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Water Eaton Grain Silo, Oxfordshire

A wartime strategic grain reserve silo in the Oxfordshire countryside

Water Eaton Grain Silo is a WW2 strategic grain silo between Kidlington and Oxford, next to the crossing of the main road from Kidlington to Oxford and the Oxford to Bletchley railway line. It follows a standard pattern common to other wartime silos and takes the form of two banks of ten seven storey high cylindrical reinforced concrete silos side by side with the space between them filled by a brick access shaft. In the shaft is the associated grain handling machinery and two enormous grain driers which extend the full height of the building. It was built in the early 1940s and closed in the late 1980s, after which the yard surrounding it was used by several local businesses including a pet food supplier and a car breaker. At the time of writing (November 2008) it faces demolition to make way for a waste processing facility.

Most people know this site by the view as they pass it on the A34 or the Kidlington road. The space between the railway and the silo once held the sidings for grain wagons, now it is filled by a railway ballast yard.

 At ground level the site offices survive, home to the miscellaneous junk of several decades abandonment.

The real interest however comes in the central brick shaft. Here the grain driers and their associated augers, belts and switchgear stand idle in the shafts of early morning light cast through the dirty windows. Seven floors of machinery waiting for the inquisitive lens of the casual explorer.

At the top of the building is a gallery running its entire length which gave access to the top of the silos with augers and chutes for loading them with grain. This space, referred to as the "penthouse" on the wiring labels, is brightly lit through its many windows and affords spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. One side of the penthouse holds the chair and rope that has attracted the attention of so many explorers, there are some urban exploring conventions that have to be followed.

Above the penthouse is a rooftop level with one pigeon infested room containing the switchgear and drive motors for the penthouse grain augers. From this room there is access to the roof itself and a view across half of North Oxfordshire.

This site is a relatively easy explore whose main hazards are the height of the building, the possibility of rot in those sections of floor with timber trapdoors and the danger of infection from pigeon manure. A recent news report had its demolition scheduled as "immediate", however the businesses in the yard are very much still in operation at the time of writing. When it has gone the Oxfordshire explorers' lot will be a less happy one.

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