A walk down the Labe river in Pardubice

Last weekend I took a stroll down the Chrudimka river to find an abandoned bridge, this week it was the Labe’s turn and I was on the hunt for some industrial landscapes, namely the southern edge of the Synthesia facility, famous for producing semtex among numerous other chemical products.

I had intended to check out a factory south of Pardubice but the weather wasn’t scheduled to be too good and I didn’t fancy getting caught in the rain (if only I had psychic powers, more on that later)

Setting off from Polabiny, I made my way into the park that runs parallel to the Labe river and started heading West. I’d come down this way before on the longboard but stopped when the path got a bit bumpy so I was excited to carry on into parts unknown and see what was down that path.

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There wasn’t too much to see along the pathway other than field after field of dead sunflowers, still several feet high but their once vibrant yellow flowers bowing down, turned brown and looking anything but sunny. In the distance a scrambler was interrupting the peace and quiet on a dirt track next to my intended location.

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Eventually the path came out at the last bridge before the Synthesia site at the edge of Rosice nad Labem and I took a right towards an old tributary of the Labe now cut off from its mother river but still showing plenty of signs of life.

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The pathway seemed to turn away from my target location so I decided to go off the beaten path a bit, or at least the paved one and headed due West into the woods running parallel to the river. The trees and bushes hung low along the path but it was fairly easy to get through as the path had clearly been used by vehicles as it had that typical line of dirt on either side with fresh grass in the middle. It was actually a really pleasant little path despite the mud. Birds were singing in the branches above, or outright screaming their lungs out from a hedgerow to the left. Apples littered the ground along with various berries, leaves and….garbage. There was one area that looked like a dumping ground for commercial waste, from say a building site or something like that. Shame to see it but it’s a sad reality when people want to cut corners.

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The path finally entered a clearing and what on first inspection I thought was the end of the line. There was a wall and the path seemed to end right in front of it. But blind James looked further and finally saw the gaping hole to the side of the wall and the continuing path beyond and upwards. I was getting close.

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I made my way up the hill and came across a barrier, and just like the one in Bozy Dar, it wasn’t really going to keep much out so I shimmied underneath it and found what I had come to check out. The path opened out in both directions and I took the left fork. All along the right hand side ran a green pipe, snaking it’s way down along and into the distance where the path and it disappeared from view.

Looking down I saw the tell-tale sign of tractor tyres or possibly a quad bike and had second thoughts about going any further, but of course that insatiable curiosity that you get when exploring urged me on. The devil in one ear “Go ahead James, do it, you didn’t slog through the woods only to turn back now did you?”, the angel in the other “James this is trespassing, if you’re caught you’ll be in big trouble”. Sorry angel.

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I carried on following the path and the pipe, realising if someone did come along there was no escape. There’s no way I was diving into whatever was on the other side of the pipe and on the left the sparse vegetation clung wearily to a relatively steep slope going down towards the river. I prepared a frankly weak argument in my head that I was a wildlife photographer looking for a particular bird. Then suddenly a pheasant ran out from the trees to the left, turned to look at me and quickly vanished in under the pipe. So I had my particular elusive bird story, solid, we’re good, they’ll totally believe me and let me off with a gentle wrapping on the knuckles.

Thankfully I wasn’t discovered and was able to continue on to the most interesting part of the tailings pond, a rusty walkway that goes out into the middle of the half empty pond. The pipe turned towards the pond at several parts and you could see that material had come out in the past by the stained holes in the ground from the pressure of liquid hitting the stones and mud.

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I was getting ready to turn back and head home when I heard a distant gurgling which at first I thought was a vehicle which would have hastened my venture homewards, but then I realised it was something running so I made my way towards the sound and eventually found the source. One of the outlet pipes was operating and a muddy watery substance was pouring into the pond. Now i’m not an industrial engineering or chemist so I don’t know what the material was, i’m sure it was just harmless run-off from the operations nearby.

I was expecting a lot more desolation to be honest. You associate industrial areas with a distinct lack of life, with damage to the ecosystem and the environment but if anything this place was more alive than the carefully manicured park filled with familes walking with their kids or couples out for a cycle. I’d seen dozens of birds, and heard even more and been bitten by at least two insects (thanks assholes). Out on the pond where the water level was high enough there were several ducks happily swimming and in the darkened mud on the edge of the pool there were footprints all over the place.

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After deciding i’d taken enough risk I made my back towards the Labe river instead of back through the woods I had initially come through. I had intended to continue along the river towards a hydroelectric power plant similar to the one in Polabiny, failing to realise I was essentially on an island and that would have been impossible without going back around and crossing to the other side of the river (cartography fail James).

As I weighed up my options, a distant rumbling of thunder combined with an ever darkening sky quickly made my decision a lot easier. Go home, go home now before a) you get completely soaked or b) you potentially get struck by lightning.

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Ooh free Wi-fi!
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Labe river selfie.

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So needless to say, I didn’t quite make it home. The heavens opened, and by opened I mean REALLY opened, like those doorways in Sci-Fi movies that are far too large for any of the craft that use it but you know, they look cool so whatever. Lightning flashed, thunder growled and people took shelter under the bridge I just about reached before it began. The gap between lightning and thunder narrowed until eventually one of the strikes was followed almost immediately my a boom of thunder. My shelter spot quickly became flooded from some drainage pipes overhead that were working overtime to get the water off the bridge above. After a few minutes of standing there with a bunch of strangers I decided to risk it and set about getting my poncho out of the bag. The walk home was pretty unpleasant as the hood on the poncho was ripped after I attempted a Great Cornholio impression from Beavis and Butthead while we were in Austria and it was basically rendered useless. Not to self: Don’t stretch cheap plastic clothing with silly behaviour.

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With the weather slowly creeping towards Winter the opportunities to get out and explore will start to drop off so will need to do a bit of a blitz before the cold comes a calling. This was a really nice walk and as I said, I was pleasantly surprised to see nature seemed to be coexisting just fine with industry.

So just the factory south of Pardubice left on my list of urban explorations nearby

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