Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Roaming a barren industrial landscape......

I've had a heavy weekend of exploring. Insanity prevailed and I needed some time to kick-back and find some peace and quiet for a couple of hours. And I found what I was looking for.

Across the country are areas of land called brownfield sites. These are essentially are abandoned or disused industrial and commercial sites that are available for reuse but expansion or redevelopment might just be complicated by potential environmental contamination from it's previous use, for example, a chemical or plastics plant.

Close to my home is a small brownfield on the edge of our fine city. It was part of a major local family business that had a world-wide reputation, Colman's of Norwich.

The site I explored today is known locally as The Deal Ground. It's a 30 hectares area of predominantly empty brownfield land which originally part of the Colman enterprise (think mustard). The name of the area originates from the part of the Colman works where crates and barrels were made from a softwood called "deal" - this softwood was imported to Great Yarmouth from the Baltic, and brought by wherry (a type of boat unique to Norfolk) up the River Yare to a wharf that lay across the river, opposite the the village of Whittingham. A small tunnel, which is now disused, ran under the railway line and linked this site to the main factory site, Carrow Works, on the other side.

There was strange, somewhat eerie, desolation to the place. Strange because just across the fence was an aggregates site and right next to the Deal Ground was the main railway line out of Norwich to London etc - every now and again, the rumble of a passing train broke the stillness, but not for long. The site was flattened save for the odd mound of rubble and the carcass of a workshop.

I wandered around it and found nothing to signify it's exact purpose - a mysterious shell that kept its own counsel.

I took a walk through it to try and find some sort of clue as to what its purpose may have been, but alas for now, one secret that wasn't going to be revealed to me today.

I wanted to find something that told of the departed factory's past, some kind of evidence of its identity. I climbed the mounds of rubble in search of something to say "this was me". All I was to find were an old pair of boots, electrical fittings still attached to a piece of wall and ironwork.

As I walked the site, I came across the tunnel under the railway, blocked at the other end, but the tunnel was there all the same and with some excitement, I clambered over the slippery moss and down the slight incline to the portal.

I have a fondness for tunnels having visited a few over the years, some short, some long. I don't mind. But this one was appealing to me because it was hidden, it was forgotten and I felt like a great discoverer as I entered the gloom. My heart sank a little as I saw what the future had held for this little passage under a railway. A destiny it could never have seen coming.

Also on this site is a Grade II listed bottle kiln which currently on the "Buildings at Risk" list. It's built from red brick and has blue engineering brick dressings. It is of a circular plan and has a short porchway to the firing/loading doorway. The kiln is bottle shaped and the porchway has a semi-circular tunnel-vaulted ceiling with a metal top-hung sliding door. There are four circular open vent holes and three rectangular vents. The kiln interior has a cavity-wall construction for ventilation. The inner skin rises to a height of 2.95 metres and is constructed in bricks from Stourbridge made by EJ and JP Pearson Ltd. This firm was incorporated as a limited company in 1898 and was active in the production of these products until 1916. This kiln is a rare and possibly unique survivor in Norfolk (Deal Ground).

I walked inside the kiln through the porchway......

And once inside, I marvelled at the brickwork to the lower half of the kiln and the way in which the blue engineering brick in the upper half looked so blue in the half-light......

As I walked away, I saw the old in the view as the new and wondered how long it would be before that too became someone else's little explore.

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