RogerBW's Blog

Boom Today: Didcot Southern Cooling Tower Demolition 27 July 2014

Too early this morning, I went to Wittenham to watch the demolition of the southern cooling towers at Didcot. Images follow: cc-by-sa on everything.

Supposedly in order to try to avoid crowds, the exact time hadn't been announced, just a window of 3-5am (local sunrise was at 5.20). I turned up with a friend about 2am, to get a decent spot on the Wittenham Clumps, a little under three and a half miles from the towers. (Parking was provided by the Earth Trust, which is based just across the road.)

Obviously this called for reasonably serious photography, so I brought along the Pentax K10D with an 80-320mm f/4.5 zoom lens. I set it up on a tripod and sighted in on the towers; thanks go to John who lent me an infra-red remote release, so that I was able to trigger the shutter without touching the thing.

As the sky gradually got lighter, it became apparent that there were 500 or so people waiting for the shot.

The demolition firm had claimed they'd fire a maroon before the actual blast, but we didn't in the end get any warning at all, so while I saw the whole collapse (at just about 5am) I wasn't able to photograph all of it.

…and the rest is dust (at which point the lovely rolling thunderous sound arrived), and everyone going home.

Let's enhance that first shot of the towers falling, pushing brightness and contrast, and going to monochrome to get rid of spurious colour grain:

Here's some video taken by other people:

Fairly official-looking

Third party

I don't often do early mornings, but (as with the Midsummer Madness bike ride that I used to do in London) it's sometimes very pleasing to see the sky getting lighter and the transition from night to day.


  1. Posted by John Dallman at 09:06am on 27 July 2014

    It made the BBC Radio 4 news this morning, apparently because so many people turned up.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 10:43am on 27 July 2014

    "Nothing brings people together like 180kg of explosives."

    Those towers have been the visual mnemonic for southern Oxfordshire for really quite a long time. I don't know anyone who'd admit to liking them, but one still feels a certain impact at seeing them go.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 08:27pm on 27 July 2014

    I spent a couple of decades driving past the cooling towers next to the Tinsley Viaduct on the M1. Then they demolished them, and these were the only remaining 1930s cooling towers in the UK. I still feel their absence when I drive up the M1, and it's been years since they were demolished.

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