Report - - Cocking limeworks - February 2013 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Cocking limeworks - February 2013


28DL Member
28DL Member

This is my first report, so go gentle on with me if I don’t quite meet the grade!

Now, I know this site has been done a lot, which is perhaps why I chose it. I know this is not in the true spirit of urban exploration, so my apologies to you hardy pathfinders, but this was a good confidence builder as a first attempt. Hopefully my pictures can add to those already here and cover things not already documented, but I’d also light to recount the full experience of a newbie giving it a go with a bit of analysis of the site. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure this is the first report for it of 2013!

There are some great reports about it on here already and I give thanks to Professor Frink who gives a great detailed report including an awesome map which I transposed onto some Google Maps imagery (no copyright issues intended). His report with the history and work flow of the site can be found here : http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums...cocking-limeworks-west-sussex-15-02-10-a.html. Further to his history, this site states that the site assumed its current layout in 1980 (Cocking lime works #5 | Up Close & Personal Blog). I’ve also used some of the pictures for comparison from this document (http://sias2.pastfinder.org.uk/sih_1970_2008/33-2003.pdf) no copy right intended...


The plan was to meet up with another urban exploring virgin and head to the site in the early hours, conscious that there’s a busy road nearby and a public footpath near to a village that could have been in regular use. What is it they say about plans not surviving first contact??? My fellow explorer had something come up so I was left, pre-sunrise, half a km from the site alone, trying work out whether I had the minerals or not!


So after some soul searching I was on my way in the cold, sloshy mud up a never ending hill lugging my camera and tripod (and other kit I didn’t really need) along a footpath. I then had a choice…go into the main part of the site or go up another hill into the quarry that served it…After a gander into the gloom where I could just about see standing water and fallen trees, I decided I’d wait for more light and began up the hill to the quarry. The first thing that struck me was how narrow the track was and yet it was metal surfaced…then it dawned on me that as this site had been redundant since 1999, nature had taken the path back, and what was only 2.5 ft wide now was once a track capable of taking some pretty heft laden trucks down from the quarry to the site.


Into the quarry I was met by a well-used track with signs of recent activity. This track ran throughout the whole quarry which put me a bit on edge as to why it had been in regular recent use… was it a local farmer using it for access, was it for people up to no good, was it security or people game shooting? No clue was on the site, so I just kept my wits about me. With a whistling wind smashing its way through the dense trees behind me making me a bit more nervous, I looked for a good photographic opportunity.


I’d already seen on the Google imagery that there were a couple of diggers, so after the first shot of the quarry taken in the dawn twilight I went on the hunt for one, which didn’t take long as I saw one down below.


I walked through the recent tracks and got my picture of it. There was a fair bit of rubbish in the scrubland around it suggesting this may be a popular hangout. I must admit that 30 seconds never felt so long as I set the shutter timer on my camera to counter the eerie darkness.

As the light lifted I spotted the other digger right at the top of the quarry. Not fancying another climb and indeed silhouetting myself against the quarry side I opted to let that one go (annoyingly) and started back down towards the limeworks itself. On route I spotted a derelict roofless support building. Old electrics lay about it and I wondered in for a quick look. I saw the opportunity of a picture through the old window frame and thought “room with a view”. I didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped but I did see a fox running about in a frenzy across the field; with the lack of light there was little point in trying to snap at it.


I could see the track I’d come up and it looked a lot more open in the morning light than it had in pitch black. I talked myself into going back down and instantly was audibly lit up by dogs barking from a farm across the field…Whether they were barking at me or not I don’t know, but I got down scurried pretty quick down to the public footpath just in case; anyone looking across would have clearly seen me against the open skied background.


Slightly out of breath, I was back at the footpath that dissected the quarry from the limeworks. I saw a big iron fence section which made no sense at all to me so upon having a look I discovered that it was put up to stop people wandering off the footpath and falling into the primary crusher on the site, a nice 30odd foot fall.



I hopped a vehicle gate to the left and instantly went up to my shins as I waded through pooled water and squeezed through fallen trees. I was at a similar height to the public path still and instantly saw more recent vehicle tracks and signs of wood cutting. I was a little disorientated at this stage, despite Pro Frink’s map and my analysis of the imagery pre explore. The hillside fell sharply away and so I began the rather ungraceful descent (feet, bum and hands helping me down with the odd tree checking my speed). As I hit the bottom I wasn’t far from the crusher I’d looked into from above. It had an electrical support building next to it with a fair few things still left in it.



The crusher fed a conveyor that went off to the intermediate crusher; through a complete over site of mine I never went into the intermediate crusher which looking at the existing pictures would have been an interest.


A few steep gradients and fences got in my way as I got nearer to the site office and garage. Another awkward fence was in front as I looked round to see where to go next. Behind me I saw a heavily foliaged set of steps going upwards and thought I’d give that a go.

I wasn’t that far from the road and it was getting pretty busy; I could see every detail of each driver as they went past and got paranoid that I could be seen as well. The only thing settling my mind was that I drove on that road for 5 years without knowing this site existed and hoped that no-one was more observant than I had always been! Being winter, the trees and bushes had died back so much so that I still felt a little uneasy. It made the site look so different from other reports done when everything was green with nature in full swing retaking the site.

I got to the top of the green stairway, which had partially subsided, to be met with a big scary sign “DANGER, DEEP EXCAVATION”. I knew then I was at the top of the kilns. I’d seen some great pics from others looking down the kilns and thought I’d get some too… I couldn’t go straight ahead due to trees reclaiming the top so I casually walked to the left to get around them… 3 steps in my advance was halted as the leaves and scrub I was standing on fell away as my left foot dropped rapidly! I then realised I was no longer on bricks and soil, but instead on perished metal roofing which didn’t want to hold my 17.5 stone of slenderness! A trouser change later, I started edging slowly back and decided that I would continue to admire other’s photos of the inside of the kilns rather than get my own…


Another slippy decent down the steps, ducking for cars going by just in case, I got to the bottom and saw a gap in the fence that I could get through to get to the site office.


This area was where I felt even more exposed than anywhere else to the traffic on the road. The garage was ropey and of a strange design which undoubtedly was fit fur purpose at the time.


Moving towards the site office were 2 water tanks and then a toilet.


What surprised me was how small these structures were, but then when I turned around to look at the main “shop floor” it became clear that this was actually a really compact site that couldn’t have actually employed that many people or been a massive operation at the time it shut down. In my naivety I’d assumed that a quarry and limeworks would have hundreds of people shifting hundreds of tonnes of material in one go, when the reality is there must have been much fewer staff. There simply wasn’t room for vehicles or material storage on a large scale. Reading some of the other history of the net it looks like this site may have a been a lot larger, with more kilns and larger quarries further away and at different locations. I wish I’d read more before I went because it looks like there were extra quarries and demolished kilns in the woods that I didn’t even think to look in. Without a really good look there really isn’t much to say that this larger operation was ever the case, the power of nature to reclaim and disguise in full swing.
I thought I’d leave the site office to the end as I decided this would be my departure point near the main gate as I didn’t fancy the special forces-esque escape route up steep gradients that I’d slid down to get in.

Moving on, I went to the furthest shed of the 2 away, known to be the chalk store. Material was still in the shed and up above the conveyors coming in from the screen plant were still in place.


A couple of old coach seats were upright near the opening and some more seat carcasses were laid about, yet again more evidence that the local youth may have made good use of this abandoned site.


Moving onto the screen plant I thought how much more vivid it would all look in spring with all the trees sprouted and good light than what I could see, mother nature was certainly on the assault to recover all these buildings.




I then moved onto the bottom of the kilns, thinking to myself that 5 minutes beforehand I was nearly in the same spot but due to the effect of gravity as the roof gave way! Lots of rubble was at the bottom of most of the kilns, apart from the end “grotto” as coined in a previous report, where mineral deposits had made a strangely attractive stalactite and stalagmite feature.



What I imagined to be a faithful workhorse of a Leyland truck was still in place since previous reports, reminding me of a military gate guardian standing firm on site. Nature has taken her back as well, entwined between the cab which has been robbed for all its use in the past. What I did find odd was the clay and mud on the rear wheels. I’d like to think since 1999 that mud would have been washed off the wheels and it was clear that the truck hadn’t moved in some years. I can only think that someone had tried to move it in the past few months and given up…either that or she was a ghost truck, moving around the site at night still working hard (que supernatural music).




I then walked under the spaghetti of conveyors between the screen plant and intermediate crusher to the other side of the buildings. The size of these buildings then became apparent. For some reason, I never thought to go and look in them themselves up the stairwells and ladders (warranting another visit sometime I’m sure).


I looked around and saw yet more recent vehicle tracks in the mud, more tractor-like this time. The track went forwards alongside the chalk shed towards where Pro Frink’s map marked a gantry (I didn’t see this myself, but to be fair I didn’t look hard). Rubble was at the end of the track and to the side of where I was standing, which I later found out was the old loading bay. This made me think that perhaps some illegal tipping was occurring



Looking away from the site I caught an odd shaped square ivy bush and thought it worth a look… A wonderfully modern facility of a brick building with a raised plank of wood with a hole in it, it certainly was a brick…um.. out house. I pity the guy whose job it was to empty the pit, I imagined big burly limeworkers certainly filled it up regularly.



I walked across the main yard taking a cursory picture of the Calco store, which was falling into a bit of a mess as corrosion eat it, although finding pictures from a history guide it wasn’t much cop when it was in use!



Large sacks of material still lay in there, which along with all the kit that was left got me wondering what happened here in 1999. The way the site was left was almost like the shutdown was expected to be temporary.
From what I’ve picked up from other reports and articles on the net, Calco was a patented material that became the last produced material on this site, so maybe they thought they had a niche and would come out of the rough patch and resume operations? Alternatively there may have been such upset caused by the shutdown that enthusiasm to clear the site or sell of the equipment (for scrap or further use) was limited and was simply abandoned as a bad memory… Either way, I’m glad of the lack of interest to get rid as it makes a great feature.


The site office was a bit of a letdown really. The odd electric box on the wall, but a skanky sofa and evidence that people had been dossing in there put me off staying in there too long for pictures. I decided my 90mins at both parts of the site were enough and made my way to the main gate, trying to time it for the passing cars... I hopped the fence and began the half a km walk back to the car along the main road, only for the first car to go past to be a police car, which slowed up suitably to get a good look at me... With thoughts of being rumbled I gave them a smile and carried on down the A-road (no footpaths, so I guess that draws attention), but luckily enough they sped up and carried on. I guess being dressed like a typical walker from head to toe may have helped me just look like someone on their way to the South Downs Way!


At the risk of giving away the location (it’s really not hard folks, Cocking isn’t a big place) this document is pretty cool for a detailed breakdown of the site, written in 2003. (Page 24 onwards. http://sias2.pastfinder.org.uk/sih_1970_2008/33-2003.pdf). It says that the site is set to be demolished shortly, but 10 years on it’s still standing strong!
As for the future of the site, I’ve seen planning applications on the net for waste recycling plants that have been rejected by West Sussex County Council, mostly because of its proximity to the South Downs Way (now a National Park). There is also talk of the owners of the land proposing it gets turned into a campsite for walkers using the South Downs. Ultimately, it is brown belt territory next to a pleasant, traditional looking villagein a National Park that is arguably London commuter territory. I’d say one day it will go, so get there if you can fellow urban explorers!


All in all a very rewarding first trip, nothing bad happened (albeit with a few near misses), got some pics I'm very happy with and it's given me a taste for more visits to more sites! If anyone in Sussex, Cambs, Norfolk is up for showing me some other great places, just get in touch!

Thanks for reading, all comments good and bad welcome! I've tried to abide as best I can to the rules!



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