get up the exterior of the building to gain access. Utopia and Pitchford are great examples of this.
For Ironbridge Power Station, there were more interior bits to access, and this meant thinking outside the box.

Here's a sign warning workers that newts may be present, which is actually quite nice. Unfortunately I didnt see any.

With a little bit of creative thinking we were able to access another interior area.

As with before, I have absolutely no idea what I'm looking at. What is this stuff?
Add "Ignorance" to the list of things that can kill me. 

Just as it is outside, it's a labyrinth of walkways and equipment.

There's a couple of these grey boxes on the walls, and some have had the lids removed, revealing these battieries.

Even inside, the newts are present.

On the interior, the phones base has been removed but the reciever is still there.

This looks like a telephone switchboard.

There's a large grey terminal but this is actually hollow, with two doors at the side.

Some more eye wash gell.

The building was technically single floored, but with a mini maze of walkways accessable via ladders.

We re-emerged outside, well aware that there was more to see, having evaded discovery so far thanks to quick thinking, forward planning, luck and having a few years experience doing this sort of thing.

We passed very close to the chimney, but steered away in favour of a few more interior shots.

Through a hatch we gained access to this area, which is nothing more than a large metal tank. In fact I had the ominous feeling that we were inside something that was ordinarily full of chemicals or other substances.

The tank ended with this sudden drop, which I could have made it down, but perhaps would not have made it back up out of. Add that to the list of things that could kill me- trapped forever in a pitch black tank of unknown purpose.

And while we're discussing ways for me to die, here's my old friend, Asbestos, here to remind me of its ever-presence in my life, and in my lungs. Truth be told, this stuff is probably already in my body and has been long before I went to Ironbridge. However how lethal asbestos is varies widely, based largely on whether or not your employer wants you to work with it. If your employer wants you to work with asbestos, then you'll be fed lines like "Don't worry, you'll have to work with it non-stop for many years for it to have any affect." Whereas if someone is trying to keep you away from asbestos, then it's more lethal than caustic soda and sulphuric acid, gravity, drowning, and anything else that could have killed me today.

Rather ominous doors led us to a teeny office.

This office is full of old equipment and a first aid kit complete with more eye wash.

And of course there's another telephone exchange.

Leaving the office, we set our sites on the main building, eager to get in. But from here, things got even more labyrinthian.

Up there is the enemy, looking in the completely wrong direction. So far so good!

This door warns of potential explosive atmosphere, and says authorised personnel only. Add explosions to the list of ways I could die.

In this room, I have absolutely no idea what this contraption is or while this is a potentially explosive atmosphere, but here it is.

Exploring the vast industrial labyrinth further we found other bits of machinery, and more graffiti.

Daz is apparently the "hiding seek" champion from 2006 to 2009. Evidently he was employed here, and knowing the correct name of games one plays isn't something you need in order to operate a big dangerous power plant. One wonders how much the staff were paid to play "Hiding seek."

Ultimately we did come to the main building and found a series of ladders going up it. This gave us quite the view of the entire complex.

We're actually surveying this from a balcony at the top of the main building. There's not an awful lot here, except this bucket.

And while there's no way into the building itself, there are massive vats on the other side of a simple railing. Where would I end up if I fell into one of these? I don't know, so add that to the list of things that could kill me.

Hilariously, there's a broom suspended from the ceiling of the vat. Presumably someone has hoisted it up there for a joke.

There also appears to be a camera inside the vat, presumably to watch the progress of whatever the vat is supposed to do.

From here, over by the chimney, we could see a small building on a roof, and it appeared to have graffiti on the inside, visible through the windows. Realising that this was a potential area to check out, and being so far unable to access the larger building, we decided to navigate the maze in the direction of this one.
This is harder than you'd think. From high up, it looks fairly simple but once we came down off this balcony we'd be once more lost in a maze of walkways and ladders.

It sure was nice of someone to leave the protective guard plate off this ladder.

A face mask has been left on the walkway.

These are the ground floor doors into the main building. Both of them were locked. One of them felt like it was barricaded from the inside.

 See? It's a maze. I could probably spend a good day or two wandering around this place and not see it all.

 This pipe is labeled with Anhydrous Ammonia. This is a pretty lethal gas used as fertilizer. It's lethal to humans because it burns and also dehydrates. There's a historic disaster concerning this stuff in Texas in 1947, when a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate caught fire while docked, and then exploded. The blaze was so powerful that a lot of firefighters lost their lives, and this wasn't the end of it because then a second ship nearby, suffering from the blaze and also carrying ammonium nitrate also caught fire and exploded. Due to most of the firefighters already being injured or dead from the first blaze, volunteers from the civilians had to help put the fire out, but ultimately over 400 people were found dead, and 175 were listed as missing. Only a few of the bodies were ever actually recovered.

So add this to the list of things that could have killed me. 

 And lets not forget electrocution! This place is pretty deadly.

 We eventually found this large stairway, which seemed to be leading in the direction we intended.

 Sulpher Trioxide is a gas. It reacts violently to water, and will burn whoever inhales it. Yet another hazard I've avoided today.

But here's a sight to behold. We made it to the base of the freakin' chimney. This is the tallest structure in Shropshire, and we got within spitting distance of it.Not that we did spit on it. That's just rude.

 Take a look at that staircase at the base to get a real feel for the size of this thing. Its circumference alone is bigger than a house.

 Finally making it to our destination, we found that the room with all the graffiti in was padlocked and as such, inaccessible without force. So while the power station had been subjected to numerous intruders, it had also been subjected to people undoing the facilitations of these intrusions. This would explain why so many doors and windows were barricaded. We were very lucky to get what we did.

We'd spent considerable time scurrying around, and we were pretty tired from the maze of ladders and walkways. It was time to call it a day.

But just to give adequate closing, here's a shot from the interior of one of the cooling towers, taken last time, but still a mindblowing shot.

Keep in mind that riiiight at the end of this walkway is a door. That should give you some idea of the scale.

But otherwise, thats it for Ironbridge Power Station. As demolition commences, it should be even more dangerous than it was when I had this last scurry around, but thats not to say it's not already dangerous. How many hazards did I point out already? But then this kind of thing is always dangerous, whether its a decommissioned power station or a derelict cottage in the hills. Driving is dangerous too, because no matter how safe you are, you're still propelled faster than the human body is naturally able to go, with nothing protecting you from oncoming traffic but a line of paint and faith that the person coming at you is sensible. So basically, legal doesn't necessarily translate to safe. I gave up on living a boring stay-at-home life when I realised I could die anyway, from anything.

Anyway, that's it for me. Share this blog post on the social media of your choice, and please remember to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And most importantly, turn someones day around. Give them a compliment, a hug, or confiscate their newspaper. Whatever it takes to make them happy, and I'll see you in the next blog post.

Thanks for reading! Stay awesome!