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Surviving Fortifications in Cumbria

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It takes a bit of imagination to know what this is. It is a base for a 29MM spigot mortar, a common weapon issued to the local defence forces. You can just make out the remnants of the earth bank around it



Rather more imposing is the former coastal battery observation tower that was a key part of Fort Walney. After the war it became the local Coastguard centre but is now being converted into a residence. It is going to have some great views




not being converted into anything other than somewhere people put their dogturds in bags into is the Vickers shipyard built 'Fire watchers shelter' made out of boiler plate




sadly some dog owners are just thick.




Would not fancy holeing up in one of these when the incendiary bombs started falling!





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as we discover more and more of these defensive structures every now and then a complete suprise turns up. I was looking through some other sources which mentioned a surviving Cold war bunker right at the side of the Coastal battery tower. We must have walked right past it a couple of times


So off we went exploring again




Lurking the undergrowth was a Royal Observer Corps bunker. The plan with these was that in the event of Nuclear Armageddon three R.O.C officers would hole up in a space barely bigger than the average house room and watch and report on the mayhem above ground!


Close up it does not looking remotely inviting




iniside it is completely intact and i know who has the key so we are angling to get access and have a look inside


Brooklyn says He wants one in the backyard at his house


Tomorrow, after the excitement of the Ulverston canal, we are going to find the almost compllete Duddon Blast furnace that worked from 1746 to 1867 and is one of the best preserved examples of its kind


more soon....



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1 hour ago, kevsmiththai said:

iniside it is completely intact and i know who has the key so we are angling to get access and have a look inside

I'm really looking forward to see some pictures of that.

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After the ironworks adventure we finally got to Haverigg to the former RAF airbase to find the six sided pillbox known to be there




This would have had more earth banked on top but has commanding views over the former runways




in the top is a round hole that we think might have had some sort of anti aircraft use




Next up was the Decoy command post in Whicham valley. a pig to get to as it is on a stretch of the A595 road with no refuges or places to park. We had to walk about 500 metres down the narrow road with cars flying past.




The idea with this was a network of trenches filled with flammable liquid and a series of lights powered by a generator in the bunker. In the event of an air raid the petrol was lit and the lights switched on to divert the Luftwaffe bombers away from the steelworks and shipyards at Barrow further down the coast




Brooklyn tries to get in. You can see how rural the Valley is





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For a couple of weeks Brooklyn and I spent our time investigation the three surviving Blast furnaces in the area but last weekend as the weather was good we headed over the fell to find the pillbox at Drigg beach




looking slightly wonky and cracked


It is a Coastal battery observation post



Coastal erosion means its is sat on shifting sand


One little lad liked it!




more soon



Edited by kevsmiththai
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We've found a website called 'Subterranean Britain' full of stuff like this and when we looked in the cold war section realised that the R.O.C post on Walney island was in fact one of hundreds around the country. Just south of Drigg lies the village of Bootle and even though I drive past it at least five times a month I had no idea thiw was in a field right at the side of the A595




same layout as the walney one but unlocked. Boy did he pester me to let him go down it but i explained about the dangers and firmly said no!







Now it also listed one at Broughton in Furness and i had to admit I had never seen anything there but...




right in the middle of nowhere on a hill top




On U.K television at the moment on the Yesterday Channel  is a new series called 'The buildings that fought Hitler' all about gun batteries, pillboxes, defensive stop lines and the defence of Britain from the expected German invasion after the fall of France. It is really good but of course every structure featured on it Brooklyn wants to go to. No chance!




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39 minutes ago, gavino200 said:

It looks very "Dad's Army"!

One of the things about a lot of the WW2 defences is that it would have been the Home Guard manning them although as someone pointed out on one of the military forums they would have lasted about fifteen minutes until the Germans brough an 88mm up!. Apparently after the war the farmers were paid £10 each to knock them down if they were on their land but it looks as if they just pocketed the money. that is why so many survive.

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Kev, as I'm very interested in coastal defences and their associated structures, I've enjoyed reading about your adventures with Brooklyn. You may already know of this book, but if not, you might find it both interesting and useful.






I look forward to seeing more of your explorations.





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One idea for his desire to go into bunkers:


You can buy a tidy used Gopro camera with wifi capabilities fairly easily for £40‐£50. One of them, a reel of paracord and you've got a robust, waterproof (make sure the one you buy still has the waterproof housing) camera you can lower down shafts to see what you find. A cheap rechargeable torch attached to it would add illumination, and you can download the free app to any smartphone for preview and remote control.


I use mine with their biggest selfie stick to get angles which would otherwise be impossible to shoot safely. It'd do superbly for filming the inside of bunkers where only the gun ports are accessible.


Piecing family legend together, I think my grandfather was one of the Royal Observer Corps unit who manned the local post. There's a load of information on Subterranea Britannica about how it all worked, he was an ex-RN radio operator who remembered his Morse code for years so would have been very popular. He may also have had a "ticket" for the regional government bunker in the event of MAD, but I'm not sure whether that was confusion with his ROC work. Unfortunately he died over twenty years ago, so it'll probably remain hazy.

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it would have been nice to find out what he could remember (and what he was allowed to say). I regret not asking my grandad more about his WW2 exploits  as a prison camp guard in Scotland. I do know they went salmon fishing with hand grenades and a net!


One thing we had been meaning to find for a while was a 'decoy tank' in the Sandscale Haws sand dunes. We had a vague idea of a lump of concrete that looked like a Churchill tank but nowhere on the satellite images was there anything obvious. Just a square structure like nothing we had seen before.


It was about 200 metres away from the Sandscale pillbox and looked most unimpressive. just a brick built structure, lined with concrete, in the middle of nowhere




So I did some more research and found out what it was. It was a water tank that was filled up and at night in the event of an air raid the surface of the water was lit up by powerful lights. The reflections were designed to fool the Luftwaffe into thinking the water was the dockyards at Barrow diverting the bombing attack or at least confusing them


So not as mundane as I first thought.


Barrow did get blitzed quite badly in 1941 and a ot of the surrounding areas did get hit so perhaps the decoy posts did work a little bit





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So a lot of my time at weekends with Brooklyn recently has been exploting the vast remains of the Iron ore industry in the Furness area but last week we set out to find two pillboxes I had picked up on.


Which is where we hit a stumbling block. The recent fine weather mixed with some heavy rain has caused the vegitation and foliage to explode into life. Some of our 'Targets' are now in amost jungle like conditions


Roose Roundabout Pillbox is another one I've driven past loads of times and never knew it was there




The upper slots are for small arms and the lower, larger ones for heavy machine guns




getting to it was a pig, I'm seriously thinking of buying a machete!


The one behind Walney Fire station was even worse. We had to use Google maps on my phone to negotiate the undegrowth. Brooklyn got nettled, I got nettled. I got caught up in brambles, Brooklyn got caught up in them. I got hooked on barbed wire so of course, so did he.


The problem with this one is I couldn't get far enough back far enough to get a decent picture.




So the plan is to come back in Winter on these two after the leaf fall and explore them again


Not all the defensive structures are as obvious as a pillbox. Thousands of motorists drive past this everyday on their way to the Morrisons supemarket and never give it a second glance




It sits under Michealson road bridge in Barrow and was was an underground civil defence shelter.


Now I started to realise that for people overseas it is difficult to put all these into context so I've been having aplay with Google Earth and have created a project I can share out. This is basically a Google Earth map with all the defensive structures plotted on it. Zoom out and you can see how the pillboxes were organised as stop lines and just how many there in in Cumbria. Zoom in and you can see how they sit in the landscape. Depending on whether the Google spy car has been there you can switch to street view. I can embed pictures and text on each location




it also allows me to identify future targets and there are at least 13 to go at, spread across the county. Some of the more obscure ones dotted around in fields in the middle of nowhere we'll be able to find by opening the project on my mobile or tablet and navigating straight to it .


Needless to say there will be more soon and once I start on the iron industry one that will also be a project




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As you've seen I've split RAF Cark airfield off as a seperate thread but we've still being hitting some of the targets we've put on the google earth project


Levens pill box is reputed to have been placed opposite Levens Hall by the then Lord so his servants, who had enlisted in the Home guard had their own




The two at Lindale were late discovery


This is in someones front garden and is used a as a garden shed




The eastern one is about 50 metres away




yes it was raining!


I knew about the Kirkby Stephen one and have driven past tit many times but never twigged where it was until the other day


Seen in the landscape




this one is close to the station on the Setle and Carlisle


So, as I'm trying to develop Brooklyn's photo skills I've started letting him do the close up shots by himself. No point in both of us getting out boots covered in Sheep's dung!




this one still has the steel shutters


More soon



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Wew had gone to photograph 'Tornado' hauling a charter train on the Settle and Carlisle line along with the 'Staycation Express' which was running the HST for half term and the weather was awful and getting worse. 'Flying Scotsman was due later that afternoon but we pulled the plugs on it and headed home. However, it gave us a chance to do the pillbox at Lirkby Lonsdal that sits above the A65 near Devils Bridge. It was WET



Above, Camera starting to mist up


Bit of rapid drying




This is another one I have driven past loads of times and never spotted!



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He would have seen the rain as well! Not many  bikers at Deviil's bridge needless to say


There is a Royal Observer Corps bunker on the other side of town we are going to get when the weather is better. Its just amazing how much stuff there is if you keep looking



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