Few people stop to consider what might be hidden beneath their feet as they go about their daily lives, but for the last two decades urban explorers have been infiltrating the formerly top-secret underground hideouts across Britain.
In his new book, 'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits', author Steve Higgins reveals the extent of some of Britain’s nuclear bunkers and underground secrets.
From the conspiracy theories of his youth to his two-decade long deep-dive into Cold War and World War II history, Steve shares his personal adventures and the forgotten legacy of these mysterious locations.
Steve, who launched a popular urban exploration website in 2002, said “I first got into bunkers in the 90s when there were lots of conspiracy theories about UFOs being researched in secret bunkers beneath Wiltshire in the English countryside. There were even stories that crashed alien craft were being stored underground in secret military bases.”
The underground adventurer admits that while his interest in UFOs waned, he retained a fascination with secret bunkers. Steve confessed, “as I grew up, I realised that the stories of aliens were wildly exaggerated, but it turns out the tales of the tunnels weren't. So in my twenties, me and my friends would basically spend every day off exploring.” Their subterranean journeys focused on the small market town of Corsham in Wiltshire and the surrounding area.
Steve said that there was a natural transition from crawling through dark and abandoned tunnels to researching their history and military uses. Steve explained, “we got into as many of these places as we could, but some were still in the hands of the Ministry of Defence and were strictly out of bounds, so to satisfy my fascination I started requesting information from the government archives."
He continued, “I was able to find out quite a bit of information through the Freedom of Information Act. It was really a case of working out the right questions to ask, and I got back everything from VHS tapes and photos of the tunnels, to maps and thousands of pages of information.”
But there was one thing that government officials wouldn’t give Steve, and that was permission to visit these subterranean hideouts. This was made all the more frustrating because there was one Steve was desperate to visit. He said, “there’s a facility called Burlington Bunker, a nuclear hideout that would have been the alternative seat of government in the event of a nuclear war. It was huge, big enough to house 4,000 officials safely under the British countryside.”
After years of pestering the base’s staff, Steve was eventually granted permission to visit this impressive underground labyrinth, that contains miles of tunnels, its own bakery, canteens, and dozens of chambers containing communications equipment and offices for government staff to work from.
Talking about the visit, Steve said “it was a bit of an honour because I was just one of a handful of civilians to ever get to visit the facility. Even to this day it’s described as the ‘holy grail of urban exploration.’”
Of course, Steve goes into detail about his time in the nuclear bunker in his book. He describes being driven through the bunker’s wide, underground roadways on a small, electric buggy, and getting the chance to walk along an impressive half-mile-long underground railway station.
Speaking about 'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits’, which is available now, Steve said “the book follows my journey from my first underground trip to some very rare visits. The book obviously does include a lot of the history of these places, but it's not just a boring history textbook. It's about my own adventures in these forgotten places.”
Although underground exploration sounds like a fascinating hobby, Steve was quick to discourage people from following in his footsteps. He said, “it's not really the intention of the book to encourage people to explore these places themselves. In fact, I would actively advise against this pursuit as many can be quite dangerous places.”
But, Steve did share some advice for the daring, “the key thing is to never go alone and always tell someone where you're going. It's also really important that every member of your party has a good flashlight with fresh batteries and where possible, take maps and plans of the underground space.”
If you're interested in learning more about the secrets that lie beneath Britain, be sure to check out 'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits', which is available now from Amazon in paperback, hard cover and for Kindle. There's also an audiobook available on Audible.
Contact Person: Steve Higgins
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Country: United Kingdom