Category Archives: Urban Exploration

Rochford reflectors (?)


These appear to be four old runway (reflector?) signs. They are along the road at the point where Rochford Road becomes Southend Road (the A1169) beside the railway bridge at Southend Airport (in the county of Essex, UK) – Latitude 51.5668, Longitude 0.7041 – over which I think the southern end of the old cross-runway (no longer used) was approached by aircraft.

I don’t know but guess they either date from 1935 when the airfield become a civilian airport, or after World War II which would mean after 1945. I favour the former as they look very old. They could be any time from 1914 when the airfield was first established by the military shortly after the beginning of World War I. In 1919 the airfield was sold off to the Navarro Aviation Company who ran pleasure flights with two old Avro biplanes – apparently not for long however as the airfield was disused from 1920 to 1935, having reverted to farmland.

Perhaps they would not have had such obvious signs during World War II as airfields were camouflaged and signs removed, which would favour them being post-WWII, but they might be older – 1935? – and have been removed during WWII then replaced.

Of course the airfield was used as a fighter base during WWII but after that, in 1946, Southend Corporation took it on as an airport which they opened in 1947. There was major re-building including a control tower and runways in 1955. Perhaps the posts date from 1955, but to my eyes they look too old for that. Although maybe the pairs of red beacon lights went on in 1955.

Some paired red lights were stuck on to of them at some stage, these are also now defunct. They were also apparently used to mount streetlights. I don’t know if these lights still function, possibly not.

Wikipedia has a great page about the airport, including its history here

Another good source was at

My best guess is these posts originate around 1935. They could have been actually erected between 1933 when the airport site was purchased by Southend Council and when it opened in 1935.

Whilst I do not find Essex and Southend the nicest places in the UK, I will put in a good word for Rochford. What a lovely village (although it is really now a suburb of Southend) – olde-world shops, buildings, pubs. Good parking. Southend Airport also looked nice, which is pretty weird for an airport. Apparently it has in recent years been voted best Airport in the UK three times and it has a dedicated railway station. I think I would like Southend as an airport and Rochford is worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods.



Odeon Arcade Building Leicester

There have been number of cinemas in Leicester called Odeon, indeed there is still one. However the one I spotted has not played a movie in a very long while, and it has certainly seen better days. There have been various plans for this old cinema, which have not yet come to fruition. Here was one such plan from Studio Four Architects

It was very hard to get an angle to include the frontage. There is something I like about this old building. I don’t much like the plans Studio Four had for it. Maybe the rendering on their website is just a low-res model, but if losing the windows and surface textures of the building is what Studio Four really had in mind, then no. They do say “whilst preserving a traditional façade on one side of the development” so hard to tell really. I think the detail on that façade is all the building has left now. The interior at ground level is long gone. What is upstairs I could not get access to. Perhaps there are former glories still inside up there, perhaps not – I could not tell. An estate agent (realtor) website says “The property comprises a retail arcade with former Odeon cinema above set over basement and 5 floors.” On another site here 
there are clues that there perhaps is still a cinema upstairs.

This NOT the famous Leicester Athena, former 1930’s modernist Odeon building.

A cinema history website at says: “Odeon Cinema, Marketplace –  This started off life in 1924 as the City Cinema, with The Covered Wagon the first film to be screen there. It had 2,200 seats in stalls and circle, an Apollo organ and also a cafe. But it was closed in April 1964 and the auditorium was demolished. Six months later a new cinema was built behind the original facade. The ground floor was the shopping arcade that you can still visit today, and the cinema was the on the first floor. It was notable for its 70mm presentations on the curved screen which measured 45ft wide by 26ft high. It became a ‘roadshow’ cinema, a term used by the film industry for cinemas where films opened in a limited number of cities for a limited time before they went on national release. And the The Sound of Music had a two year run at the cinema. But on May 31, 1975, the cinema closed. It then briefly became an independent movie house called the Liberty Cinema which screened Bollywood films. Since then, it has been used as a bingo club, amusement arcade and a music venue.”

I like this old 1920’s building.


What a Gas

Hey ho, I took a visit to the National Gas Museum <– click for their website. Yeah, sounds crazy but it is a really interesting tiny museum in the UK city of Leicester (famous for red cheese). IMHO it’s actually one of the best museums in England. Size isn’t everything.

Now BE CAREFUL if you want to visit about whether they are REALLY open. The website might say they are, but the curator has been known to go away and close the museum and not update the website. Phone ahead and ask a human. I drove 100 miles to be there, having checked the website, to be told they were closed for that very reason! However a kind volunteer happened to be there and allowed me to have a private viewing. Wow. Megathanks.

I have only put a very few photos – you need to go see it. They have a Gas Powered radio. Yep there is such a thing (but no photo here – no spoilers).



Abandoned Ford Thunderbird 1960’s

Abandoned American car Premier Inn A1 Huntingdon UK 2018.jpgI discovered this beautiful American dinosaur, that died a long way from home. Digging in the internet I believe it is a 1964 (or 65/66) Ford Thunderbird Coupe. It sits decaying at Brampton Hut Premier Inn motel car park on the junction of the A1 and A14 at Huntingdon UK. It is so sad to see such an aesthetically pleasing and obviously classic American car in such a stripped condition. Clearly all the external parts of any use as souvenirs or restoration parts for other autos have been taken, so restoring this old giant would be a difficult task. The paint color is I believe called Silver Monk. Who knows who owned it or why they left it there? Probably an airman from one of the many local USAF airbases. I suppose it will eventually be carted away to a scrap yard. I hope someone sees it and decides to restore it. Fully restored it could be worth 20,000 UK Pounds if sold here in England I would estimate. You can see more about the Ford Thunderbird cars at The jack-frost on the trunk (UK readers say “boot”) has made patterns. So sad such a beautiful old automobile may be lost. It probably could tell a tale of the cold war and the many good times we in Britain have had with our visiting American cousins. A lovely poignant thing.

UPDATE: I went there again. When you have looked below, click here for more: Thunderbird 2


The Bridge Cafe, Oban, Scotland

No, not at the bridge above, the cafe is in Oban town, a few miles further on from the steel edifice pictured over the title.

The cafe is a complete hidden gem.

Lovely town Oban, but the cafes in town are tourist places and frankly not so all wonderful as they might be.

However hidden away in the unprepossessing environs of an industrial estate that borders on urban-explorable in parts, beside a little green=painted iron bridge near the back of Tesco, is a delightful little cafe.

The owners have created a chic friendly cafe where the discerning will know they have stumbled upon L’Ecosse Profonde (Urbain) – i.e. the “Real” (Urban) Scotland – and can enjoy great value tasty cafe food and drink. No pretensions (unlike my prose), just clean, lightly assembled design from simple components. Excellent. They also have toilets one need not be afraid to use – no really it is a real plus marks.

So, 100 percent recommended. Go out of your way to this less obvious place and get a decent repas instead of tourist-priced auto-fodder. Enjoy living like a local and watching ducks with the Mums.

See the webpage here

Trip Advisor apparently calls it a hidden gem – well, YES IT REALLY IS!

It is at
3 Soroba Ln, Oban PA34 4HX
Phone 01631 566697
Opening time on the website – its a daytime place.

I have no commercial connection with the cafe and gain nothing from posting this other than the good feeling that I am telling people about a lovely business that deserves lots of nice customers.

Google stuff about it here,-5.4705996,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x81d13b63895b882!8m2!3d56.4095754!4d-5.4705996


Scotland trip 2017

The world may be your oyster, but Scotland is a pearl.

Inveraray, Oban, The Trossachs, Speyside, Loch Fyne, Loch Awe, Lock Tay, The Spey, The Tay, Loch Long, Dunbar…

Scotland is awesome.

All pictures in this blog article are Copyright 2017 by me, except two, which are Copyright 2017 by my Wife, which said exceptional photographs I use here with her permission. None of the images in this article/webpage/blog post may be used without our respective permissions. All Rights Reserved.

One picture is from Yorkshire, England (The 1930’s “No Parking” sign).


What if reality is really a giant pinball game?

Never mind the matrix, if you can get security clearance (you will need a genuine reason like attending some sort of event there) take a walk through the Genome Campus at Hinxton, Cambridge, England.

There are numerous chromed spheres, each slightly tweaked to represent various stages of life. The one with a hole represents the stage at which it becomes apparent that we are coelenterates, a biological taxonomical classification meaning we have a gut that opens at the mouth and exits the other end.

The effect of this tableau of embryonic development is to make the long slopes, interspersed by post-modernist buildings, appear as a giant pinball machine, giving a slightly science-fiction sense of unease that things might just roll down and bowl one over or a huge flipper whack out of the sides.

Oldies like me will remember the blob thing in “The Prisoner” TV series. Well here in Hinxton Big brother definitely is watching and don’t even think what escaped chimera might just be lurking up the next level. Best enjoyed at dusk when it becomes eerily empty.

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Eltham Palace, London, England

Eltham Palace was a Royal Palace that fell out of use and into ruin. The very wealthy (and nice – I know as I happen to have met one of them) Courtauld family completely renovated it in the 1930’s. So here is what you could achieve if you were incredibly wealthy and had impeccable taste in the 1930’s. If you love 30’s style and are ever in London, England this house is a must see. You may feel that entrance charges to attractions are a bit expensive, and often I would agree. However in this case the interior is so wonderful I really think it is worth it. A visit here is an education for anyone who seriously loves architectural interiors. Take heed however it is NOT open on Saturdays. Link here

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Disappearing Cambridge

Mill Road is changing. We have lost the incredibly historic CB1 Internet Cafe with the very old computers on display, we have lost the atmospheric and odd Jaffa Net Cafe with its Hookah Pipe tent, and today I noticed the iconic Cambridge Resale is no more as a physical shop. They are, according to the notice on the old shop door, a website only now (their website needs updating as it says they have a shop, which apparently now, they don’t). At least they have kept their typeface, which they have had as long as I can remember.

I appreciate that change is inevitable, but what I miss is the informality that makes a place interesting. If property prices mean a place just becomes gentrified housing and clone chain coffeeshops, then have not all the things than made the area unique, interesting and desirable (and so property prices high) not been driven out? I don’t want run-down “interesting” slums, but nor do I want empty soul-less endless gated communities that separate people as that is deeply un-Christian, and unsurprisingly therefore, not nice. Does gentrification have within it the seeds of its own destruction? Signs of the (end) times maybe…

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