“ Hack Green has played a central role in the defence of Britain for almost sixty years. As you approach Hack Green over the picturesque farmland and rolling Cheshire countryside, it's hard to imagine a more peaceful location, but it was not always like this! „
A while back I won one of the many raffle tickets at my kids school fate, (whippeee), and the prize in this case was a family ticket to visit Hack Green Secret Nuclear Bunker. As I had never heard of the place I decided to have a look and see what was so fascinating, plus, the entrance fee wouldn't cost me a penny so off we went
** A BIT ABOUT HACK GREEN and THE BUNKER...
Firstly, it was used as a military base in the shape of a 'Starfish site' during the second world war. (For those unclear about what a starfish site is, Starfish is was the code name for a military operation which involved setting fire to open land so as to confuse attacking 'Luftwaffe' during air raids. The 'Starfish sites' were ignited with the intentions of protecting major towns, and in Hack Greens case the area was used to protect the Railway junction in Crewe).
Later, in the 1950s, a Ground control interceptor was added and the site was modernised to become part of a 'ROTOR' project, to protect Britain from a possible Russian Nuclear attack, by constructing an underground concrete bunker.
RAF Hack Green, or Mersey Radar as it was also known, was then able to give air traffic control service to military aircraft in the area.
Then, sadly, the site became derelict until the Home Office stepped in and rebuilt the bunker as a Government Headquarters, (one of 17 in the country), and being redesigned to be capable of being used in the event of a nuclear war.
Then, when the Home Office sold off all the site when the threat of a Russian nuclear strike lightened, Hack Green was bought by a private company and, in 1998, opened to the public and given a 'Cold War' theme.
It is now home to a great selection of nuclear missiles, (decommissioned), and many other historical war memorabilia.
There is also a tour which takes you through the story of how the bunker was run in the case of a nuclear strike during the Cold war against Russia.
There is a BBC film/ documentary called 'The War Game' which shows what may happen during a nuclear strike against Britain, but this film is definitely not for children
Plus, There is a fantastic game called 'Cold War Spy Mouse' which involves the younger visitors looking out for little mice scattered around the bunker. This is set up to entertain and educate the younger children and to stop them getting bored during the tour around the bunker.
This can be a little tricky but luckily there are plenty of rather large brown signs directing you to the so called secret bunker.
The actual address is...
French Lane End
Which is situated in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, just off the A530, Whitchurch road, near Nantwich. Less than half hour from Chester.
** OPENING TIMES...
* The summer months:
March till October is 10.30am until 5.30pm every day
* The Winter months:
Open at the weekends only 10.00 until 4.30pm
Although closed during December
But it is open during the school holidays during February and October.
Pensioners and student: £5.90 (proof is required)
Children, wheelchair user + carers: £4.50
Family ticket: £19.00 (2+2)
Each extra child: £3.50
Pre- booked group prices are for a minimum of 10 people and are:
Pensioners and students: £5.50
Children/ wheel chair users + carers: £4.00
There are also guided tours which run through the evening and take a look behind the scenes of the bunker, these prices are:
* TOILET FACILITIES are available inside the bunker, near the stairwell leading down to the lower floor, these consist of men's, women's and disabled
** IN CONCLUSION...
It was a bit of a drive, (the cordoned off slip road didn't help either), but we plodded on regardless, ignoring the diversion signs, relying more on instinct.
When I finally got there along the snaking roads surrounded by some great scenic farmland, the first thing I noticed was the massive aerial in the distance as we approached.
I pulled up in the small car park, noticing the front end of a fighter jet in front of some military trucks, and also what looks like an anti tank gun set onto a grassed verge.
Outside the bunker, just off the small car park, I noticed two Army vehicles which sit in front of a Hanger, plus the nose section of an F-4 phantom, although you can not climb on any of them, which my kids found a little disappointing.
Anyway, the pathway round the left side of the building slopes upwards towards a small door with plastic flaps blocking the way, the slope being for wheel chair user, although it does seem a little steep for this purpose. There are also steps up to the same door which hug the side of the building.
Once inside you are greeted by an array of military hardware, mainly missiles, which are on show behind a small barrier.
Then as you walk through this small room towards the door at the far end you enter the 'payment' area, which is basically a restaurant where you pay for your entrance over a counter, before passing through a turnstile into the main section of the restaurant.
It is here where the kids will be given a map of the bunker and told to count the number of hidden mice within, marking them on the sheet as they go, also looking out for the King Rat, which is quite scary in itself and is hidden in the ....(ha ha,I'm not going to tell you that am I).
At the end of the tour the map is handed in with a guess of how many mice are in the building, a certificate is awarded for close guesses.
Now you are ready for your tour of the Secret Bunker.... (leave the restaurant until the end as you will exit the same way you came in).
The actual tour is easy to follow as each room is numbered and the map you are given is so easy to understand.
There are many rooms to visit on two floors, with some steep steps leading back up from the lower level, and each room offers some very interesting facts about life during the cold war with the many control rooms, sleeping quarters, missile room and much more on show, including some rather well hidden mice for your kids to find.
As you walk into a room the lights and speakers start up and as you walk out the lights go off, This does save on electricity for the owners but if you stand still for too long in a room the lights will go out, leaving you in darkness until you move once more.
The actual walk around, or tour, can last a while, depending on how long you spend in each room reading the information, and can be quite interesting indeed, plus, with the kids looking for the hidden mice they are actually unintentionally learning as they look, which is a great idea for stealth education.
I think I spent nearly two hours inside, with a brief pit stop in the restaurant, although the prices in there were on the high side, so do try taking a packed lunch as you can leave the building to have a bite to eat outside and return without having to pay again, the military dressed staff at the counter will give you a pass to get back in.
The walk round was nice and gentle, although the stairs back up were a little more steep than the ones going down and there is a lot to see as you wonder around, giving you a little insight into how the Bunker was run during a cold war and how the people who worked there actually lived.
There is a lot of fascinating things to see during the tour, including the BBC conference room and some Soviet historical matters. In fact, there is so much to see you will probably miss many things on a single walk round and the good thing is you can walk around as many times as you want on one entrance fee.
There are a few scary parts of the tour, including a rather grim hospital section depicting a victim of a nuclear strike so do be prepared, especially with younger children around.
It is another great look into the history of Britain and is a very interesting place to see, plus, with the brilliant idea of the Kids game of searching for the hidden mice it actually does keep the kids interested in a way. My kids were quite impressed with what they saw as they searched for the mice, in fact, my youngest, who's 7, was telling her Nan about everything she had seen when we arrived home and what she was saying actually made good sense.
In all, a good day out for the family with a very delightful drive to and from. The entrance fee is reasonable although the restaurant prices certainly make up for that.
Give it a go you'll learn something new about something old.