There once was a group of urban explorers, who in 2008 thought drains were the rage. Their explorations generally brought about some brillaint pictures, and their in depth research and knowledge of the drains and rivers they explored was second to none. Soon they felt as though they had done all that the victorians had to offer below London..
That was until they realised the rewards of abandoned tube stations; although these were riskier by an exponential amount - they were sites were often accessible from poorly secured street-level buildings, or improperly maintained ventilation shafts and emergency access points. The consequences of being found in an abandoned tube station were high, but it balanced with the potential rewards that were on offer.
Over the next 4 years the sites they targeted, and they largely succeeded too, grew to be some of the best kept secrets of London - and some of the supposedly most secure.
You'd think this group was pretty shit hot, huh? Well, it's not my style to cast aspersions and judgements on others - and this group were certainly top of their game.. but this was to be their downfall. Their website is now littered with sentiments such as..
Although my adventures into Londonâ€™s sprawling underground network are certainly over, i do still have fond memories and tales of previous exploits that have yet to be told. For a while Iâ€™ve been debating the pros and cons of publishing these stories, part of me wants to separate myself from them as far as humanly possible, while the other reminds me well, whats done is done.
Its been a while since I last updated the site, personal and legal issues have prevented this, a mentally and physically enforced writers block.
With an attitude that seemed to neglect the option of calling an exploration off unless only the most extreme of circumstances arose; it's perhaps rather telling that when entering this groups name into google one of the suggested queries is "<group> arrested". A whole catalogue of arrests is what you'd be led to believe if you see the results.. What went wrong?It had been almost four months since i last crept through or climbed the unknown. The fear of legal repercussion grounding me, causing my inaction, the suffering forever engraved in my mind. It was something that i could not, and still have not shaken. For me, the adventures in London were over, my trump card used, as were my excuses.
Incidents like these were not uncommon; with one exploration involve approaching an active tube station from one direction - and having to run through it during the middle of the night to get in a tunnel going in the opposite direction! As impressive as their feats were, in the end their brazen antics got them attention that they could've done without, and one morning their worlds came falling down when they were busted; and by the sounds of it - by a 6AM knock on the door.For four days, the crew went back again and again, hitting the system hard right in front of the cameras, running longer down the lines to more stations, occasionally setting of alarms and then scurrying out of the system before anybody official arrived. [...] Finally on the 5th night, luck broke and *****, ***** and ***** were approached by police and a Post Office employee on the street as they were exiting the system who told them they â€œhad been watching them run around in here for days now on CCTVâ€:
After enduring a tense period on the street waiting for a period of inactivity both within the large building, the three of us swiftly made our way to our access point at Paddington, pleased with ourselves for such a well executed entry having continually checked for unwanted attention and seeing nobody, we assumed we were safely in.
â€œRight lads, stay where you are. The police are on their way. Youâ€™re fuckedâ€. Postman Pat was bellowing down the shaft at us. In a second we froze, before hastily dropping down ladders and finding a bolted door, a ladder that had previously assisted access to other parties now nowhere to be seen.
The door seemed impenetrable, nothing there to assist the 20ft climb. The frame being metal it flexed enough to squeeze a hand through and unbolt the door. We ran to the tunnels. Entering the pitch black we stopped for a second to take stock, aware that going down the wrong tunnels could take us away from our intended destination where we had a car parked.
We trod quickly and carefully through to our exit station with no time to hang around and take pictures, just an opportunity to exit through a door onto the street and away from the now screaming alarm (Which had been switched off on previous visits, but was now fully armed), away from the **** **** that would no doubt be crawling with police soon.
Back at the car, we packed our kit away and headed back to collect our other vehicle. A Police van flew past, sirens blazing, blue lights on. We breathed a sigh of relief. We could have been fucked. Postman Pat could have been right.
By our access point was 3 police cars. We collected the other car and departed, having arranged to meet **** at a nearby station for some other activities in the area.
An hour or so later, the city was crawling. Police cars bolted up and down side streets, combing the area for those theyâ€™d assumedly seen on CCTV. We met with ***** and ***** too, and congregated on a non-descript street to arrange ourselves.
Sirens blazed. A van buzzed down the street. The siren stopped. The van stopped. The questions started. Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins arrived. Iâ€™ve seen him on CCTV. And him. And him. Arrest them all, weâ€™ve got all of them.
It was *****'s smooth talking to the police that ultimately saved us a night in the cells â€“ by the end Postman Pat and Mrs Goggins were annoying the police more than we were and we were told to leave and not come back, having been searched.
These were not amatuers, nor were they idiots - they were some of the best urban explorers the UK had to offer; and their antics had spanned throughout Western Europe, America and even parts of Australia. They took Urban Exploration to a new extreme, and held no fear regarding who they may irritate in the process - and for that they deserve respect and admiration. However, ultimately the balance of risk and reward had become weighted towards risk, and the consequences are something which are only deserving of pity.
This is a lesson to all concerned: No matter what you do or how long you've been doing it - you're either good, or you're going to get good if you stick at it. When you finally reach that stage where you think you're shit hot - remember you're the same guy who used to bottle out and struggle at the smallest of obstacles. That guy who you've trained and pushed down into the most repressed part of your brain is a good guy - and one who may just stop you from fucking up. It's good to leave your comfort zone - but don't extend your comfort zone; some areas are not meant to be comfortable. No matter how good you think you are, you're not infallible.