May 2013, visited with Larzz
This cokes plant, located on the bank of the river Sambre, is part of a very large steal mill that once was the pride of the Belgian steel industry. All the different components of the steel making process are pretty well clustered on this particular site. Over the years however, the cokes factory became more and more cost ineffective. Combined with an increasing environmental impact, the cokes plant got shutdown. As a result, the neighboring high furnace lost it’s purpose and became more expensive to operate. After many years of uncertainty, they finally pulled the plug completely in 2012.
As we approach the first building, looking for a way onto the actual factory grounds, we hear the distinct sounds of metal under stress. It sounds like someone has found a way up one of the conveyors, despite the large amount of razor wire. Besides thinking about how crazy this person must be (the structure appears very unstable) we try to pinpoint his exact location. After several minutes it turns out the wind is playing tricks on us by flapping a piece sheet metal up and down. So we continue along the railway and find a more easy way to access the factory grounds.
On the roof of the largest building, more sheet metal is being pulled up by the wind, so we stay alert for any hazardous situations. The site reminds me of the scenes from Call of Duty 4 were you have to complete several missions near Chernobyl. The empty vans, the containers, the oil drums, they all watch us as we slowly creep closer to the center of the plant.
We finds signs of demolition works as we snap our photos and try to grasp the magnitude of this industrial site. The buildings tower above us like giants. These once industrial marvels are now no more than assemblies of rusty metal parts, concrete and dust.
As we enter the small trade union building and drop our gear to take a short break, Larzz spots a car approaching at the far end of the fallow terrain. At first I freeze because I am standing in the middle of the doorway. I slowly move back, grabbing my tripod and backpack before hiding in a small room what appears to have been a meeting room of some sort. The car keeps approaching but it doesn’t look as if it has seen me. Luckily the position of the sun is in our favor. Very tense seconds pass by as we see the car approach our location and finally comes to a standstill next to the building we are in. A man with the word SECURITY written on the back of his t-shirt gets out. I’m trying to get my best words of French together to explain to him what we are doing here while we wait and watch his every move from a broken window on the second floor of the building… The security guard goes out of sight behind the small building across the narrow road and reappears moments later before getting back into his jeep. The adrenaline slowly fades away in the minutes that pass after the car drove away. It seems we dodged the bullet once again (no pun intended; the man wasn’t armed).
After having ensured ourselves the car wasn’t going to make a round trip we sneak further towards the far end of the site but find few interesting things. Heading back to our starting point, we enter another building. Here we discover a very large shower and locker room. The lockers are still filled with personal belongings. In one of the lockers we even found a diary holding love letters and pictures of a woman and child. Having checked almost every locker in here (it’s amazing what people leave behind) we check out the remaining parts of the site sort of doubling back to our starting point.
Having walked almost a full circle we decide to call it a day since there are some other locations we want to check out as well.
We covered a lot of distance on this site, spending almost half a day to make it all the way round.
POV helmet cam footage:
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