Urban Exploring – Rescued By the Coastguard

I scrambled through deep, thorny undergrowth, desperately trying in vain to find an escape. Like an overpriced raincoat brand, my thirsty throat felt Superdry. Nature had cruelly robbed me of my Evian bottle.

Looking for an escape, my hand sliced against the spiked brambles. The moonlight revealed to me a trickle of blood oozing down my fingers. As I heard my friend stagger over rocks and swear loudly into the darkness, I acted like I knew I had a plan. I didn’t.

My heart ferociously beat in my chest as I staggered across more rocks. I struggled to breathe in the humidity, I felt so lightheaded as my thirst declared war on my throat.

I stepped on a rock, it was more nefarious than it seemed, it slide away and I fell over, aiming right over a stick poking out the rocks below.

Two Hours Earlier

It was 2016.

The United Kingdom and the England Football team were now both out of Europe. Margaret Thatcher had been reanimated as Theresa May, albeit with Lego librarian haircut. Socially vulnerable youngsters were being led astray down side streets in order to interact with strange looking creatures and capturing them with their special balls. They called it Pokemon Go.

We had driven to Portland, on a late summers day. Portland is a tiny little isle hanging off the end of Dorset. We were urban exploring, or urbexing. After being cautioned off by thistles, metal fences and possible security cameras, we had given up hope of finding an abandoned underground hospital.


I argued with my friend, Rusty, as to why she didn’t bring a charged up phone whilst exploring such dangerous places. What followed was practically an extended informercial about why I was right.

We drove to  a nearby derelict rifle range on the island using a softly spoken Sat Nav. We parked up next to a Young Offenders Institute. I was concerned the car radio would be stolen whilst we were exploring, and betraded in exchange for juvenile contraband like cigarettes or marbles.

We spotted the rifle range down a deep rocky valley. Tomb-like in structure, it looked like a huge stone pyramid coming out the ground, it was a fascinating sight for an Urban Explorer like me. It was 65 foot in length, roughly about the size of my ego.

We needed to traverse across an undergrowth of rocks. I ventured toward the bay and spotted this innocent looking outhouse overlooking the shore, but  after climbing up the steps, it led nowhere.

My friend suggested we try traversing across the rocks, it looked like they were a flat surface- so technically the following is her fault. Even thought I was thinking the same idea, I must reiterate it was her fault 😉

We did so, dressed in Sports Direct green wellys. They provided enough grip but I didn’t feel secure. The rocks I was stumbling on gave way and I tumbled down. I realised the ground below was incredibly uneven, filled with sinful looking thorns and prickle bushes. I would either end up stepping on the grass, or knee deep into spiky foliage.

The rocks began to separate, I felt like I was jumping across them like little platforms on Crash Bandicoot, my long legs struggling to leap from rock to rock. Rusty, shorter that me, was concerned about a bramble infested hole, so I offered my knee as a bridge.

The sun was setting, of which she warned me, but being a man, I didn’t take any notice to what she was saying. The moon, however, was huge, producing a huge orange swirl, pretending to be the sun.

We stumbled through the inside of a broken tree. It was the perfect relationship for me: stability, a solid foundation and plenty of things I could hold onto. Sadly it hit the rocks, literally, and we were back to jumping across rocky platforms.

10 minutes of stumbling later, we made it to the side of the tomb.  The sun had almost disappeared. I struggled to find an opening into the rifle range. We climbed up the hillside awkwardly but to no sign of any entrance.

Something was sloping around in the distance on all fours. At first I thought it was a drunk flailing around after last orders at the pub. Upon closer inspection, it was a goat.


I know nothing about goats, sadly the Really Wild Show was no longer transmitting on CBBC at 4:35pm and so there was no a weekly after-school animal education. My current animal knowledge was  from replaying  Tomb Raider levels in my head – reminding me what kind of animals want to kill or eat Lara Croft.

Which is usually all of them.

Our track record with animals had not been good so far.  Last week, we climbed a fence  (to be fair, it did say Enter at your Own Risk on it) and encountered a horse that charged at us. Instinctively, we ran out the area, leapt over the fence, flipped and tumbled upside down to escape from it. It was mightily pissed off, this was no cute foal in the New Forest. I had to distract it to the right with chat-up lines (what’s a cute horse like you doing in a field like this?) whilst Rusty scooped up her dropped keys from where its hooves had been standing.

Google advised I stand up to horses, Alpha-Maleing it out, showing it whose boss – like a Chav demanding his dole money. Though when a huge beast decides to charge at you at full speed, you don’t want to square up to it in case you get flattened or kicked.

So with no Chris Packham or Animal: Friend or Foe? smartphone app on site to advise me on all things nature, I acted with caution in Portland. Looking around, I could see 5 other goats on the mountain top, with one coming in my direction in the invading night.  I heard a growling noise behind in the darkness, I became apprehensive. Luckily it turned out to be Rusty.

I decided that our  adventure was over. Survival came first. I heard crumbling in the distance… a couple of goats were teetering down the mountain side, stones flying down with them. There was  crunching and munching sounds which were definitely not human. This time it wasn’t Rusty. We had eaten all our sausage rolls before we got there. So it must be a goat.

I did not want to be gored to death in the dark by horns.

Later research showed these were 10 primitive goats that had been planted to eat island scrub. Portland should also plant Bear Grylls to help absent minded Urban Explorers like us survive.

IMG_20160720_215512523Sliding back down the hill, Rusty was effing and blinding. She was using nettle bushes to grip onto. I was feeling more worried than I did after the Brexit Referendum reveal.

Going back in the darkness, a half hour journey, wasn’t wise. We used phones as torches, but it meant we could no longer use two hands for stability.

I climbed over a nearby fence towards the shore, the torchlight on my phone guiding  me through the undergrowth. My hope was restored, there must be a way down, I thought.

I traversed to the left I was met by a cliff edge. I tried the other way  and I was surrounded by 10 foot high thorns and perpetual darkness. I felt frustrated that I was in this situation, and scared of being stuck here.

I didn’t know what to do. The only option was to go back the way we came, through dangerous rocks and thorns, with everything eclipsed in darkness. In daylight it was haphazard enough It would be like  a blindfolded drunken Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne attempting BBC’s Total Wipeout.

My throat was dry in the humidity. It was 10pm, yet the heat was lingering in the air. Panic started to seep in, I couldn’t think clearly. I just wanted to be comfortably at home eating Rolo cookies and re-watching 90’s sitcoms.

We saw the outhouse again in the distance, the unexciting structure was now a beacon of hope. I fathomed somehow we could get up to it using the other side.  I tried three different ways, but instead ended up in a  20 foot high haze of brambles and thorns, I was almost knee deep in the undergrowth. Every direction I ended entangled up in nature, my heart dejected that there seemed no escape

Suddenly I stumbled across some evil foliage whilst trying to navigate across nefarious stones and plants. The rock suddenly gave way, my foot slid. I helplessly began to fall over, aiming right over a stick poking out the rocks below.

Swerving, I dodged the stick, and landed hands first against nettle, my phone bounced out my hand and smashed against a rock. Luckily I had a glass protector as I drop it daily.
I didn’t want to be out all night. Rusty was getting frustrated and angry. We had nothing to keep us warm, no water. No hope!

I rung 999, not for the first time, and tried to get out of there. I hadn’t before called the Coastguard.  I was apologetic, we went for a walk which went wrong. (no mention of Urban Exploring!)

I had no idea how he could find us,  I tried to printscreen a picture of where we were on the map. I tried, but my panic had activated, and I accidentally triggered Face Swap and Kandy Krush in the process. He gave me a ridiculously long email account and spelt it out whilst using the phonetic language. I had no Internet. There was no nearby Costa to steal the Wi-Fi.

Foxtrot. Uniform. Charlie. Kilo.

The subject line was a simple ‘help,’ but it wouldn’t send. I was so frustrated, wanting to bury my head in my cut hands. He asked us if we had warm clothes and phone battery. He spoke with such a casual composure, I genuinely thought he was going to suggest we camp out over night. We had no food, water, and a dying phone. Luckily, he said he knew where we were as my phone had a GPS signal.

He told us to wait and the helicopter would be with us shortly.  We awaited aerial salvation.

I gushed with joy as I heard the rotor blades over head in the nightime sky. We shook our phones in the air, we probably looked like a couple of middle-aged men at a rave dancing with glow sticks. The helicopter proceeded to fly past in the distance and then all we heard was silence. Had they given up on us already?

Come back… please? We were both silently worried, our hopes crushed once more. It was worst than that day I discovered Santa was a fictional character.

Ten minutes later, the rotor blades noise reappeared. We again flew our arms in the air, I even tried out a desperate yell into the dark abyss. I shone the torch against the tomb wall in the hope they would see it against the stone. The chopper slowly edged closer like a shy child  being introduced to the new house cat for the first time. A striking bold light from the chopper illuminated the area and we could finally see everything.

I got a muffled phone call from them. All I could make out it was stay where you are.  

For once, I did what i was told. It felt like an enormous relief to hear someone. I could feel my inner goddess jumping with joy!

Suddenly torches appeared in the distance, and then near the little outhouse. What was going on, I thought we were going to get airlifted out of here? It felt odd to see another human being after so long. More torches appeared from the other side of the tomb, people had worked out where we were. As they came over, they said they had found the patients. 

Luckily, it turned out to be International Rescue the Coastguard Team. They asked if we had any injuries. I saw only a few scratches, bites and cuts. But mostly a wounded ego.

First Date is it? They asked. Last Date! I joked. Maybe we should have gone to the Isle of Fernando’s.

As they walked us up back to safety, they asked what we were doing here, I made up that we were just going for a curious jaunt down Portland beach and our  curiosity was peaked by the random tomb, whilst I slyly hid my map with Urbexing locations on it.

They remarked that they were luckily in the area after a neighbour had earlier phoned them in regard to a mysteriously floating kayak with nobody in. They reassuringly said it was very sensible to call the Coastguard in this situation. They usually get a lot of calls from confused people with mental problems.

Well you found us, I retorted.

Apparently they could see our heat signatures, it looked like I had a big red head. I did have a red face funnily enough!

They told us about the history of the rifle range, but I was to relieved that the ordeal was over. My legs were so achey, I felt like I was being pulled into the ground, my cuts on my fingers were stinging. My hands, arms, legs and shoulders were covered in cut marks, I looked like I’d be dancing the Salsa with Edward Scissorhands.

We climbed the punishing cliff steps back to the car. It reminded me of the fatigue and acheyness I’d felt when I’d done eight rounds of the dreaded ‘beep test‘ at Secondary School PE lessons. Yet this time  there was no portly geriatric in a damp polo shirt organising it.

We were rewarded by water as we got back. It felt cool and refreshing as I knocked it down, ending my dryness. Three Coastguard trucks were parked up by the car, and the guys all seemed quite joyous than we had provided them with an adventure.

IMG_20160721_245920503My better urbex you can see on my Urbex Blogs, and this made an interesting story to tell! Galavanting across dangerous rocks in the dark was not the wisest of my ideas. Neither was shaving my chest hair the other week, but now its grown back a bit, it looks normal.

We went home via McDonalds for a 1am in the morning feast, the sights of teenagers in their pyjamas and Onesies wolfing down Big Macs was actually quite soothing. My scratches were stinging, but I was to busy guzzling  down saturated fats.

Despite the gentle waft of fattening animal grease and banter of social-media enthused acne-faced youngsters,  I’d never been so happier to be under the warm inviting glow of the Golden Arches and bad cholestrol.

Note: I once posted this on the 28 days  later urbexing forum. It wasn’t a pretty response

One such cyber panther said “Your a fat unfit w****r who needs to stay at home in front of the telly…”.

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28 thoughts on “Urban Exploring – Rescued By the Coastguard

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