Three metal giants guard the river bank. A fourth tilts precariously in the river itself, almost as if about to wade ashore. Like the cooling towers, it’s only as you approach them that you appreciate their true size. The ground surrounding them freshly turned over by the rooting of wild boar. The bucket of the closest crane swings gently in the breeze snapped open at tree level.
Like many things in the zone, it’s often not the part that looks scary that actually is. Having selected my crane, and with one hand firmly covering the handrail, I start to make my way up the first set of steps. Reassuringly these are actual steps rather than the ladders that can be seen clinging to the higher levels however it’s not long before they develop a worrying wobble and a disturbing list towards the river. Once, thankfully, onto the solid metal frame it becomes clear that just one bolt, albeit welded in place, supports the steps. Entering the engine room, dominated by the winding drum, all seems in good condition and very complete to my untrained eye. The same cannot be said of the operator’s cab which is now stripped of all controls and home to a range of plant life.
I’m not overly fond of heights, having tried and failed at cranes before, but focusing on the solid mass of metal in front of me allows me to climb the ladders above. Things get slightly unnerving as the safety cage covering the ladder ends and the ladder above me flexes as I continue to climb. “Hold on tight” shouts the guide from below. I have absolutely no intention of doing anything but.
As I reach the end of the ladder it is no longer bolted in place which explains the swaying. Balanced on the tilted platform the view from the top is quite surreal with Reactor 4 dominating the skyline in front of me and behind, across the river, beautiful wooded landscape stretches into the distance. I loiter at the top trying to take it all in and putting off the long climb down for as long as possible.
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