Archive for the ‘Exploring Advice’ Category

Failed Explores: You Don’t Always Have a Good Day

Posted by sickbritain On June - 9 - 2009

Despite what you may think, Urban Exploration isn’t all about the glitz and the glamour – sometimes you’ll hit a brick wall (literally as well as metaphorically) and you can’t carry out the explore as planned or perhaps you can’t carry out the explore at all. There are many reasons why things go wrong, the most common in my experience tend to be:

Site Inaccessible

Sometimes you turn up at a site hoping for a good day out and you just end up frustrated because you can’t gain access, this might be because there’s no obvious route in (hole in the fence, easy wall to jump, etc.) or it might be because the site has been demolished. Obviously there’s nothing that can be done about the latter but in terms of access but be persistent – if you try hard enough you might find a way. I’m not talking about causing physical damage here though, that’s not my bag and it’ll land you in serious trouble if you’re caught – try to think laterally and it usually pays off. Perhaps try going around the back of the site, approaching from a different angle or look for signs that someone else has been around and see if you can figure how they got in (gap in a hedge, footprint on a wall, etc.).

Sometimes other people’s photos might contain hints whether they intended to or not, look at someone’s photos in order of the time they were taken – the first photos will probably be closest to their entrance and the last closest to their exit.


This is a big issue for urban explorers, we all know that in most cases we’re going to be somewhere we shouldn’t be and so security can be a problem but there are ways to minimise your ‘footprint’ and avoid detection. That said, sometimes the presence of security at all may be the issue – some people aren’t comfortable exploring sites with an active security presence (e.g. guards on patrol) and that’s fair enough, you should only ever do what you’re comfortable with if that’s the way you feel. I think most of us feel that if a site has no active security and is truly disused and derelict that our presence isn’t causing any harm since we don’t do any damage but you still have to worry about being spotted and either security turning up or even worse – the police.

If you run-up against unexpected activity on a site the first thing to do is try and figure out who they are, it’s key not to panic and worth remembering that they’re probably not expecting to find you there either so if you’ve spotted them first you’ve got the advantage. Often the unexpected individual(s) end up being other explorers, in this case you could introduce yourself or just carry on with what you’re doing – most explorers tend to be friendly if not slightly suspicious. Another class of unexpected site presence could be thieves or vandals, it’s easy to think that there’s a kind of kinship in this case because you’re both present in a place that you’re not meant to be but don’t fall into this trap. These people are committing criminal offences and even if they’re happy to continue their ‘business’ with your presence you should still leave, if the police turn up you will be implicated in their crimes whether you like it or not, there’s also a risk that they might be upset by your presence and respond with physical violence.

If it doesn’t look like other explorers or thieves/vandals then it’s either going to be security or other people that have genuine business there (e.g. builders or surveyors), though sometimes it can be hard to tell them apart as people on derelict sites all tend to wear high-viz jackets and hard-hats. Once you’ve established that you’ve come across unexpected site personnel you’re faced with the choice of what to do next, you might decide to stay and avoid the occupants or leave and I’ve done both in different circumstances. If you do stay you’ll need to actively avoid being spotted, this is best achieved by stealth and you should take everything slowly and quietly from this point on and you need to think about everything you do – the easiest ways to give away your presence are by making noise or by using a camera flash. It may also be worth limiting your explore, you might have to avoid certain buildings or areas where security seems to be higher (patrol routes, CCTV) or any areas where you’re exposed in plain sight. The other option you have once you’ve spotted an ‘official’ presence is to leave, there’s no shame in this at all and as long as you leave carefully and avoid detection you’re guaranteed not to get caught – if you stay there’s always a risk.

You might end up running into the police even after you’ve exited the site (many will not enter unless asked by security due to health & safety concerns). I once made the mistake of parking right next to the entrance to a derelict site and a local dog-walker called the cops, assuming either that the car had been dumped or that I was up to no good (in my case I think the former because the cop was more concerned with the car than me). If you encounter the police you should cooperate completely, remember that as long as you’ve not caused physical damage or taken any ‘souvenirs’ (which amounts to theft whatever you think) then you’ve not committed a criminal offence and you should be fine. Being obstructive is the easiest way to get yourself arrested, even though you’ve not done anything wrong all the police need is to suspect that you have and they’re faced with no choice but to arrest you. My advice is to explain that you’re there taking photos, just having a look around and that you’re sorry for causing an inconvenience, answer their questions, be polite and you’ll be on your way soon enough.

Urbex Quick Tip: Appropriate Footwear

Posted by sickbritain On March - 21 - 2009

As an addendum to my comments in my earlier Urbex Safety post, I just wanted to say that choosing appropriate footwear is essential for a successful (undetected, uninjured and not soiled) urban explorer, I would offer the following advice when select footwear…

  • Wear wellies where practical. Wellies will offer the maximum protection from grime and scrapes and also allow you to tread in some really mucky places, the downside is that they’re bulky and can be hot/uncomfortable if you’re doing a lot of walking.
  • Wear something with a soft rubber sole. You might wonder why but earlier today I was on a site doing a recon mission to scope the place out and I was wearing my smart going out shoes which have a hard soul.  These things were clip-clopping extremely loudly on the concrete floor in the big empty rooms, if there had have been any security or any miscreants on site they sure as hell would’ve known where to find me!
  • Whatever you wear, protect your feet. Don’t be daft and wear sandals or even fabric trainers, if not wellies you could always try walking boots or if you have them try steel toe-capped boots for ultimate protection from falling debris.

Urbex 101: What is Urban Exploration?

Posted by sickbritain On March - 10 - 2009

Urbex is the hobby (some might say sport) of exploring derelict buildings, underground bunkers, disused hospitals, subterranean tunnels, abandoned factories and other such forgotten structures or pieces of land.

What sort of things do you see?
Well, lots of dirt, grime, liquids, goo, oil, rotten wood, hornets nests, and other grim things but also some interesting things such as control panels, equipment, machines, pianos, graffiti, furniture and other artifacts left behind from the days when the building was in it’s prime.

Why would anyone do that?
I’m sure everyone’s reasons differ but the key is really in the ‘exploration’ part of the term, we want to explore the world around us and unlike most people we don’t see abandonment and decay as ‘dangerous’ or ‘disgusting’, we see it as ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’. For some it’s about photography, for others it’s about the excitement of seeing somewhere that most normal people haven’t and being somewhere you’re not supposed to.

You may wonder what sort of people would do such a thing, well from the web and from personal experience I’ve encountered college students, photographers, professionals, generally all sorts of people and everyone I’ve met in person has been nice and friendly too.

Hold-on a minute, isn’t this illegal?
Not as far as I’m aware, I’m not a lawyer but from everything I’ve read and heard it’s not a criminal offence to be on someone else’s property but unless you have permission it could be considered as trespass. Now, trespass is a civil matter and if you’re caught on someone’s property without the appropriate permission you could be sued but in reality this is very unlikely as the benefits of doing so would be pretty limited.

This all sounds very nasty but in practice most urbexers are considerate people and are not planning to do anything wrong (at least not morally speaking). It would be easy for people to lump together people who take part in Urban Exploration with vandals and other such scumbags but nothing could be further from the truth. We’re not there to cause damage or spray graffiti (though evidence of both tend to be found on most sites), we’re there to explore, observe and sometimes document the location but never to cause any trouble.

If exploring on a site with security most urbexers will avoid detection or capture but if asked to leave then they will, peacefully and politely. Additionally most urbexers would also be cooperative with the police if the need arose, I have even heard of urbexers reporting suspicious events and evidence of criminal activity directly to the police.

OK then, but is it safe? Obviously we’re exploring abandoned buildings, sometime these are not long since abandoned or are still being maintained but in many cases they are not and have fell into ruin. Basically it’s up to the individual but as long as you take precautions you should be OK, I plan to write an article about safety specifically so please check this post on Urbex Safety.

So how do I get started / find out more?
Well for starters, bookmark this blog and come back from time to time as I get post more information. Over the next few weeks and months I plan to post a mixture of tips and tricks, site visits and general information about the community, if you’re eager then read my urbex safety tips and remember that Google is your friend.

NOTE: All photos published on this blog are available from Flickr via Creative Commons and are attributed to their rightful owners by virtue of a link back to their Flickr page. You should also be clear that I’m not condoning any unsafe, illegal or immoral activities and my advice is just that – advice. I offer no guarantees that my advice is even worth following and anyone that listens to a single word I have to say does so at their own risk – in short, I’ve spent many decades of my life avoiding responsibility so I’m not about to take any now!

Urbex 101: Safety Tips

Posted by sickbritain On March - 10 - 2009

So you’re going out to do a site visit or out for a whole day’s exploring, what should you consider in terms of safety? It’s easy to be complacent and let derelict buildings become normal, remember that Urban Exploration can be dangerous and take precautions.

It’s not always realistic to do all of these on every explore but my top 10 tips are:

  1. Wear Gloves
    You never know what you’re going to find on a site visit, especially in the hospitals and asylums, and whatever location you’re in you definitely want to avoid cuts and scrapes which could bring the risk of tetanus or other diseases.
  2. Carry a Torch
    Light can be a problem, I personally roll with a Maglite and a head torch to make sure I can get light even when I need both hands free and as a bonus a good-sized Maglite doubles as a weapon should you encounter any dangerous animals or other unexpected miscreants.
  3. Wear a Dust Mask
    It’s not the most comfortable thing and they do get hot but wearing a dust mask will make you safer in the short term and healthier in the long term. Many abandon buildings have damp, murky air which can cause nausea and may carry diseases but the biggest worry is asbestos. Asbestos is most dangerous as a fine dust and you really need a P3 certified mask to make sure you’re filtering out asbestos and any other airborne particulates. Disposable masks are fine and can be picked up for £3-5, I’m not sure about their lifespan but they’re probably good for a coupe of visits.
  4. Don’t Explore Alone
    It’s much safer to explore an unknown environment in pairs or in a group, that way you always know that someone’s got your back and (God forbid) if anything does happen you know you’ve got a friend to rely on to get you out or call for help (friends also help with map reading). It’s always useful to tell people where you’re going and what time you expect to return – especially if you do end up going alone but if you can, find an experienced urbexer to go out with you for the first few times until you feel confident on your own.
  5. Wear Heavy Clothing
    As I mentioned before, we need to avoid cuts and scrapes so shorts are a bad idea, denim tends to be quite hardy so jeans are a good choice. I also tend to use wellington boots as the rubber will protect your feet and it gives you the confidence to step through puddles and other unknown substances, you can’t beat a decent pair of wellies.
  6. Tread Carefully
    I’ve been in quite a few places where the floorboards are rotten and it’s easy to fall through, there’s not a great deal you can do about this except for being careful – don’t just go barreling into a room without thinking about your own safety. Light helps to see what’s going on and if you’ve got something long with you (e.g. a tripod or trekking pole) you can probe the floor in front of you for stability.
  7. Think About Using a Safety Helmet
    I must admit, it’s not something I’ve done myself but I have been to places where I thought it’d be handy and I’ve deliberately not gone into places that I think would be too dangerous without one. Like I said – it’s not an essential if you’re careful but if you need one, get one.
  8. Be Like The Ninja
    You should approach all site visits with stealth in mind, this will help not only avoid detection but will also keep you safe – always keep contact to a minimum. Don’t touch things unnecessarily, especially structural components, support pillars or anything that might be propping up the roof and certainly don’t lean or put weight on anything unless you’re sure it’s structurally sound. Whatever you do, don’t take anything away with you – you have no idea what has been living on/in it and you could end up taking some nasty surprise home with you.
  9. Avoid Climbing
    Some of the least structurally sound components of a derelict or abandoned building are staircases, ladders and the roof. Don’t climb unless you’re 100% sure it’s safe and you have real rock climbing skills and equipment (a fake plastic rock-face in a youth centre doesn’t count).
  10. If You’re Not Sure – TURN BACK
    This sounds obvious but it’s easy to get carried away, especially if you’ve made a long journey to get to a site. If you get the feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something - don’t do it! Evolution has handed us a brilliant instinct but it’s something we can choose to ignore and that’s often at out peril, don’t do anything you think could get you injured or could risk your health – it’s not worth it.

I hope those tips help, remember as always that I’m not condoning any unsafe, illegal or immoral activities and my advice is just that – advice. I offer no guarantees that my advice is even worth following and anyone that listens to a single word I have to say does so at their own risk – in short, I’ve spent many decades of my life avoiding responsibility so I’m not about to take any now!



About Me

If youre into Urbex or youre trying to find out what its all about you may find yourself needing some help finding out about the art of Urban Exploration.  Here at Sick Britain Im planning to put up original content like my What is Urbex? and Urbex Safety articles as well as posting links to other community sites such as 28 Days Later or Derelicte.



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