It all makes sense, once you know what you’re looking at. The 200 acres of thickly wooded hillside, inaccessible by public footpath; the radio mast strategically poking out on top; the hidden entrance, just off the A44 near Evesham, in Worcestershire, surrounded by CCTV cameras and a high-security barrier. But to the passing motorist, there is nothing about Wood Norton Hall to identify it as the site of the BBC’s secret nuclear bunker.
Who knew there even was such a thing? The BBC would certainly rather we didn’t. It emerged recently that, from tomorrow, the continuity announcers at Radio 4 will decamp there for three weeks while a Â£1bn refurbishment is finished at Broadcasting House, London. However, a corporation source declined to confirm or deny the story. They would rather not discuss what goes on at Wood Norton, she said, and no, The Independent on Sunday was certainly not welcome to come and visit.
So, what don’t they want us to see?
According to the official line, Wood Norton is a training camp, where sound engineers are sent for residential weekends. That is certainly one function: zoom in on Google Earth and you see a compound of modern buildings nestled in the woods which, according to engineers who have visited the site, are equipped with the latest high-tech facilities. Other blocks house accommodation and a canteen. But it’s what you can’t see from above the ground that is intriguing.
Buried 10 storeys into the hillside is a fully functioning nuclear bunker, built at great expense in 1966, at the height of the Cold War. So few people knew of its existence that, even when it was being built, visiting trainees were told not to ask why all that concrete was being mixed. Those involved in its construction were obliged to sign the Official Secrets Act, and even now you won’t get a peep out of the BBC press office to acknowledge the reality.
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