Structures you will pass on your walk

The Red, Blue and Green visitor trails are open and you will pass many buildings. All the public buildings are now open and you can discover what went on over the last 100 years or so. Some are housing displays as part of 'Afterness' exhibition - see foot of page.

Radar Receiver/NAAFI Building and Island of Secrets exhibition is open with limited capacity and a one way system. Interactive displays not available yet.

Radar Receiver/NAAFI Building Orford Ness
Radar Receiver/NAAFI Building Orford Ness
Radar Receiver/NAAFI Building Orford Ness

This building was initially part of an Officer's Mess. In the 1930s it became the receiver building for Radio Direction Finding (RDF) experiments, later called Radar. During the Second World War it was used as a centre for social activities and in the mid 50s became the site Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI) Building.

Recently it has become the main exhibition area and the home of Island of Secrets, a new display covering periods from World War 1 through to the Cold War.

Over the past few years we have been gathering the memories of people who worked on the Ness during its life as a top secret military testing site. Island of Secrets incorporates their words into a timeline of military experiments carried out in the 20th century. This display answers many intriguing questions such as "Can we put a gun in a plane?", "How can you stop a bomber?" and "Were they really dropping nuclear bombs in Suffolk?". A real (decommissioned) atomic bomb is part of the display - see picture gallery above.

The exhibition also features audio-visual content featuring the actual voices of those who worked here. The content can be accessed via your smart phone or the touch screen tablet inside the exhibition.

The NAAFI also houses interactive and static displays about the habitats, wildlife, nature conservation management and research work carried out here.

Information Building -  Artangel reception

Information Building Orford Ness
Orford Ness Information Building
Information Building Orford Ness

This former site headquarters, briefly the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment administrative base, then became the security office and a telephone exchange. For over 20 years it served as the main Information Building for visitors but is now used mainly for temporary exhibitions.

Bomb Ballistics

Bomb Ballistics on Orford Ness
Bomb Ballistics on Orford Ness
Bomb Ballistics on Orford Ness

Built in 1933 to house advanced technical equipment, this was the centre of operations for the bombing range. In use for over 40 years you can learn how the bombing range operated and evolved at the forefront of ballistics testing. Climb to the roof for a panoramic view across the shingle.

Black Beacon

Climb The Black Beacon for views across the sea and shingle
The Black Beacon on Orford Ness
Climb The Black Beacon for views across the sea and shingle

Built to house an experimental radio apparatus, this enigmatic building housed a secret - a marine navigation beacon to the outside world but in reality a homing beacon for military aircraft. This area was later the site of the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment technical HQ and telemetry station, which have been demolished. Climb to the upper level viewing station for views across the sea and shingle.

Currently houses 'Library of sounds'

Power House

The Power House standing beside the Black Beacon supplied the enormous amount of power needed.
Power House and Black Beacon on Orford Ness
The Power House standing beside the Black Beacon supplied the enormous amount of power needed.

Standing next to the Black Beacon, yet built four years after it, the generator inside supplied power to the 'marine navigation beacon'. The beacon had been powered from elsewhere on site - why did it need a generator now? A power cable also ran out to the newly built Bomb Ballistics building some distance away. Look inside to learn about the spit's natural history.

Control Room and Hard Target

Hard Target on Orford Ness
Hard Target on Orford Ness
Hard Target on Orford Ness

Built in 1956, the Control Room functioned initially as the control centre for Laboratory 1, before becoming control room for the Hard Target Impact facility. The room now contains displays about AWRE.

Laboratory 1

Laboratory 1 on Orford Ness.
Laboratory 1 on Orford Ness. The first atomic weapon test cell
Laboratory 1 on Orford Ness.

Again completed in 1956, this was the first of six atomic weapons test cells constructed by AWRE from Aldermaston. It was used for for both mechanical and vibration testing and for drop tests.

Currently houses 'The Residents'.