Report - - Orford Ness, Orford, Suffolk - April 2017 | Military Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Orford Ness, Orford, Suffolk - April 2017


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Orford Ness
There are already a few reports on the site, however not everyone walked there and im pretty sure no-one stayed the night. A rather long report with a complete history and full account of a 21 hour father son adventure. To clarify, we did not explore the Cobra Mist Facility so it shall be excluded from the history section (The focus will be on atomic research areas of Orford Ness rather than the radar development). Summaries are also included for those that done have time to read a novel…Enjoy


In short there is not a huge amount of detail about what went on here as it still covered by the official secrets act. However the site saw the accidental development of radar and provided a proving ground for the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment. No major accidents took place and the site was closed down in the 1970’s, left empty until present day.

Full History
In the 1930’s Robert Watson Watt was tasked by the British Government to go away and make some sort of secret weapon, this would be used in the second world war against the Germans. One of these secret weapon ideas being tested and developed at the site was a ‘death ray’ which would fire particles in a focused direction to take down enemy aircraft. This sounds ludicrous but the UK Government offered a £1000 reward to anyone that could kill a sheep at 100ft using such a device. With the distinct lack of death rays in the world today, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the death ray idea never worked.

Despite the lack of vaporised sheep, the technicians of the time made a much more important discovery. They noticed the radio waves being sent wouldn’t kill anything but would be able to detect aircraft in the area, this laid the base for radar. This had a direct effect on the battle of Britain as the radar would pick up Germans bombers which could then be intercepted. Obviously there is a huge amount more to the development of radar but that’s a whole different story in its self.

In 1950’s and 60’s, the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment built the building that still reside on the shingle spit. The site was so secret in fact that the employees would only know what happen in there building, stopping employees having an overall view of what took place at the site.

Credit to Keith Ward for the photo, for some reason we didn’t visit this building and so I have no photos of it

The building above was used heat up and cool down bombs and my well have held the UK’s first nuclear bomb, known as Blue Danube, Smallboy or the Mk. 1 Atom Bomb. This bomb had roughly the same fire power as that dropped on Hiroshima and a total of 58 were produced, however it is unlikely that all were operational at the same time. These were then stored at RAF Barham in Suffolk and RAF Faldingworth in Lincolnshire. The bombs were first built in 1953 and ran through to 1958 when it was replaced by the Red Beard Weapon.

It is speculated that the pagoda building were essentially ponds for radioactive material of some degree, this is only speculation as the tops are open to the outside world. The building are also incredibly beefy suggesting that they may have to withstand explosions. Should an explosion take place, the support beams holding the roof of the pagodas would be blown away allowing the roof to seal the building in hopes it would contain the contents. Very little else is known publicly about these and the other building on site.

In 1960 the site began to develop hydrogen bombs, these were even more destructive that the Atom Bomb. Testing would take place to stress the bomb as if they were being carried and used in action, this stress testing had to go above and beyond the anticipated parameters of war time use. The bombs were tested with a greatly reduced amount of explosive but that not to say they weren’t deadly. Several of the building contained blast walls at the entrances, the employees would then hang their passes there before entering. If the worst did happen then someone could use binoculars to see the site badges, allowing them to work out who had made it out alive. The atomic research section of the site came to a close in the 1970’s and has stood empty since then. The only other activity the site has seen was a team of bomb disposal engineers who were tasked to clear the site in 1978.



28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
The explore

Rather than take the tour, we decided to head to the place on our own accord; As we didn’t have a boat, walking was the only option. The plan was to start walking at 12 after some lunch, arrive in the evening, explore the different building then sleep on the beach and head back in the morning. Apart from one stumbling block, the plan worked out with a bit of persistence… surprisingly.

Full account (it’s a long one)

Being local, Orford Ness is pretty common knowledge so a there had to be a visit at some time or another. After looking at the OS map, it was possible to walk from Aldeburgh all the way down the beach. We weren’t about to take the overpriced and underwhelming tour and didn’t have a boat so walking was the only option.

The plan was to start walking around 12pm giving us plenty of time to get there across the shingle. We would then look around the site with the remaining bits of day light and get some photos in the golden hour. We would then bed down for a bit of dinner and sleep on the beach, ready to return in the morning. We packed the van and headed to Aldeburgh

After a bit of lunch sat on Aldeburgh beach, we started the walking towards the light house leaving at 1pm. We came across a sign stating that it’s National Trust Land and there was no right of way… but with no-one in site, a sign wasn’t about stop us. I may have spoken a little too soon as a while later we saw a figure in the distance. With there being nothing but shingle, it was impossible to tell if they were walking toward us or we were catching up with them. Also having no idea whether it was a fisherman or someone from the national trust, started to question if it was game over already. Fortunately it was just a fisherman and we carried on heading towards the light house.

Other than the light house, the only other thing on the horizon is the Cobra mist building. We didn’t realise it was own or even in use as we were walking towards it on the way to the light house. When you see a building like that, in the middle of nowhere which looks abandoned, it impossible not to go and have a look. We took a little detour to check it out. As we got closer we could see there were several vehicles parked out the front. Despite this we kept walking as curiosity got the better of us. We then got in line with one of the radio masts used by Cobra Mist and an engineer appeared from the little hut at the bottom of the antenna. After seeing him on the phone we decided to throw in the towel and carry on to the light house. We didn’t know it at the time but this cost us a lot of time and nearly ruined the whole trip.

After about two and half hours, we finally arrived at the light house, had a little look around and sat down for a break. Not a whole lot to look at but a nice spot for a bite to eat in the shadow of the light house. All was good until I hear the words “that looks like Land Rover” from my dad; A minute later and a white Land Rover with Cobra Mist written on the side turned up, out steps four middle aged men. One of them I would later find out to be Mike Finney who is a director of Cobra Mist. They asked the standard set of questions including if we had had permission from the National Trust to be there. Obviously we didn’t have permission but everything was fairly civil and we were told to head back. At this point he mention that we had to walk below the high waterline as that wasn’t owned by the Trust. Not sure how true that is but im sure you could use that one against them if you got caught.

So we started the long walk back but without any discussion we had both decided that we weren’t giving up that easily. At the end of the day, they are unlikely to care, let alone patrol, the pagodas’ and other buildings we had come to see. As we walked back, we were waiting for the Land Rover to leave. We kept walking but it was still there. That’s when we noticed four figures in the top of the light house… bollocks. With nothing in the way, they watched us walk back around a mile down the shingle, fortunately we got to some high dunes which finally broke the line of sight. Now out of sight we decided to rest and make dinner. Added an extra mile of walking but at least the gig was still on.

We figured that by time we had dinner the Cobra Mist guys would have gone home, sure enough, we poked our head over the bank and couldn’t see any sign of vehicles. By the time we had packed up and started walking, the sun had gone down and it was dark. As we got closer to the light house the nerves started to set in, not for being caught but the thought of being sent back but for good this time. We had been out for around 9 hours and didn’t want all that effort wasted. Fortunately we got past the light house without a hitch and continued on. Just before leaving the light house we found a sign that read something like “stay below this mark until you reach the black beacon due to unexploded ordinance”. With that in mind we walked below that line for another half mile or so. We walked up the bank several time to check where this ‘black beacon’ was but never saw anything. Assuming that we passed it we decided to bed down for the night. We had bought a small two man ten in case it rained by it was clear and we were too tired to do anything buy that point, almost 10 hours on shingle is a real killer. A thermarest and a decent sleeping bag saw us through the night.

Waking up at 5am on a completely empty beach with nothing in sight is quite an interesting experience. We got up packed the bedding and headed towards the pagoda’s, it was at this point we realised we were yet to pass the ‘black beacon’; in actual fact, we had slept pretty much in the middle of the “unexploded ordinance” area. Feeling pretty cuffed that the alarm clock wasn’t a 50bl explosive, we continued on to the pagodas. The buildings felt pretty eerie but we had already seen most of the buildings from the photographs on google. One thing you can only really appreciate is the toughness of the buildings, the huge lumps of concreate seem pretty happy being battered by the weather day in day out. Other than that, there is not much else to see, still worth the adventure and picture taking opportunity. Even better without the National trust breathing down your neck telling you where you can and cannot go.

After mooching around the buildings we decided to head back, no bother from anyone but that’s not surprising given that it was still 7 AM. The walk back was just as uneventful, well until we stumbled upon what seemed to be an unexploded bomb. Although unclear in the photo, the front tapered off and given the history of the location, a bomb of some description seem probable. Reported it to the revenant people but they were unable to find it, shame really as it would have been interesting to know what it was. Regardless, we made it back to the van around 10 AM after roughly 21 hours on the shingle. Car seats have never felt so comfortable.





28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
That looks like a cool adventure. Nicely reported too. And Mini Cheddars are a good choice of snack, but you can't beat a full cheese board :)
Cheers, cant disagree with that, however a full cheese board wasn't under the essentials list unfortunately


Got Epic?
Regular User
I have to say if they told me to turn around I'd just tell them to do one. What are they going to do get the police to come remove you...? Like you say, walk down the beach and there's nothing they can do anyway!


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
I have to say if they told me to turn around I'd just tell them to do one. What are they going to do get the police to come remove you...? Like you say, walk down the beach and there's nothing they can do anyway!
They dont have any power but it was the easiest thing to do in this case. At the end of the day, it was a little hurdle which made the adventure a bit more interesting

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