It’s already two years since Greenham Control Tower opened to the public.
The 1950s Control Tower was unused for over twenty years, but in 2018 it was re-opened as a visitor centre and community café, and has become a much-used and well-loved local community hub and centre of international historical significance.
The iconic Grade 2-listed Greenham Common Control Tower played an important part in Britain’s role in The Cold War in the 1970s and 1980s. At its height it oversaw the operation of the longest runway in Europe.
Before the building of an airfield, Greenham Common was a piece of common land. It was used for troop movements during the English Civil War and in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For some of that time it also had a firing range at its Western end.
When the airbase closed in 1992, the Control Tower was left abandoned and fell into a poor state of repair. Led by Councillor Julian-Swift Hook, Greenham Parish Council fought a long and determined campaign to save the Tower, and finally bought the building in 2014. They did so with the goal of saving and ultimately restoring this remarkable historical military building for the future. The Parish Council, with a few hard-working councillors, staff and volunteers, worked hard to get it open in September 2018.
What can you do there?
Once the building opened, it quickly found its feet as a popular destination. The building also has the support of many keen volunteers both in the café and as stewards. Its Trip Advisor rating currently is 4.5 of 5, a great result for a new attraction.
Currently you can enjoy a guided tour of the building at the weekend. Covid precautions are in operation for groups of up to six people. You can explore the past of Greenham Common as a military base, airfield, and Cold War site upstairs in the Museum area. From the top floor Observation Area, you get a panoramic view across the common, and can find out how it looked as an airfield in the past. There is a replica of the desk used by air traffic controllers when “the base” was operational.
The café is open from Wednesday to Sunday each week , outside in the land alongside the Tower with a range of drinks and light snacks.
You can also volunteer to help in the café or as a steward.
Before these unusual times, The Control Tower was available for use by local community groups subject to availability and space, and for private hire and filming subject to availability. The tower is operating slightly differently during this unusual period, but continues to see a lot of customers for the café. They are gradually increasing the attractions for visitors, with several exciting projects planned for the future.
So, two years on, Greenham Control Tower is holding its own despite the current Covid situation. It’s come back from the brink of ruin to a treasured place loved by locals, walkers, and military historians alike.
Please click on the image below to go to the Control Tower website for full details:
The photo at the top of this article is by Philippa Harper