Sunday, 3 July 2011

Burlington Bunker, Bramble Tea and Bernard Cribbins

For a teen in the 80s there were many constants. Politics touched everything to the shoreline and high water mark at least of popular music. Popular music was only that in the same way as pastel suits. Music was a rather subjective term. And we were probably going to die in Nuclear War. Great Uncle Condescending will nowadays look down his green-tinted aviator shades at the youth of today as they scoff at the idiocy of such an idea but there is no fate, history is not laid before us in stone and back then, yes, the Cold War from where we lay in bed could go hot and in a moment. For my parent’s generation there was Berlin (where my Dad worked) and the blockade or the face off in ’61, the Cuban Missile Crisis and of course Korea and Vietnam to name but the most famous that saw those born in WWII live through its extension. In the late 70s to the mid 80s things grew tense after a period of detente and in England we watched Threads, Edge of Darkness and A Very British Coup. In America Red Dawn was at the pictures and Reagan was in the White House.
And since 1961 and on its completion then under Corsham and a big wet lump of Wiltshire Burlington was open for business. Alternatively the Hawthorn Government War Headquarters, Stockwell and Turnstile it used former quarries as its base, expanded and wrapped in secrecy so as to dress itself inevitably with conspiracy theory and D Notice. Thirty-five acres, an underground town and as you can imagine – quite enormous enough to make the likes of Kingsway Exchange seem like rather dry beans indeed. By the early 90s it was not only decommissioned but effectively abandoned.
I include below the BBCs report on the place, and a visit by the ever excellent 28Days site. Both are rather out of date now as when I was last there a year or three back not only had the former entrances been disguised behind little drawbridges but the interior had been entirely dressed in layers of neatly-applied newspaper. The vast site about and atop it was remarkably clean of litter and the detritus of the years. Indeed and in the storerooms I found neatly catalogued hundreds of umbrellas, shores, picnic boxes and hats to name but a few. The workshop still seemed to be in use and the kitchens well stocked but with bramble tea, nettle jam and seed cake. The intercom system was still operational, taped announcements intact and recorded I was amazed to find by Bernard Cribbins.
It was all a very long way from Wimbledon Common.

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