How many of us have snoozed our way through Didcot Parkway en route to Oxford on a train from Paddington? In both directions, the cooling towers of the power station have formed an unforgettable backdrop for forty years. I heard last year that the power station had closed, and was due for demolition. As an anticipatory memorial (but not quite a requiem) I took a picture last winter (below) of the cooling towers on a very strange, hurly-burly winter’s day with scudding black clouds and intense sunlight.
A few months later, this past July 27, Sunday at 05.01, three very large bangs were heard in succession, followed by momentous wobbling and sagging and crashing and roaring. 36,000 tons of rubble and a vast cloud of dust replaced three cooling towers.
It’s worth Googling “Didcot demolition” to see film footage of the demolition, the better quality official film less of a giggle than the amateur film footage by camera, with funny nonsense that onlookers can be heard to say as the cooling towers disappear, such as “Why did they do that…?” “Oh don’t be f****** funny – they had to…” and so forth. Beery banter at 5am on a random Sunday.
Only on my next trip to Oxford did I realize that there were still three more cooling towers over the Didcot horizon! It turns out that they too will be blown up between now and the end of 2016, but for now they remain. If you are missing the vision of the towers don’t delay in securing a late viewing.
According to an npower press release, the demolition experts Coleman & Company will continue their work with the other towers, and “the safety of the local community will continue to be their priority”. That last bit appears to be code for blowing the stacks in the middle of the night to prevent anyone seeing it, and not telling anyone when precisely it will occur – the cause of a petition this past summer.
The press release continues, “RWE's gas-fired power station, Didcot B, will continue to play a role in the local landscape of Didcot and will mean that Didcot will remain a centre of electricity generation for many years to come.” I’m not sure what they mean by landscape, but it seems certain that in the not-too-distant future the iconic cooling towers will be gone forever.
Main image by Martyn Bull under Creative Commons license