diamond geezer

 Friday, September 23, 2022

TQ0875: Heathrow Airport

Last time we spoke I'd resigned myself to never stepping inside grid square TQ0875. It lay behind the security perimeter at Heathrow Airport and alas I'd never taken a flight from Terminal 2B. You had other ideas.

"Have you considered and excluded what appears to be a dead-end lane in the north-east corner of TQ0875?" asked Colly.
"It looks like the Google car got to the end of that if it's Exeter Road," said MKIan.
"I'll try to walk there tomorrow to see if it is accessible," said Sophie, following up with "Here's an Imgur link to my visit to the grid square".

So it was doable.
So I gave it a go.

The eastern end of Heathrow Airport is a forbidding zone of hangars, backroom services and securely fenced-off apron. But there have to be access roads, and there are, and it wasn't clear from maps how public these might be.

Eastchurch Road bears off from the Hatton Cross roundabout, just north of the tube station, signposted towards 'BA East & West Bases'. It's mainly accessed by airport vehicles, but twin pavements and a blue sign saying Pedestrians convinced me it wasn't off-limits to those on foot. One side of the road's mostly bus depot and car parking but the other is full-on airport, with half a dozen big British Airways planes parked up inbetween flights. Expect the whiff of jet fuel in the air. As you follow the road BA's enormous technical blocks grow ever closer, twin temples to the gods of maintenance, plus a concrete multi-storey and a mega-hangar formerly owned by British Midland. Still pavement, still no signs saying "don't", so let's continue.

Exeter Road is the second turning off the first turning on the left, past an aircraft maintenance company's yard designed for messy practicality. And then things start funnelling down, the pavement now questionable and with high security fences on both sides. The ugly grey hulk on the right is the Virgin Atlantic Engineering Hangar, from which serviced jets head out onto the taxiway, and beyond that a large blastable space where fire practices can be held. Behind the barrier is a scorched green fuselage which gets used by safety crews togged up in full gear when practising how to rescue passengers should a plane catch fire. And if you get as far as seeing that you've entered TQ0875. Yippee!

There is a certain geographical ridiculousness that getting this far into Heathrow is even possible. The tip of Exeter Road is very nearly in line with the ends of the runways, and almost halfway inbetween, and exists only to serve a security checkpoint and two barriers into the airport proper. Thankfully I didn't need to go quite that far - simply stepping into TQ0875 had been uncomfortable enough - so I grabbed a few souvenir photos and started to head back. This was when the police turned up.

Heathrow's byelaws are impressively vague regarding behaviour on their land, perhaps because they apply equally to travellers in the terminals and miscreants intent on trespass. "No person shall loiter, frequent or remain on the Airport without reasonable cause", they say, and also "No person shall remain on the Airport after having been requested by a Constable or an Airport Official to leave." I was all ready to explain that at no point had I seen a sign telling me not to be here, and also praying I wouldn't end up confessing I was only here on a map-ticking challenge, when to my relief they drove straight past. They drove straight past me on the way back too, suggesting that venturing this far was fine after all, but I was still very relieved when I finally reached the tube station and slunk away unchallenged.

So yes, I have now stood in every 1km×1km grid square in Greater London. I think this may be a genuinely unique achievement.

🟨=1463, 🟩=0, 🟦=0, 🟥=0

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