We picked a wild and windy day to visit Broadway Tower, which with hindsight perhaps wasn’t the best idea. It was a short but bracing walk up to the tower, a folly dreamt up by Capability Brown and built in 1800. Even in poor weather, the surrounding views of the Cotswolds were spectacular.
There’s a little shop on the bottom floor, and access to the upper floors is via small winding staircases in the turrets – one for up and one for down.
I got to wear my new outfit from Joules today; I’m very pleased with it and think the country look suits me! I’m glad I wore a hat, as it kept my hair under some semblance of control in the brutal wind.
The views of the countryside were stunning from every window.
There were exhibitions on every floor, including this one on William Morris, to whom the tower served as a country retreat. Other displays focused on the history of the tower and its involvement in various wars. Interestingly, the hill on which it is built had long been a spot on which large bonfires had been lit to tell people about news of invasions or military victories. Looking out over the countryside, it wasn’t hard to imagine these big fires being lit and perhaps seeing the news spread as bonfires were lit on hills miles away (perhaps the Malverns?).
You can imagine how windy it was at the top of the tower. I didn’t last long out there!
After we’d explored the tower, it was time for a guided tour of a later feature immediately adjacent to it: a Cold War nuclear bunker, opened to the public in 2010. I was slightly apprehensive when I saw that this was how it was accessed! It was a bit like ‘the hatch’ in Lost.
The guide asked who wanted to go first, and there was a resounding silence, so I volunteered to go first just so I could get out of the wind! It’s a 15ft drop into the bunker, and I was rather surprised that the current health and safety obsession would allow members of the public down there! The massive black gloves were kindly on loan to me from Neil, the chap who ran the shop and who was responsible for refurbishing the bunker.
The inside has been filled with all the things that would originally have been in there. Apparently over a thousand almost identical bunkers are dotted around the country. It was manned continuously from 1961 to 1991, and there are a number of instruments still there that were designed to measure the strength and location of a nuclear blast ‘Ground Zero’.
This instrument was for measuring the strength of the bomb blast in the event of a nuclear attack. Scary stuff… I find the Cold War a fascinating period, and having previously done a cockpit tour of a Vulcan bomber (which, at the height of the Cold War, were permanently stationed at the end of the runway, crewed, armed with missiles and with the engines running ready to go – the crew knowing that if they took off, they probably wouldn’t have anything to come back to), it was really interesting to see another perspective.
There would have been four people down there, and had there been a nuclear attack there were enough rations down there for three weeks, which is how long they were required to remain inside. This was the loo!
Climbing back out was less nerve-wracking than going down.
Here’s Lee emerging.
We were so freezing that we decided to stop in the on-site cafe for a hot chocolate and Cornish pasty to warm up. The cafe was lovely and full of dogs, which is always nice! And there was a real fire burning, making it very cosy.
A really interesting afternoon and a lovely place for an outing – we plan to go back on a warmer, clearer day so that we can better appreciate the views. If you’d like to visit, details are below.
Opening hours: 10am to 5pm
Adult – £4.80 for the tower, or £7.50 for a combined tower and bunker ticket
Child (10-14) £3
Family (2+2) £13
Bunker & Observer Post £3.50