The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

Saltley Gas Towers

without comments

August 2011

These were a change affair really, one of those things that just happens. We saw them on our approach to what we believed to be the Moonwalker culvert, but whatever we did in fucking up the identification of the buried river, this sure as hell was a big pair of monster gasometers looming out of the darkness of the night.

We’d walked for ages on the culvert’s slippery brick floors, tumbling and moonwalking our way around for a couple of hours, before failing to find access to another drain around Wolverhampton. Back to these neglected climbing frames, then head home?

Two of us, two gasometers. I took the more southerly and my companion the more northerly. Despite his sprained arm from a mountain biking collision, we took off at similar paces, agreeing to judge upon the stability and our mutual comfort in continuing the climb.

Just as we experienced when we climbed in Greenwich last year, the feeling of being on a partially enclosed ladder never ceases to unnerve. The thought of falling sideways, losing your footing, getting caught and sliding to a drop of 8 stories to a death on a plate metal drumskin makes one more reticent perhaps. Fear is the emotion which I feel holds us back most in our lives, and for that reason, that night we settled with a second level stop, just a quarter of the height that these beasts can attain.

Although I hold a lot of love for these giant metal frames, I feel intimidated slightly by them. Despite sitting in the relative cover of an unlit area, these still loom from the darkness like something otherworldly, something from ‘War of the Worlds’, almost something that would not have been constructed by humans. Very geometric and repetitive, I feel these were a huge engineering feat. I sat back and looked up at the ladders above me and and felt a pang of regret at not feeling confident to ascend it fully.


Saltley Gasworks once held the honour of having the tallest gasholders in Europe, and as I climbed those ladders to the top, the motion of clipping in each time with the scaff hooks I was using distracted me from the height. Up top it was calm. Two cop cars appeared to be converging towards the entrance to the site but they drove off. A helicopter hovered above too, but I can assume they didn’t know or care. This climb was as much about finishing something that we’d started as it was overcoming that nagging hesitation with heights that seems to bug me wherever I go.

Thanks to Neb for the company and the use of his scaff hooks.

Written by Winch

August 7th, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Infrastructure/construction

Tagged with Neb

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