Saturday 16 April 2022

Acton, Nantwich

 Today's Canal - Shropshire Union

Andrew had previously planned to catch a train at 11:30 on the basis that it was much cheaper than the next one. However, when he came to book a ticket, that offer had disappeared so we were no longer time critical.

As a result, we opted to spend the morning visiting the Hack Green Secret Bunker Museum - we had moored about as close as possible for a short walk to the entrance. It opened at 10am.

We set  off and soon arrived - even if we had walked three sides of a rectangle! Alas, there was no way across the intervening field. (It is difficult relate the photos to the self guided tour so we will just intersperse them for effect!)

Look closely at the author's name  - indeed he was later to become famous for his round the world sailing exploits: Sir Francis Chichester.

The site was originally developed in 1941 as a decoy for bombing raids on the strategically significant town of Crewe, close by. After the war the new threats of nuclear attacks led to the creation of 12 much more advanced radar stations.

The site may no longer be either secret or defensive but some people cannot resist the temptation for surveillance!

By 1976 the site had ceased to have that role but was then converted into a Regional Seat Of Government. At least in theory,  key civil servants could survive underground for several months, emerging only when fallout had fallen sufficiently. It was expected that they would emerge to a country in chaos and widespread destruction, totally in need of  someone to set up a new government machine!

A number of these bunkers were built at vast expense and, fortunately, have never been put to the test. At the time, the project was clouded in some of the tightest secrecy. Not only was the location kept se fret but also the whole project which, it was feared, might meet considerable opposition - something to save just a small elite whilst the rest of the country perished.

Just over 25 years ago, the site was decommissioned and sold off for private use. Robert Siebert, a former member of the Royal Observer Corps, was crazy enough (as the web site puts it) to have the vision for a museum that could collect and display a wide range or former military equipment that once protected this country from nuclear missile attacks. It continues to be run by his family and a Trust set up to oversee it into the future.

This piece of communication equipment was used by Margaret Thatcher to transmit the order to sing the Belgrano during the Falklands War.

Overall, the museum rather lacks the professionalism of a modern curator and many exhibits are randomly placed together - explanations can be a bit sparse. Nevertheless, the effect is to bring home the enormity of what might happen in the event that a nuclear state lets off even just one missile.

Some of the technology represents the best of its generation with some clever developments in the detection of incoming threats. On the other hand, the material from Civil Defence officials is often risible - the instructions of how to prepare a home and then deploy when a four minute warning is heard is amazing. One can only think that giving some sense that 'they' knew what they were doing was to help deter panic. We suspect that little of it made any real impact - and would have been even less in reality.

Outside there was this weekend a gathering of Living History groups that collect equipment used by various military groups, displayed to show what conditions were like at the time.

On our return to the boat it was time for a slightly early lunch so that we could make a prompt start on the short trip into Nantwich.

Well, it would have been short in time were it not for the two Hack Green locks. these often become a bottleneck, with queues developing in both direction and even in the short intermediate pound. Whilst it can be much worse, today was no exception and it took just an hour to pass down through them. 

From there it was just half an hour to the bridge where we were to drop Andrew off to walk to the station. We continued on to the service block at the other end of Nantwich Embankment. It is a long time since we have been able to come straight in to the water point - usually there is a queue.

Finally, we went the short distance to Acton Bridge where we plan to walk across in the morning to the nearby church.

3.7 Miles - 2 Locks

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