Structures you will pass on your walk
Many of the buildings on Orford Ness are open to visitors. Some of these are designated as Listed Buildings or Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Do go in and learn more about this special place, its history and the people who worked here. Use them to gain an elevated position for a different perspective of the Ness.
Radar Receiver/NAAFI Building and Island of Secrets exhibition
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.
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. While there are still some displays on the Ness in the building - including the aerial photo, pre-military history and the 'Top Secret' signage, artist Anthony Lyons is using four rooms in the building to develop his new art installation Sensitive Chaos. For more information, see Sensitive Chaos on Orford Ness.
" A wonderful exhibition! Many thanks for a great day."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.