Urban Explorers

by Lesley

Urban Explorers

Urban Explorers written by

Violet Macdonald

All around us there is a hidden world drenched in history we have forgotten. Buildings, monuments, waste lands and tunnels that were once bursting with life and are now desolate. Abandoned and left for nature to re-claim they faded from memory. All of them tell a story that deserves to be heard. An underground society has been born from a shared thirst to discover these places, to explore their history and the nature beauty of their architecture. We call ourselves Urban Explorers.

I stumbled across the world or urban exploring completely by accident but was immediately fascinated and excited. Even as a young child empty buildings had caught my eye. I always wanted to know more about the history of them and was struck by their haunting beauty.

Our passion is to enter and explore these places and most of us research the history as well. It is rare we share our stories with the world; we remain underground for good reason. Too many of these places have seen arson attacks and vandalism that brings them to the ground. They are all monuments of lives lived and respect should be shown to them. In writing this I’m taking you on the journey, to show a little of what we do.

I will never forget my first explore. It was an abandoned mental health facility in Glasgow. The building was beautiful, Victorian Gothic architecture hidden behind a modern hospital. Being new to the game it took us over an hour to gain entry.

We finally found a small window to crawl through that took us into a toilet in the ground floor. Within seconds of getting through the window I was already dusty and the smell hit me for the first time. I have come to love the smell of abandoned places; the smell of dust stirring and plaster crumbling. My heart was pounding partly from fear yet also from excitement.

We stepped out into what I imagine would have been a day room or dining hall when the place was still active. I was captivated by the eerie beauty of the place and the whisper of memories. I had researched the place beforehand and I was all too aware of what the place used to be. People staying in this hospital would have been hurting and it would have likely have been a monumental period of their lives. There has to be a respect for this.

There is a lot of planning that goes into each explore as it is a physical activity and slightly dangerous. Safety is paramount as many of these old buildings have weak floors, crumbling ceilings and broken glass strewn around. We wear thick soles boots to protect our feet; loose clothing so that we can climb in and cycling gloves so we can grip.

Each member of the group has a role and we all need to trust one another. My group is some of my closest friends; one of us has an incredible sense of direction so he is responsible for planning our route and remembering where the exit is once we are in the building. Another one of us is an all round handy man who has our tools of the trade and I am our first aider. Accidents do happen, though the worst we’ve ever had are scrapes and bruises.

It is important we know the laws surrounding what we do. For example if a group is caught near an abandoned structure with more than two lighters per person then it can be classed as attempted arson especially if no one has cigarettes. Once inside a building we always test floors before we walk on them and if it is even slightly damaged we stick to the edges where it will be stronger.

Everyone has different reasons for going urban exploring; most of us are photographers. The pictures you can capture in these places are stunning if you know what to look for. The emotions a building held can be captured by a skilled photographer. As much as I enjoy the photography it is the stories these buildings tell that captivate me. There are old hospitals that brought both health and death, warehouses that were a person’s livelihood, and mining villages where the sense of community still lingers.

There is a unique beauty in seeing nature slowly reclaim something man-made; vines twisting around window frames and moss growing between floor tiles. It reminds you of the power nature holds. Of course, there is a lot of fun involved in urban exploring. It is usually a full day out and often involves long walks through back country roads.

Some of my best memories are of trips to somewhere that’s been abandoned. We’ve had our share of mishaps as well; a friend screamed loudly enough to frighten me when a fox came charging toward him from a dark corridor. All of us were in fits of relieved laughter afterwards.

So the next time you’re out open your eyes. Now you are looking you will spot places you had hardly noticed before. These places were once alive and perhaps one day someone will be exploring the world we feel is so permanent.

Violet Macdonald

About Lesley

Lesley Rodgers has written 146 posts on this blog.

Personal Development Consultant and Confidence Coach. Lesley is also a committed Human Rights Activist with her heart firmly lodged in 'community' and collaboration.

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