I originally made an ill-fated trip down here in May 2008 and managed to get one useful shot off before my camera (a Canon 400D) started throwing up the chilling ‘ERR99′ – the error it shows when it knows somethings is wrong but doesn’t know what. Thankfully that turned out just to be the Tamron 17-50mm I had (since replaced by the Sigma) but it did mean my original attempt at Nocton was an epic fail. I don’t really pass through this area very often so it was a while before I could make my repeat visit but in March I managed to swing by with an hour or two to spare and it was well worth it. There are two possible explores at Nocton, one is Nocton Hall (pictured right) and the other is the enormous former 740-bed RAF Hospital, I went for the latter and passed by the hall as I had limited time and the lure of an abandoned RAF hospital was just too much!
Entrance to the site was simple, I parked up right next to the giant metal gates which were already completely busted up. I got my tools out (Canon 400D, Sigma 18-50mm, Speedlite 580 EXII, Maglite), gloves on (left hand full DeWalt, right hand fingerless), mounted my head-torch and headed on into the site. At first I had a poke around some of the nearby buildings and a few Anderson shelters before heading towards the nearer edge of the site, at this point I pulled back because that area is easily visible from the houses and flats in the distance and I didn’t want to blow my cover this early! After looking around a few of the other buildings in near the gate I headed rightwards.
It’s easy to underestimate this place at first but Nocton is truly massive – space isn’t really a problem in Lincolnshire so almost all of the buildings are single storey and if you imagine a combined RAF base and 740-bed hospital it ends up being an extremely large site. Inside the main body of the facility there are a series of long corridors, in what appears to be the main building there’s a large corridor running down from front to back (i.e. from the gate end straight forward) which is then crossed by long corridors running to the left and right at several intersections down the main corridor.
The walls contain directions around the site in the form of coloured stripes and every now and again you see a red bar hanging from the ceiling showing which department you’re at, in my time there the only labelled bits I made it to were the pharmacy, path lab, surgical ward and gynaecology department. Pretty much all of the rooms across the site are large and empty, it’s reasonably clear to see where an area would have been full of beds (i.e. a standard ward) and where there would’ve been a series of private rooms with beds but some of the areas are a bit ‘different’ and have some interesting little quirks. One of the more interesting buildings I found must have been some kind of administrative block and housed a giant safe, seemingly impossible to get into now but the door is still there and the whole unit is at least the size of a normal door. The place must have housed sensitive documents and military secrets, I’m not sure exactly when Nocton closed down but it’s intriguing to think about whether there’s still some classified material stashed away in there!
Across the whole of the base there are in excess of 50 buildings (see Google Maps) so there’s quite a lot of work to be done if you want to cover the whole place. I only skimmed the surface really but I think I managed to rush my way in and out of most of the major areas (but certainly not every building in each area). In terms of safety I saw a couple of signs and even some graffiti pointing out that there is asbestos present on the site so make sure you go in there wearing a P3 dust mask.
I picked mine up at Screwfix for about £5, there are cheaper P3 masks but don’t compromise your safety by using a lower rated (or unrated) mask or by using some other fabric to cover your mouth – if it doesn’t work out you could end up with serious illness down the line. Otherwise I thought that most of the surroundings, floors, ceilings and the occasional staircase all seemed relatively intact – it doesn’t mean they all are though so keep your wits sharp and don’t forget to read the Urbex Safety post.
After exploring for nearly a couple of hours I began to get one of those ‘sixth sense’ feelings that I’d overstayed my welcome and decided to leave, I took my time traversing the site and popped into a few areas on the way but I was fully intending to head off the site. I’d gotten this strange vibe that maybe I wasn’t alone on the site, it’s hard to explain why as I hadn’t heard any voices and sites like this always have strange noises (doors creaking/banging, pipes rattling, etc.). I wouldn’t say that I was worried as it was a windy day which will increase that sort of ‘natural’ activity and besides the only people likely to be on the site would be other people exploring and I’ve always found other explorers to be polite and courteous (if not slightly suspicious!) but something deep inside me told me that I really ought to leave and it’s always worth listening to your instinct.