IN the Fifties the huge underground Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker – that could house up to 600 military and civilian personnel, possibly even the Prime Minister – was built with the purpose of organising the survival of the population in the awful aftermath of a nuclear war.

The bunker has gone through three incarnations – initially as an RAF Rotor (air defence) Station and latterly a Regional Government Headquarters, with a brief period in the Sixties as a civil defence centre.

There were also spare bunk beds in the tunnel, to help accommodate some of the hundreds of civilian and military personnel that would be stationed there in time of nuclear attack.

The bunker was built on land requisitioned from local farmer J A Parrish. The bunker is built 38 metres underground and the entrance is through an ordinary looking bungalow set among trees. The inside of the bungalow leads to a 91 metre tunnel entering the bunker at its lowest floor (of three). Above are two more floors, the “hill”

which covers it, and a radio mast.

The bunker was able to accommodate hundreds of personnel and could sustain them for up to three months.

The bunker has air conditioning and heating, its own water supply and generator. It was also equipped with many types of radio equipment, protected telecommunications, teleprinter networks and various military systems.

As the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker and its ancillary systems were no longer required by the Government. Upon decommissioning in 1992, the bunker was bought back from the government by the Parrish family who still operate it today as a tourist attraction, with a museum focusing on its Cold War history.

Today the site also has a treetop high-wire adventure course, plus archery, quad bikes, air gun and paintball range, water tag and much more to make a full day out for all the family.

Many locals – and indeed BBC TV’s Top Gear – appreciate the irony of the many brown tourist road signs in the area, clearly directing people to the “Secret Nuclear Bunker”.

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