RAF Upper Heyford

A few weeks ago a friend and I went out exploring Oxfordshire and we came across an abandoned airbase in one of the small villages we drove through. After a bit of investigation on foot and later on t’internet I discovered that although RAF Upper Heyford was dwindling at the hands of developers it also had a heritage centre which ran tours. After getting in touch, Dave, an ex-USAF serviceman who grew up on the base and co-runs the tours on a voluntary basis, informed me that the waiting list ran past our leaving date but that he’d try and squeeze us in to a cancellation spot. Happily, he was good on his word so today we headed out under dubious-looking skies for some cold and windy urbex.

I was curious how it was going to go. We were in a group of 10, I wasn’t sure if we would be jostling for a view and kept on a short leash. But the atmosphere was laid back and non-restrictive. Although there are buildings we couldn’t go in to, due to dilapidation and safety issues, we got a good look at most of what we wanted to see and the guys were very accommodating, clearly passionate about the site and keen to share their enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, many of the buildings are falling in to disrepair due to a lack of proper maintenance and though some of them have now been given scheduled monument status, others are haven’t been so lucky. Dave led the tour, and was full of interesting stories and facts about life on the base as-was and the scenarios that each building would have lived through daily as well as less frequently in emergency situations. But it was about as far from a dry lecture as it could be. Having a personal experience of both life on the base as a child and of military service I quickly found myself absorbed in the more human aspects of his stories…what must it have been like to live under conditions where you had 3 minutes to scramble a plane…how had cold war mentality impacted people’s daily lives here…how did people cope in NBC (nuclear, biological & chemical) suits and gear for hours at a time? I’ve never taken more than a passing interest in military history, but the way it was done by these guys engaged me so fully I couldn’t quite believe that 3 and half hours passed without notice. Dave’s colleagues added to the excellent balance too, with Neil bringing knowledge and enthusiasm for urban exploration (as well as motorbikes – always a pleasure to meet a fellow biker!). As Mickey drifted around taking pics, Neil pointed him towards details of interest that might otherwise have gone unnoticed and filled us in on how they scavenged authentic equipment and material from another site just prior to its demolition (or rather, during!).

These guys are doing an amazing job, unpaid, to maintain a crucial part of our country’s heritage. Not only that but they’re doing it in an informative and entertaining way and giving people a thoroughly enjoyable Sunday. If you have interest in urbex, in the military past or you’re just looking for a novel and interesting way to spend a bit of your weekend, look them up here or you can drop them a line at tours@RAFUHHC.org.uk They’ll also be exhibiting in September at Banbury museum, go along and say hi!

Thanks guys for a great day and best of luck in September!

  • Avionics maintenance
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Crane for transporting equipment
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Avionics
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Stories
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • QRA
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Wall art inside QRA
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Chock
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Watchtower
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Watchtower2
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Freedom Wall Art
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Maps & Intelligence
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Lights
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Whass that up there
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Jet engine test cell
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Jet Engine Test Cell 2
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Fuel tank
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Fire house
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Control Tower
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Control tower 2
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Telephone exchange
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Military inbox
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Command building 126
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Battle command centre
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Red button room 2
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Command Communication room
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Telecommunications
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Kevlar helmet
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • New body armour
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • you're really putting that on aren't you
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Name Unknown
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Comms
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Inside Control
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • Loudspeakers map
    RAF Upper Heyford
  • You shall not pass
    RAF Upper Heyford

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