The Winchester

"Not all those who wander are lost" – Tolkien

Winch and Speed Do T’north – Dec 2008

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Following the success of the Achtung Baby summer Eurotrip, myself and Speed decided to visit the north with our remaining annual leave, early in December. We planned a rough route taking in Inverkip Powerstation, some North Eastern Asylums, as well as the 28DL Manchester Meet. We intended to go with a full car, but we don’t have any friends. Boo hoo.

Of course the idea of ‘Doing’ the north of England is a daft one. Things change, and you could never see everything an area had to offer in a long weekend. We cherry picked the sites we wanted to see, and didn’t quite ‘do’ the north… Always time for a return trip…

We left Reading early Saturday morning, aiming up for St Georges, Stafford. The December weather was pretty bitter and biting, which didn’t help the riproaring cold I’d managed to develop.

Stops for pasties, coffee, lucozade and other fizzy, sugary shit were made, before we arrived at Stafford in good time. I’d been to St Georges before, really enjoyed it. It’s a ruin of a place, floors wobbly, the main hall burnt out and supported by scaffolding, and also thoroughly stripped. It’s unlike any other asylum in the Uk in terms of it’s layout, being probably the most similar to a Kirkbride, the famous American layout based on stepped back wards.

Sometimes you just want to wander around these places and not worry too much about taking photos, ‘recording history’ as is the maxim of some explorers. We’re nosy fuckers, and these places are interesting. That’s why we go there. After an hour or so, we decided we had places to be, people to see, and as we’d already both been here before, we decided to leave for the Weatherby Pottery, in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent

Weatherby was still full of plates, machines and bits and bobs. The sort of place that I imagine kids enjoy vandalising. As Stoke was once the pottery capital of the country, Weatherby is not the only derelict pottery in the area.

It was getting dark, so we took off to the Manchester home of Userscott, Rookinella and Yaz, for a meet-up of Explorers. We spent a lot of time drinking in the house, catching up with friends and acquaintances before going to a Wetherspoons in the centre, taking in a steak pie to keep me going. Manchester was actually freezing. I don’t remember much about this bit of the trip, but I wasn’t feeling well and the cold didn’t help!

We climbed a tower in the city centre, a hotel of sorts. A walk in and straight onto the roof. Amusing stuff, particularly as we were accompanied by 4 random girls picked up in the street by some of the more amourous of the party.

A group of about 15 of us had a late night curry on the famous curry mile before stumbing home and eventually falling asleep once some awful dubstep had been turned off at about 5am.

First thing on Sunday morning was to plan where we were going, splitting what appeared to be a massive group. Some were heading for a sewer, others were heading home. We were heading for St Joseph’s Seminary, a monster of a site close to Wigan.

For those not ITK, St Joe’s is a Roman Catholic institution for training priests, opened in 1883 and closed as a seminary in 1975, as priests began to be trained in the community they’d be working in. The building remained operational for a further 12 years, as a conference centre and retreat.

In 1987 it closed its doors and has fortunately suffered minimal damage, thanks to the attentive security on site.

Something of a time capsule, there are Chapels, halls and religious memorabilia.

We left St Joes after a relaxing explore, and headed north to Greenock. Sunday flutes rang, some awful bagpipe music that haunted the graveyard shift played throughout the drive up the M8, and no signs of civilisation were spotted until we were at the edge of Glasgow. In and out of Glasgow we went and more and more miles passed by before we were approaching Greenock. We needed somewhere to sleep so went to the nearest Travelodge. Two guys, turning up at 11pm on a sunday night. “What are yous boys doing in Greenock then”, asked the check in clerk, and we mumbled an answer about seeing a friend. I suspect he thought we were using their facilities as an illicit hideaway. Needless to say, we were up and out at first light, taking in a complimentary comprehensive breakfast consisting of dry pastries and shot glasses of juice filled from a machine.

We met with Ben at the carpark a mile or so away and walked on and on to the entrance of the powerplant. Through the fence, a short jog round the site hoping to avoid security, and a bit of climb later we were in the powerstation, and shortly after, in the spotless control room. This was a 1970s beast. Green formica panelling, rows and rows of switches with no end of functions I didn’t understand, and a low humming noise as the lights flicked on. A guestbook had been started at some point on a glorified typewriter, and an unusual collection of coins had been growing since the place was discovered and reported two years previous by an intrepid London explorer.

Once we’d tired of this phototastic area, we ventured into the cavernous turbine hall. This place reminded me of NGTE Pyestock, the industrial behemoth of the south. Humming from various electrical items, reminding you of the previous activity once in the site.

On the subject of activity, the useful lifespan of Inverkip was a minute 3 years. Built in 1970, the 1973 Oil price crisis meant that Power Production using oil was too costly to justify, and the station never operated at close to it’s intended capacity, with one turbine space remaining completely unoccupied throughout it’s life, and it’s only usage being to provide power in peak times, when other stations were struggling to satisfy demand. The only time the Power Station operated at full capacity was during the 1985/86 Miners Strike, when the power station opened up it’s turbines and ran at full. In 1988, the powerstation was closed down and mothballed, parts taken for use elsewhere.

We climbed to the roof, which seemed far higher than it was. Subsequent explorers climbed the chimney and showed views over the waters towards Glasgow. The newspapers reported it.

We departed Inverkip and bid farewell to Ben, making our way to Hartwood Hospital in Lanarkshire. Hidden in the hills, Hartwood is a battered old place, having suffered arson on various occassions, and all but the central core of services demolished. Once one the biggest Asylums in the country, Hartwood is a shell of it’s former self.

Written by Winch

March 6th, 2010 at 10:48 pm

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