By Mr McCullough
Have you ever wondered, as you walk around the school site, what exists behind all of those locked doors that forbid pupil entry? Have you ever wondered what it looks like inside the Caretaker’s cottage adjacent to Forge Gates? Or, have you ever wondered what is under GAC or what it looks like inside the cooling tower in Griffin?
During my English lessons with year 11 over the last few months, discussion has often drifted off to what lies behind and beneath the many areas that are ordinarily off limits to all but the Maintenance Team. As an ex pupil and now as a member of staff I was at a loss to answer the many questions raised and so often had to resort to telling tall tales of ghosts, burial sites and secret nuclear bunkers. However, having inspired my curiosity and having noted revision weariness setting in, I approached Miss. Lambe with the proposal that if my year 11 class were able to re-ignite their enthusiasm for all things revision, then we could duly reward the class with an opportunity to spend an hour of urban exploration at Bassaleg school.
Urban exploration (often shortened as ‘UE’, ‘urbex’ and sometimes known as ‘roof-and-tunnel hacking’) is the exploration of manmade structures, usually abandoned ruins or hidden components of the manmade environment. Thankfully, unlike some examples of ‘urbex’ to be found online, we were assisted, guided and kept safe from prosecution by Mr. Simmonds on our tour which just so happened to have coincided with the only rainy morning experienced in May to date.
The rain was not to trouble us and our first stop was to explore the areas behind the DT workshops and under the Science block. Here we were led through a mini warren of back rooms which led us to the Forge boiler room and which culminated in visiting a darkened unlit area which sits under the Science block. Few were brave enough to enter and thankfully all came out unscathed albeit a little dusty.
Next stop was to explore the Caretaker’s cottage which will sadly be demolished as part of our re-development. Inside, it was clear that the cottage was in need of a lot of TLC and year 11 agreed that even their well-honed persuasive written skills would be pushed to the limit if they were tasked to find a buyer by writing a persuasive advert. That is unless spiders were the target audience!
A quick trudge through heavy rain showers found us accessing the under build of GAC. Mr. Simmonds introduced us to the huge mud banks that sit under the structure and how one could, if small, navigate their way from one end of the mud bank to the other through a series of openings in the foundations. Some were equally impressed with the volume of toilet roll that the school stores under GAC which help to keep all the toilets adequately supplied.
Our final destination was the cooling tower in Griffin which houses the Griffin boiler below ground level and which has a single ladder access to the upper levels. The ladder has been deemed too dangerous to use many years ago but staring up to the darkened areas above left many wondering what could be on the other levels of the tower. Mr. Simmonds believes that there may well be some theatrical props that had been stored following school productions of yesteryear and that he believed one of those props may be a canoe!
After thanking Mr. Simmonds for his time, we returned to class with a sense of satisfaction and all unanimously agreed that it had been an hour well spent. That said, there was a tinge of sadness at the realisation that, as a group, we would soon be disbanded as year 11 take the next steps towards adulthood. I have enjoyed every minute of their company over the last two years and wish each and every one of them the best of luck in their exams while also wishing them all happy and healthy futures.