The Browndown Mushroom, Gosport
Britain is littered with bizarre features that would never have existed were it not for heavy capital investment in the defence of the Realm. Whilst schools and hospitals compete against each other - and private business - for public funding, one must question whether Britain’s military spending is fully justified. During the current illegal and counter-productive conflict, I have often momentarily thought not - until astonishing legacies of military activity have presented themselves before me. These revelations have been numerous, and come always without disappointment.
The Gosport peninsula, a triangular area of land enclosing the western side of Portsmouth Harbour, is particularly rich in such things. Impressive derelict forts that have never seen action, a large aircraft hangar with no runways, old town ramparts, a ‘secret’ military intelligence school, a submarine escape training water-tower and a vast Georgian military hospital. These are just a few of the wonders on offer. All can be enjoyed by the casual onlooker more for the queries that they pose than any assurances that they might deliver.
Many military structures have a highly attractive pointlessness. They are neither useful nor decorative. This obviously provides great interest and value to the aesthete. The structure pictured here, which I have taken the liberty of fondly naming the ‘Browndown Mushroom’, is a perfect example. A brutal concrete fabrication, some twenty-five feet tall, it stands isolated on the extensive shingle beach that is Browndown Military Training Area. Perhaps some kind of vent, the mushroom’s gills are of steel mesh - and it is definitely not a platform. Its original purpose a total mystery, this entity has the power to perplex, impress and amuse all at once. Whilst delighting in such things, one can be absolutely satisfied that corpulent military spending should never be challenged.