A MANSFIELD 'urban explorer' who has captured dozens of images inside the old brewery and general hospital site in the town says his hobby is more about a love of history than an adrenaline 'hit'.
Paul Potter (31) is one of a growing number of people involved in the practice of urban exploration — 'or urbex' — which sees individuals or small groups exploring disused properties.
In the past, urbexers — who are also known to have photographed the Clipstone headstocks and Mansfield Shoe Co factory — have been branded daredevils and told they could be prosecuted for tresspassing.
But Paul says the idea urban explorers are criminals is a misconception, and safety was a matter of common sense.
"As far as I am aware the signs that say 'trespassers will be prosecuted' are a bit of red herring – the worst that can happen is you get caught and told to leave," he said.
"We only ever enter the buildings where there is already somewhere to get in, we would never break in. We never take or damage anything – we say don't leave anything but footprints.
"There are dangers, but it's mostly about using your common sense. There are parts of the hospital that are pretty much blocked off – but others are in surprisingly good condition."
Paul says other explorers he has met come from all different walks of life – and claims most take part in urban exploration because they are interested in history or photography.
"I got in touch with the others on an internet forum after seeing some of the pictures," said Paul. "I had always had an interest in history and buildings so I wanted to get involved.
"One of the girls I went with to the hospital had been there for an operation. She had been in the operating theatre before but was under anaesthetic so never saw it.
"It must have been really strange to go back and see it for the first time."
And Paul says he wants to get more pictures for his website and would like to see more done to preserve the history of local buildings.
"They say the hospital is a bit of a mish-mash of styles — it's really interesting to see how things have developed as the building has been added to over the years.
"Ideally, I'd like it if we could have an official tour so I could catalogue more of the hospital for the site," he said.
But yesterday site owner, Nottingham-based businessman M.H. Adam urged all urban explorers to stay away.
"Like all building and development sites the site and building are very dangerous and no one should enter whatsoever. Anyone who does enter will be prosecuted.
"Before alterations, we do ourselves photograph both the building and the site in order to preserve a historic record."
And a spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police says officers are aware of the activities of urban explorers and some trespassers had been issued warning letters and told not to return to the buildings.
To see Paul's photos visit http://ppotter.is-a-geek.net.
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