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Urban Exploration FAQ

This page attempts to provide answers to some of the questions you may have about this site or UK urban exploration in general. In addition you may wish to read the Derelict Places page on trespass & the law.

  • What is urban exploration? As it says on the front page of this site: Urban exploration refers to the practice of exploring and photographing interesting buildings, structures and sites that are abandoned, unseen or off-limits to the general public.
  • Why do you do it? Because the sites are there, I find them interesting and a lot of them are decaying or under threat so they won't necessarily be there for much longer.
  • Most of your reports are from rural locations. Isn't it supposed to be urban exploration? Oxfordshire is not rich in traditional urban dereliction and has a lot of countryside. If you live in a mostly rural area you have to explore the locations that surround you so most of the places on this site are rural.
  • What kit do you use? Every explorer has a different set of equipment depending on their target sites. Mine would differ if I went down drains or climbed cranes but for the sites I visit I take with me as standard equipment a Mag-Lite, a mobile phone, a monocular spotting scope, a handheld digital camera, the OS map that covers wherever I'm going and a packet of Polos. If I think I'll need them I also take along a set of builders gloves, safety goggles and a farmer's dust mask. I normally wear clothes that try to blend in with what's expected in my surroundings. For example if people walk their dogs where I'm going, I look like a dog walker. I generally wear jeans and several layers on top to cope with the British climate and view decent walking boots and a Gore-Tex jacket as essential.
  • Where do you find the places you visit? A combination of local knowledge, opportunism and good old-fashioned research. Mostly that means talking to old people when I meet them, using my local libraries and the web resources listed on the links and resources page.
  • Can you tell me how to get in to <insert site name here>? Sorry, no. Most explorers prefer not to share their research or access details freely because they may fall into the hands of people whose interest lies not in exploration but in stealing from or causing damage to sites, as well as that they may cause sites to be closed to explorers. If you are interested in a particular place, do your own research in the first case and see if you can find the information you are looking for yourself. Asking for such details as a new user on forums like those listed on the links and resources page may result in a hostile response depending on the character of the forum because this kind of thing relies on trust. If you join a forum, build trust by participating in its community, post good reports from other sites that you may have visited and post well in other threads. Then you should be able to ask nicely if you can join any other explorers who are visiting a site, or even for access details via private messaging.
  • How long have you been doing this? On and off since the 1980s. Back then most of the Beeching-era railway closures were still relatively intact and I spent my summers exploring some of them. Since then it's been mostly WW2 stuff where I've found it, with the odd lighthouse thrown in for good measure. One day I must scan some of those photographs and put them up here.
  • Aren't a lot of the places urban explorers visit private property? Isn't this illegal? Many urban explorers are prepared to go to extreme lengths to evade security and secure awesome reports from some amazing places. Unless they damage or steal anything or can be shown to have entered the site with intent to damage or steal they're not on the wrong side of the criminal law. That said while I admire their exploits I prefer a softer approach and prefer to use public rights of way or permissive access. In particular I avoid active farm buildings, coming from a farming community I know how many problems farmers have with intruders threatening their livelihoods and as a courtesy I'd ask other explorers to consider doing the same. A farmer is a small business, not a faceless multinational property development company.
  • Is it OK to take stuff from a derelict site? No. That's stealing. Take only photographs, leave only footprints. No matter what's been abandoned there. We've all been tempted but if you want a free ride in a police car, that's the way to get it.
  • What about tagging a site to say you've been there? Some people do this, I prefer not to. Paint/marker pen graffiti is illegal in the sense that it's causing damage to a site and carrying paint or marker pens can be used as evidence of intent to cause damage even if you haven't made any marks. In some cases people sign their tags in dusty window panes, dirt on machinery or in other non-intrusive ways.
  • I'm under 18. Can I tag along with you on an explore? I've never liked having to say this, but I'm afraid not. An adult accompanying an under-18 takes on a whole raft of legal responsibility if something goes wrong, and I'm not prepared to take on that level of risk. It's not personal, blame the health and safety culture.
  • What's the best urban exploration camera? Should I buy <insert camera model here>? There is no best camera for urban exploration, though if you follow the photography discussions on some of the online urban exploration forums you could be forgiven for believing that you can't be taken seriously as an explorer without the latest and most expensive high-end camera and a backpack full of accessories to go with it. When you read these forums you have to remember that while a lot of the information on them is very good there are a lot of explorers who are high-end photography enthusiasts and some of the discussions are simply those photographers willy-waving at each other about how expensive their cameras are. The truth is, you can use any camera you are comfortable with that is capable of taking pictures in the environment to which you want to take it. I use any one of a range of cameras depending on what I have to hand, from a decent quality camera phone through a compact digital camera to a 35mm SLR. In addition I sometimes bring along a cheap collabsable tripod and a remote shutter release cable for the SLR. Pictures from all three cameras appear on this site. If I was asked to recommend a camera for an explorer I'd suggest a decent quality compact digital camera with a good zoom lens, or a bridge camera if you have a higher budget. Bearing in mind that you may take your camera into hostile environments or encounter unsavoury people while carrying it, small size for easy concealment and a bearable value if you lose or break it are important considerations.