Abandoned by Man, Reclaimed by Nature: 15 Forgotten Places Across the Globe

sorrento-mills (Image: Dave & Margie Hill; reclaimed by nature: Sorrento’s beautiful Valley of the Mills)

We’ve documented a wealth of abandoned places here on Urban Ghosts, from shuttered and shuttered cinemas and theaters to abandoned amusement parksderelict sea forts and much more. But often, abandonment goes ever onward and neglect turns into total decay. The sight of the natural world taking back its man-made counterpart can be a strangely beautiful sight, and compelled us to examine a series of forgotten places that have been – or soon will be – reclaimed by nature in its various forms.

Reclaimed by Nature: Bennett School for Girls, New York, USA

bennett-college-abandoned-new-york (Image: VermontDreams; abandoned Bennett School for Girls, NY)

The Bennett School for Girls was moved to Millbrook, New York in 1907. According to Abandoned Hudson Valley, the college closed in 1978 when the the six-year institution (four high school, two college) couldn’t keep up with the times. Co-ed schools were increasingly common, and the Bennett School filed for bankruptcy in 1978 after decades of teaching young women specializations like fashion design and domestic science. Now abandoned, irreparable damage has been done by weather and burst water pipes, leaving the abandoned Bennett College to slowly rot away.

Abandoned Olympic Venues, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

sarajevo-winter-olympics-abandoned (Images: Martijn Munneke; abandoned Olympic bobsled run)

In 1984, Sarajevo hosted the Winter Olympics. Infrastructure was built and all eyes turned to the city, but only a few years later conflict tore that region apart. With more than 10,000 people killed during the longest siege of a capital city in the modern era, the Olympic sites were irreparably damaged. Many still stand, with foliage growing through the cracks left by bullets in cement, covering areas that are still littered with land mines, and surrounding one makeshift cemetery that sits in the middle of what was once an Olympic arena, slowly reclaimed nature.

Bicycle Tree, Vashon Island, Washington, USA

bicycle-tree-vashon-island (Image: Jim Simandl; abandoned bicycle, now consumed by a tree on Vashon Island)

A ton of legends have grown up around a mysterious red bicycle, which has been reclaimed by nature to such a degree that it’s literally been devoured by the trunk of a tree on Vashon Island, Washington. Some say the bike was left there by a boy who went to war and never returned, or by someone who simply got swept away by the hustle and bustle of adolescence and never returned. The abandoned bike, which is said to date from around 1910, was sadly vandalized in 2014.

Abandoned Fishing Village Reclaimed by Nature, China



abandoned-ghost-village-shengshan-island-china (Images: ChinaFotoPress; ghost village on Shengshan Island beautifully reclaimed by nature)

Clinging to the cliffs of Shengshan Island in Eastern China, this haunting ghost village has become almost completely reclaimed by nature since its last residents moved out around two decades ago. The abandoned fishing village, covered by a rich blanket of greenery, became something of an internet sensation last year. Standing at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the reclaimed village lies just 40 miles to the east of Shanghai, but it seems like a world away.

Abandoned Virginia Renaissance Faire, USA

renaissance-faire-abandoned-2 (Image: Jack Says Relax; abandoned structures of Renaissance Faire)

Just a stone’s throw outside Washington, DC is a strange sight – the abandoned and overgrown ruins of what looks like an old English village. The Virginia Renaissance Faire closed in 1999 after a stretch of bad weather, complications from its swampy surroundings and low attendance. The land, which, according to DCist, once belonged to George Washington’s mother, is taking back the Tudor-style structures, the period facades, the raised buildings and even the pirate ship that still guards the edge of the murky pond.

SS Ayrfield “Floating Forest” of Mangrove Trees, Sydney, Australia

reclaimed-by-nature-ss-ayrfield (Image: Jason Baker; SS Ayrfield, an amazing floating forest)

Almost thoroughly consumed by foliage, SS Ayrfield is one of several shipwrecks emerging from the waters of Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia. Reclaimed by nature in the form of mangrove trees, the abandoned vessel has become something of a floating forest, its rusting hull now a popular local landmark.

Abandoned Hasard de Cheratte, Belgium

hasard-de-cheratte-reclaimed-by-nature (Image: Johan Bakker; Hasard de Cheratte slowing reclaimed by nature)

A surprisingly elegant building even in decay, the abandoned coal mine of Hasard de Cheratte has a long history. The first shafts were dug in 1850, with towers added over the course of the next 70 years. Its recent history has been no more straightforward, with the site being slated for both remediation and demolition. What will become of the old mine is up for debate and in the meantime, it’s quickly disappearing into the lush greenery that surrounds the entire site.

Ruined Valley of the Mills, Sorrento, Italy

sorrento-mills-2 (Image: Dennis Jarvis)

This haunting valley is home to some of the most iconic abandoned mills in Europe, mainly due to the way in which the ruined buildings, deep in a gorge in central Sorrento, have been steadily reclaimed by nature. The breathtaking Valley of the Mills was named for its industry, the same buildings that are now overgrown with some of the most striking greenery in the area. The abandoned flour mill is understood to have been used into the 20th century, and the sawmill once supplied wood to some of the region’s finest craftsmen.

Abandoned Air Force Base, Tachikawa, Japan

Tachikawa-Air-Base-reclaimed-by-nature (Image: Michael John Grist; abandoned remains of Tachikawa AFB, Japan)

When Michael John Grist explored what’s left of an abandoned American Air Force base in Tachikawa, Japan, he captured a stunning series of images of a once state-of-the-art military facility that’s being reclaimed by the bamboo forests that surround it. Grist reports that walls several feet thick are now covered in a curtain of ivy, and staircases latterly exposed to the elements are caving in, making a complete exploration of the site a dangerous endeavor.

Reclaimed by Nature: Kolmanskop Ghost Town, Namibia

kolmanskop-reclaimed-by-nature (Image: Damien du Toit; Kolmanskop, slowly reclaimed by the desert)

Named after the Afrikaans word for ‘Coleman’s Hill’, the once-thriving diamond settlement turned ghost town – Kolmanskop, Namibia – was founded by Johnny Coleman and his ox wagon. The German-style town sprang up around the turn of the 20th century, but by the mid-1950s, local diamond supplies were exhausted. The ghost town was left to the mercy of the elements. Today, permits are given out to those who want to explore the desolate, half-buried settlement for themselves, which lies reclaimed by nature amid the remote and beautiful Namibian desert.

Abandoned IM Cooling Tower, Belgium

reclaimed-by-nature-abandoned-cooling-tower (Image: Arjen Toet; moss-blanketed abandoned cooling tower in Belgium)

Slowly being reclaimed by nature in the form of mosses is this breathtaking abandoned cooling tower in Belgium, and even that bit of green gives the entire place the air of the post-apocalyptic. According to Atlas Obscura, the facility was the biggest coal power station in Belgium when it was completed in 1921. But protests about the major air pollution emitted by the factory eventually led to its closure in 2007. The abandoned IM Power Plant’s fate remains up in the air, while the industrial complex has become popular with urban explorers.

Berrow Beach Shipwreck – SS Nornen, Burnham-On-Sea, England

berrow-beach-wreck (Image: Ian Griffiths; an old shipwreck reclaimed by the sands)

Little remains of the wreck of the SS Nornen, and it’s not going to be long before the sea finally finishes the work it began on March 3, 1897. On that day, the Norwegian barque found itself at the mercy of a storm sweeping through the Bristol Channel. In spite of the best efforts of the crew the ship was doomed; the crew of ten – and a dog – would later be rescued. The SS Nornen was later sold as a wreck after the waves had pummeled her beyond salvage. Today, a few remaining timbers are all that’s left; a cautionary reminder of the power of the waves.

Overgrown Barnes Old Cemetery, London, England

barnes-old-cemetery-reclaimed-by-nature (Image: Prioryman; nature reclaiming Barnes Old Cemetery, London)

When Flickering Lamps went looking for the Barnes Old Cemetery, they found a wildly overgrown burial ground not far from the hustle and bustle of modern London. Barnes Common gained some notoriety in the 1830s as the location of one of the first sightings of Spring Heeled Jack, the blog reports, but the abandoned graveyard is now largely forgotten; and it’s no wonder, with gravestones hidden beneath encroaching trees. The abandoned cemetery also has its fair share of ghoulish stories, such as the murder of Julia Martha Thomas, who was killed, boiled and dismembered by her servant, Kate Webster, in order to assume her identity. The victim reportedly lies buried in an unmarked grave.

Torretta Pepoli, Erice, Sicily

Torretta-Pepoli-overgrown-2 (Image: Bultro; Torretta di Pepoli nestled beneath the castle)

It’s said that on a clear day, you can see all the way to Tunisia from the mountainside city of Erice. The Castle di Pepoli recently underwent a refurbishment before it re-opened as a bed and breakfast, but the little Torretta di Pepoli remains untouched and overgrown, slowly being reclaimed by the trees and plants that share its rocky outcropping.

Abandoned Ano Nuevo Island, California, USA

ano-nuevo-island-nature (Image: Jef Poskanzer)

Ano Nuevo Island was once connected to mainland California, but the shifting of the ocean waters have left it adrift. The abandoned buildings that still stand on the island date back to the late 19th century, and while the lighthouse has been torn down, the foghorn station and the lighthouse keeper’s home endure. And when humans moved out, elephant seals moved in.

Related – 10 Strange Optical Illusions & Atmospheric Phenomena (& Where to See Them)


About the author: Debra Kelly




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