Way back when I was first beginning the hobby of Urban Exploration in the UK, I visited a site fairly close to home. The Grain Tower is located on a mud-flat at the east end of the Isle of Grain and is a well-known spot for exploration. Access is only for a few hours at low tide however, and gaining entry to the main building can be tricky.
Built in 1855, it defended both the entrance to the River Medway and the sea front of Sheerness. It has been heavily modified since the original construction though, with guns dismounted and added, particularly during the Second World War. There was originally a jetty, but now the only way to visit is to sludge across the remains of a stone path about half a mile out to sea.
My explorer buddy Dave and I both donned fashionable Tesco carrier bags to keep our feet mud-free and dry. Fortunately most of the path was solid and we got through without issue, but as a note to future visitors, plastic bags on your feet rarely stay free of holes. The return journey was a mucky experience!
As mentioned, the tower and fortifications have been modified quite a lot since the original tower was built, leaving a mishmash of features. One interesting point is the huge chain wrapped around the tower.
This was part of the Naval boom defence implemented during the First World War to prevent submarines from breaking through to the river Medway. The chain and attached nets would stretch all the way across from Grain Tower to Garrison Point Fort at Sheerness and would be raised or lowered to allow ships to pass through. Now it has attained a beautiful rusty colour.
Getting inside the tower was difficult. The steps have long since crumbled away from the rising and falling tides, but thankfully at the time we went another explorer had left a scratchy piece of rope dangling down the side. We managed to pull ourselves up a metre or two onto the remaining steps and gained access.
Inside was a fairly barren landscape. Long since gutted and mauled by the sea elements, only empty husks of rooms remained with cracking paint and eroding brickwork. The stairs to the stop of the watchtower were in a terrible state, with the metal supports showing through the concrete. Despite a howling wind, I braved the climb the to top and took in the views from the observation room.
The sun was beginning to go down and the tide starting to come back in, so we didn’t have long, but were treated to some rather nice views. A very British sort of seaside, I think. Just the right amount of dreggy sands and rotten timber, but still quite pretty.
As you can see in the next picture, the remains of one of the gun turrets is still there, with the telltale circular array of bolts for fastening down the huge gun pedestal.
The original guns were removed in 1929 and then a new 6-pounder QF gun installed in July 1940. This was to take on the German E and S motor torpedo boats with a very high rate of fire. A new electric ammunition lift was installed to speedily supply rounds to the upper parts of the fortification.
The light was almost gone now, so we amused ourselves by trying light paintings inside the old barracks. Dave managed a rather good job with the mermaid, although I’m not sure the personnel who operated the tower would have encountered many!
I didn’t have my E-P1 at this time, so the photographs are of lower quality than I usually post. This place is wonderful when shot with long exposures at dusk, so it’d be nice to return someday.
Incidentally, Grain Tower Battery is up for sale, should you want to own a haikyo of your own. A bargain at 500,000 British pounds for one of the more unique ruins out there! :)