cane hill bunker | dispelling the myths

Whilst this looks like a large vice, it isn't.

"It is the frame for a horizontal milling machine or possibly a saw, hard to tell with the working head/cross slide removed) In those bays are also the remains of quite a few pedestal drills, a lathe, the complete bed and frame assembly for it and the box of gear wheels is also part of it.." Andy Belcher, of Wealden Cave & Mine Society, who took the same tour of the caves with Laurence at a later date.

We rejoined the central longitudinal tunnel and made our way out into the warm sunshine.

I’d always dismissed the shelter, thinking of it as just a small tunnel in the woods of Cane Hill. But I’d been proved wrong - the tunnels are definitely worth visiting if you’re in the area.

With that, we pushed on up the hill. Laurence’s tour was over - and I welcomed the opportunity to document a small part of the history of the tunnels. The various bits-and-pieces of machinery may not be weird contraptions from the asylum, but the fact that they were used to grind and test lenses for telescopes is equally interesting.

Indeed, for a bit of history, then check out this film from the 1960s of the tunnels.

Speaking of hospitals, it was now time to get back inside our favourite.

I received the following e-mail describing a lone infiltration to the tunnels. Just in case anyone fancied going alone!

"No one wanted to come 'out to play' so I gave my wife the NGR, arranged a callout time, having located the hole in the roof the previous day and set off alone.

A little test for myself, 'Am I afraid of the dark?'

It was creepy. VERY creepy! I sat just inside for a while listening, I don't believe in ghosts, there's nothing in life to be scared of except other people!

I gradually advanced. I was taking it steady as initially I had no idea of the layout and didn't want to get lost so I was being fairly systematic and went round in a generally a clockwise direction.

About halfway in I started to hear the occassional odd noise, just an echo. Eventually I heard it again, this time when I was already standing dead still and holding my breath listening. Definitely not me!! A low moan, and a scuffling sound. The hairs rose on the back of my neck!

Forcing myself to remain calm (and therefore in control) I retraced my steps back to the entrance resisting the urge to keep spinning round to stare behind me.

Eventually I got a grip, gave myself a stern talking to, and headed back in. Finally I got to the end of the main drag and found the ventilator. A piece of plastic blowing across the floor was making the noise. Finally I circled right through the bunker having conquered my fear and now certain that I am not scared of the dark per se.

I have a dodgy shoulder and have to be careful climbing at certain angles. I decided the 'boost' out through the roof might be risky if my shoulder pops out and I'm alone so I decided to go out through the South entrance. I am very skinny, and managed to get my upper body out but then discovered I had nothing to push my legs against or pull with my arms. I was stuck! Being rescued is an embarrasing experience I don't want to have so I ended up wriggling on my stomach muscles until I was able to get my hips through. I won't do that again!

Andy Belcher