HLS: A mute and detached domain

On Sunday at 5:30pm I met with Adam and Allegra to go and explore Huntingdon Life Sciences old headquarters – a dilapidated building on acres of ground just between Huntingdon and St Ives. The plan was hatched over a few drinks in the Falcon one evening and before we knew it the day had come around and we were stood under the clock tower in Houghton square.

We left the village square and cycled up the Thicket path that connects Houghton and St Ives, stopping just before the path meets the River Great Ouse. We checked our location on Adam’s phone and this confirmed that we were now parallel with the premises. We lifted the bikes over a stile and ascended a grassy footpath that lead up to the top of a hill. I, myself, had never been up this secluded footpath and I was surprised when we turned around to expansive views of St Ives, the Hemingfords, and further beyond toward Godmanchester and the Offords.

We continued on to the back of this field where we could make out a warning sign nailed to a tree. The sign was, as we had assumed, put in place to deter wanders from entering into the land on which the Life Sciences buildings were located.

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Over a barbed-wire fence the grass had grown to around 3 foot in height and made the perfect hiding spot for our bikes. We laid them down in the long grass and then took our first cautious steps into a mute and detached domain. It was truly separate, a sphere in which everything had been laid to disregard – it could have been a thousand miles away.

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As we neared the first building we made sure not to step out into the path of the ever-watchful security cameras – of which there were many, all strategically placed. We bent through brambles and dense wooded areas before reaching a fenced off outdoor swimming pool. A cover had been spread over the pool, most of which was thick with a layer of moss and mildew. We were all studying something, occupied in our own thoughts, when the silence was broken by the unmistakable sound of footsteps. We all froze but the footsteps persisted and edged closer. There had been rumours of guard dogs on the land and I think, for a moment, each of us feared the worst. Adam spooked first and shouted ‘dogs’ to Allegra and me, preparing himself to flee, when an equally wet muntjac startled and fled swiftly into the trees.

After another 30 minutes attempting to find a route into the main building – a kind of manor house covered with beautiful bay windows and ornate stone carvings – we accepted defeat and made do with the easily accessible outbuildings.

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LifeSciences-2412LifeSciences-2416 LifeSciences-2471 LifeSciences-2462 LifeSciences-2449These buildings still made for good examination but I couldn’t help imagining what the grand redbrick manor kept concealed from us. LifeSciences-2473

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