In autumn 2010 I visited Orford Ness on the Suffolk Coast with my family. This is an abandoned cold war military test site, now run by the National Trust. In order to get there you have to take a short ferry journey from the village of Orford itself. It really is a fascinating place — an empty landscape of abandoned buildings on a shingle spit, with the famous “pagoda” buildings dominating the attention. I imagine that in many ways its a bit like Dungeness in Kent but, having never been there, this is just a guess.
One way that it probably differs from Dungeness is that you can only take one of three paths around the site. This is because of the risk of unexploded ordnance from the military days. Therefore you are somewhat limited for photographic compositions. One person who didn’t have this restriction is Steve Williams who wrote a great piece for the December 2012 issue of “Black and White Photography” magazine. He was lucky enough to “get in” with the NT and have a free(er) rein. In fact it turns out he now runs guided tours off the beaten track so When I go back ….
As this was a family trip I was unable to stop, compose, and wait, as is my normal method. Therefore I made some quick compositions on the trip around. The “pagodas” remained frustratingly out of reach but there were more than enough other odd buildings to explore. Once at the lighthouse you almost forget where you are as it is a modern building and, looking out to sea, it seems just like any other shingle beach. But then you turn around and carry on with the tour.
You eventually reach a bunker-like building with an abandoned corridor leading to a big room containing a big tank. Very dilapidated and adding to the sinister nature of the place in my humble opinion. What happened here? I was reminded of the TV series “Lost” for some reason. From here you take the long walk back to the ferry, passing as close as you get to the “pagodas”.
I have a set of photos over at Flickr, which I have processed as a faded monochrome as I thought the subject merited it. Here ere are a few as a taster. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be visiting Orford Ness again: