Monday, 3 November 2008


The next night, spurred on by the new barrier, I returned to the opposite side of the site which is flanked by the Greenway, intending at least to stake-out the potential for breaching the fence. Soon enough another tree nestled against the fence and overhanging the no mans land presented me with an easy opportunity. Climbing to the top of the fence I stopped, concealed in its shadow and watched the empty landscape, playing the waiting game with the inevitable security patrols. None came and my fingers began to go stiff with cold so I took the plunge and clambered down the supporting structure. There was a small section of now obsolete fencing blocking the canal bridge before Marshgate Lane - I photographed myself squeezing beneath it. No sooner was I on my feet than I had my first close call with a security patrol but in the incongruous urban silence - the traffic and sirens all distant - their engine's purr was an early warning and I was safely opbscured in the branches of a weeping willow as they passed. Confident that another would not come past soon I strolled out onto the road. All the street lights were still burning and the demolition job had not yet been started, business looked from afar as usual, in fact one of the warehouses, apparently granted a stay of execution, was still functioning.

I headed straight for an old target that I had never yet managed to breach and was thrilled to find the razor-wired gate unpadlocked. The remnants of the works that used to inhabit the place were few, mostly signs warning of hazardous substances, prohibiting naked flames, two tumble down cabins at the entrance, a stairway leading to what I believe used to be a gantry running along the tops of the giant compression cylinders which held whatever toxic gas or liquid this place used to process, now lead to nowhere. I remember spotting it from afar on one of my first outings, lit up like a beacon, even in the dead of night, but now it was deserted, stripped of it's impressive industrial fittings, and unlit save for tonight's full moon. I spent quite a long time here. Hidden from the road by the various concrete structures I became relaxed and sat and admired the desolation.

This abandonment was the same everywhere, the stacked towers of skips no longer stood in the skip yard, gates had been left open and creaked in the wind. Had it not been such a familiar area, it might have felt something like the set for that old Charlton Heston film: Omega Man, in which he's the last man alive in a city depopulated by plague. Post-apocalyptic is surely an over-used term considering how unlikely such an experience is on our crowded island, but that is how it felt. Again the security van trundled past, I dashed across the open ground of the skip yard heading for cover, and there was still plenty to had, but I had become a little complacent in my distracted thoughts and should by rights have been seen.

I slipped between some loose railings, into areas of the site that had previously been patrolled by guard dogs, hotch-potch smaller plots most of which still looked exactly as they had before the fence went up. One contained a caravan-cum-dumping ground, a portacabin on stilts, indistinguishable junk. The last in the line was the creepiest of all, the Reception sign still hung above the door, torn pin-ups papered the walls and porn magazines strewn across the desk, the room behind promised to be treasure trove of useful found objects but was too dark to be investigated and I was tiring.

On my way back towards the fence I decided to stick my nose around the corner to see if the old artist's studio complex would be worth a return trip another day. Leaning around the corner into its internal courtyard I stared straight into the face of a sleeping security guard less than five metres away. I ducked back behind the wall, thanked my stars and made my way hurriedly back to the fence.

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