The Establishment (Part 7)

soddenham-est-7It is advisable that new visitors to this website should read the preceding parts before continuing. This building, known locally as ‘The Establishment’ has been on the periphery of the village for over 80 years. Silently operating behind a stand of trees and accessed by a circuitous route via a cinder track beyond Setchell’s Copse, no-one was seen entering or leaving, and there was no contact in the village by those who worked there.

Last week marked the first visit to the Establishment by the new team. After an intense evening thoroughly briefing Mr. Pickard on all our findings and events so far, we regrouped in the car park of the Teat at 9.30am and took stock of our equipment. I’m afraid that we must have seemed woefully underprepared to Mr. Pickard, as Jessie and I had brought a set of basic tools, a few torches and a hearty packed lunch for all three of us (consisting of dollops of paper thin slices of boiled tongue with a light coating of shaved dill pickle on fresh Gurney’s baps, all lovingly prepared by Mrs. Taret, bless her!) Thusly kitted out, we set off towards Doggers Covert.

We were relieved to find that the site had not been visited since we last were here, as the door was still secured and our booby traps were still intact. As Jessie removed the long nails from around the door, Mr. Pickard suggested that we set clear objectives for each visit and after a few brief discussions we decided that our Primary Mission today was to:

  1. Survey the building to complete our map including the area towards the rear of the main building(1a) and the locked room (1b)
  2. Undertake a detailed survey of ‘the long room’

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With Mr. Pickard’s calm efficiency and preparedness, Jessie’s enthusiasm and brawn, and my local knowledge, it suddenly felt like a very serious exploration. With this in my mind, I led the party inside the Establishment.

The first room was in the same state as we found it previously; largely empty but with the additional graffiti and litter. Mr. Pickard was first to spot that the graffito on the wall with the diagram read ‘Viagra’ and Jessie was fairly sure that it was the ‘tag’ (which I am informed is a sort of graffiti nickname!) of one Carl Vigrass, which seems to fit with the idea that all three boys were here.

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After making notes and taking photographs, we made our way through to the larger room in the older building. I was a little sheepish that we had already been here and not made a full circuit of the room. There were some signs of the original walls; slight ridges in the plastering, poorly matched carpeting and tiling etc, as indicated on the Scandinavian map, but it bore no evidence of having housed laboratories and offices. It was a very basic office type room all the way around – the area we had not verified was just more of the same, but the floor was especially damp. We returned to the first room and examined the lock of the locked room; a relatively modern Yale design.

Jessie suggested we pick the lock using a hair grip, but it was soon established that we were without any hair grips or lock-picking skills. Mr. Pickard searched in his rucksack for a few moments and brought out a small, battery-powered tool, to which he inserted a rather elegant-looking drill bit, donned a pair of safety goggles and knelt at the door. It took only a few minutes before the lock tumblers had been completely bored out, and with scarcely a breath taken, he had returned the tool to its place in his pack!

I must say that Jessie and I were both a little awed at Mr. Pickard’s quiet efficiency in this work, and we suggested that he be the first to see beyond the door. Again, without ceremony, he pulled open the door and flicked on his torch (which neither of us had noticed he was even carrying!) to reveal a completely empty room. The striking thing was that this room was very clean and almost new looking – not a speck of dust or detritus anywhere, which was entirely at odds with the rest of the building.

soddenham-est-24We stood inside the room for a few moments, frowning and scratching our heads before turning to leave. As we were filing back through the doorway Jessie spotted that there was an envelope taped to the back of the door. The envelope was sealed and written in an elegant but untidy script was the word ‘Nightjar.’soddenham-est-23

After a brief discussion, we decided to keep the envelope to open later on, so as not to get distracted from our original mission to explore further than we had previously. Again, Mr. Pickard deftly secured the envelope in a clear plastic self-seal bag on which he noted the time and date where it was found, along with the exact location in the building, including the exact spot on the door measured with controlled snap of a retractable metal tape measure and the manner of an efficient, but enthusiastic undertaker.

We then turned our attention to the ‘long room.’ This is shown on the map as a single entry room, apparently identical to the one we had just been in. My recollections of this room we that it was much larger than this and uncommonly dark. Jessie removed all the screws we had put in to secure it last time and opened the door. Immediately we were hit by the smell; rank, stale and acidic. Suddenly, Mr. Pickard pulled us all from the doorway and delved into his pack, producing facemasks for us all. We did as instructed whilst Mr. Pickard explained some simple safety procedures we ought to take, and feeling slightly more prepared and significantly more anxious, we returned to the doorway.

soddenham-est-14As before, the room was narrow and impossibly dark, so much so that it was impossible to ascertain the length of the room. Mr. Pickard was talking into a little voice recorder so I took the lead and took a few tentative steps into the room. Almost immediately Jessie called out my name, but it sounded as if were shouted from much further way. It appeared that only three or four feet into the room all light was lost. Looking back, I could see a faint light as if the doorway was some impossible distance away. I swiftly made my way back towards the light and almost immediately found myself back in the room!

The others were perplexed at my apparent shock and were sceptical about what I told them. Mr. Pickard stepped into the room for exactly five paces, turned about and paced himself back out, looking quite put about behind his face mask and spectacles! He confirmed that he had the very same experience as me and looked intensely at Jessie. After a few moments, Jessie did the same. Although we could hear him counting as clearly as if he were only five steps away, he told us that we sounded quite distant after only one or two steps.

We repeated this several times, testing light, sound and perceived distance making notes and exchanging observations. From this we decided that although this was weird, there were no apparent dangers or side effects, but we elect to tie a rope around our waists to ensure that we don’t get split up. We begin again and slowly shuffle further into the room, Pickard, Blunt then Taret. The darkness is unsettling and absolute. Our torches work but only cast a limited beam, as if the batteries were weak (they weren’t.)

The long room appears to extend like a rather featureless, if derelict corridor some twenty feet long (although this cannot be certain – twenty feet would actually take us to the further exterior wall) and ends with a metal spiral staircase going down. Mr. P. signalled for us all to shine our torches down, but unsurprisingly, this did not reveal any detail further than the next few feet. soddenham-est-25Mr. P. asked us to wait until there was no further slack in our guide rope in order to test the safety of the stairs and he slowly descended into the gloom. We noted that after a few steps we could not hear his footsteps on the metal stairs, but he appeared to be moving steadily as the rope played out until it tugged on Jessie’s waist. Mr. P. then returned to tell us that the stars appeared safe and that he believed that they led down only one floor but had not quite reached it. We decided to go one at a time until our ropes were extended, making sure that we did not overload the stairs.

We found ourselves in a smallish room with decrepit pipes and ducting and a locked louvered door on one wall. It was more humid here and the once white paint was peeling. There was a sign over the door and only with the combined beams of our torches could we read it – STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE EXCEPT ON BUSINESS. soddenham-est-27Jessie pulled out his camera and took a number of images with full flash but said that he didn’t expect that they would be up to much.

Mr. P retrieved his hand-held tool from his pack and made to burst the lock. For some reason, this was not as smoothly done as before and he broke several attachments before his batteries began to fail. This was the first time I had seen him looking frustrated since I met him. Ordinarily, he is a reserved and self assured, but down here in the dark dank claustrophobic underground environs of the establishment, he looked positively ruffled.

We turn our attentions to taking measurements of the room and observational details of the stairs and corridor are noted as we make our way carefully back. After securing the door to the long room and the exterior door to prevent further access, we step outside and remove our facemasks. It is only after a few minutes talking about our experiences that Jessie noticed that the light was fading. According to our watches we had only been in the building for about an hour and a half, so we packed up our gear and head back to The Teat where it appeared to be quarter past eight in the evening.

Over a couple of glasses of Witches Brew we had corroborated our experiences and decided that we needed more equipment. Now it was my turn to surprise Mr. P. by announcing that I had access to a generator and lighting (used for outdoor events on the green and stored in Murrows Mill) and we agreed to return with some proper power tools as well. Next stop, beyond the louvered door – ON BUSINESS…

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3 thoughts on “The Establishment (Part 7)

      1. Indeed! Think I need a tot of something strong after reading this latest instalment… this tale of exploration and discovery is getting under my skin.

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