Saturday 25 August 2012

Highdown Rocket Site

Finally managed to pay the Highdown Rocket Site on the Isle of Wight a visit. I have gone on about Highdown elsewhere on this blog so I will not go into to much detail here, and drone on about it all over again, apart from to say that Highdown, was the static test area for the UK's Black Arrow and Black Knight rockets from 1954-1972. Have to admit I was very excited about finally visiting this place, and must say I was not disappointed. The former control rooms of the site now house the exhibition space, which is small, but very informative with lots of old black and white photos of men dressed in lab coats sitting at banks of equipment. It all looks and feels very much like something out of an old Quatermass film. At times you can almost feel the excitement and enthusiasm that these scientists must have had, knowing that they were working (on a very tight budget) on what could be the UK's own independent space program. Alas it was not to be and after one successful Satellite launch (Prospero) the UK Rocket/Space program was shut down, and the Highdown Test Site was dismantled and all but forgotten. Then in 2003 volunteers and the National Trust started to clear the site. It was finally opened to the public in 2004, but is definitely an on going process of restoration. Its a bit of a hike to the Highdown site, but if you drive its only £4 to park for the day at the Needles car park. Then its a bimble along the cliff path to the Needles Battery. The only mistake I made that day was to go into the Needles park, which is pretty dire and grim (over priced fast food and very dodgy coffee)
I managed to climb down and get into the observation blockhouse. This is where the safety Officer monitored the static tests at the gantries to the left and right of the blockhouse.
Inside the blockhouse
Gantry One
Some of the equipment, on display in the old control room.


  1. Amazing stuff - someone needs to start up a 'Rocket Group' site for this kind of thing! Hmmm..

  2. Old chap I know called Quatermass said he just might be interested.