Stewartby Brickworks Feb-2009

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On March - 14 - 20091 COMMENT

A few weeks ago I made it out to Stewartby Brickworks in Bedfordshire, from what I can gather it closed it’s doors in February 2008 but having read the post on derelicte.co.uk it sounds as though it had been running at a limited capacity for a good few years before that. I was looking forward to exploring an industrial unit but my heart sank a little as I drove up towards the village as I saw bulldozers around the perimeter, thankfully when I got around the back of the village they appeared quite far away and may not be part of the brickworks at all.

Once on the site I had a look around and started taking photos in one of the nearby sheds when I heard some noise, in the distance I saw a van moving and it eventually drove right past me on the other side of a wall. Other than that and the bulldozery in the distance I didn’t detect any other presence on the site but out of caution I didn’t explore some of the sheds in the direction the van came from.

Despite having not been abandoned for long the site is in a relatively good condition, there’s a lot of rubble around and dust in the air but not much evidence of mould, graffiti or vandalism – quite a refreshing change from most places! The structures seem to be intact and pretty sturdy (I wouldn’t try climbing though), there were some noticeboards that still had A4 paper pinned to it in fairly good condition (notes about the lay-offs) and dotted around the site were some interesting ‘motivational’ signs with slogans such as “QUALITY IS YOUR ONLY FUTURE” or “THINK QUALITY, IT TAKES JUST AS MUCH EFFORT TO MAKE A BAD BRICK”.

I’ve never worked in that sort of industrial assembly-line environment but I can’t imagine those signs really had much of an impact. Other paperwork and non-English language newspapers around the site seemed to point to a largely migrant workforce and there were even some photos taped on the walls showing what I assume were former employees stacking bricks.

Elsewhere around the site there was a good mix of giant sheds and nice close detail to photograph, overall a pretty cool site. If I hadn’t seen activity on the site I’d have been able to stay a little longer but as it happened I had other places to go but I imagine that I’ll return at some point.


Urbex Community: 28 Days Later

Posted by sickbritain On March - 12 - 2009ADD COMMENTS

Named after the zombie movie of the same name, 28 Days Later is (as far as I know) the most active of all the UK urbex forums and is the ‘go to’ place to chat with other explorers, get ideas for locations, read other people’s site visits, etc. In a forum this prolific you can pretty much guarantee that what you want to know will either already be posted, or someone there will be able to help. I highly recommend that you register, make sure you read the rules and then start participating – this is the best place to build a real urbex community so if you’re interested in the hobby then get posting!

http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/


Urbex Photography Tips

Posted by thirtyfootscrew On March - 11 - 20093 COMMENTS

Some people come to Urbex with a background in photography whilst others come just for the exploration and end up taking photos casually and it’s hard to write up some tips that’ll help both sets of explorers so I’ll start by giving some general tips and maybe later on I’ll put up some separate posts for those of us with SLRs (or with Point & Shoot cameras that offer manual controls). 

  1. Control Your Flash.
    Most Point & Shoot cameras tend to have the flash in an ‘Auto’ mode, if you’re going to achieve good results you’ll want to turn this off and make a deliberate decision about when to use the flash.  If you’re outdoors in bright conditions then I wouldn’t bother unless there’s something in the foreground you want to light up.  If you’re in a dark room (and doing Urbex you will be at some point) then you’ll probably want to turn it on.  The upside of controlling the flash manually is that you can try different scenes with and without the flash and see what works best.  Another mini-tip is that if your flash tends to come out too bright, cover 25-50% of it with your finger as you take the photo and it’ll calm down the brightness (at the expense of a slight red tint).
  2. Steady the Camera.
    Keeping the camera steady will reduce the amount of blur in the photo, especially when the camera is struggling with low-light environments.  If you have a tripod you’re welcome to use it but I often find it to be a bit of a burden in an urbex environment, there are a couple of alternatives that will achieve the same effect (stability) but without the hassle.  Check out the Joby Gorillapod, it’s a small plastic tripod that can be free-standing or bent to secure your camera around fence posts, railings, furniture, etc.
    Another similar idea (but for flat surfaces only) is a to use a bean-bag, this will also have the effect of steadying your camera against vibrations.  If you don’t want to go out and spend money one good tip is to use the timer on your camera, when you press the button to take a photo you move the camera slightly but if you set the shot up and put the camera on a 5/10 second time you won’t have to worry about vibrations.  Another tip to reduce camera shake is to butt your elbows into your chest or to leaning against a wall or other structure (be VERY careful doing this in a derelict building).
  3. Take a Torch.
    In low light environments your camera may struggle to focus on the objects in front of it.  A good tip is to take a torch and point it at your subject, set the shot up to get the focus (usually this means keeping the button half-pressed), turn of the torch and take the shot.  If you’re using a flash then the light from that will take over and if you’re using a long exposure then you will avoid having the torch light in the scene.

I hope that helps to get you started, if you do happen to be an SLR user you can check out my more general SLR Tips over on my personal blog at www.thirtyfootscrew.com.

Urbex 101: What is Urban Exploration?

Posted by sickbritain On March - 10 - 200929 COMMENTS

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 - 20091 COMMENT

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!


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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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