For the thousands of visitors who walk the South West Coast Path on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula every year, many will be completely unaware that they are just a few feet from a perfectly preserved bunker, writes Jennifer Dale.

Tucked away underground near the clifftop towards Nare Head is Veryan Bunker, a chilling reminder of a gruelling time in Britain’s recent history that saw the entire British nation fear a nuclear attack.

With only a curious green metallic object sticking out from the ground to give it away, the bunker was a well-guarded secret for many years.

However, this extraordinary hidden gem is now open several times a year for the public to explore during Heritage Open Days giving visitors a unique glimpse into a chapter of the past that has long been shrouded in mystery.

The Origins Of The Veryan Bunker The Veryan Bunker was built in 1963 in direct response to the Cuban Missile Crisis and Britain's very real fears that it could be the target of a nuclear attack.

The underground bunker's primary function was to monitor potential radiation, and it could only be reached by a 12ft ladder through a hatch.

Falmouth Packet: Starfish and nuclear bunkers Nare HeadStarfish and nuclear bunkers Nare Head (Image: National Trust/George Taylor)

The bunker was originally operated by the Royal Observer Corps and it was considered to be so important at the time that a whole series of similar posts across the UK were named after it.

The bunker was equipped with a secondary shaft which served as a ventilator, while the engineers' role was to measure surface-level radiation and use their specialist equipment to determine the location of any bomb blasts.

Life Inside The Veryan Bunker The Veryan bunker comprises of two small rooms, an area that housed a toilet and storage area and a cramped monitoring room where three engineers would live and work for around three weeks at a time, protected from any potential radiation fallout.

The living conditions in the bunker were extremely stark, within the bunker. There was no running water or mains power.

All the engineers had was basic bedding and food supplies to live on and they would have spent most of their three-week stint in that one dark and cold room.

While there were 1,600 Veryan Bunkers originally, today, only 80 have survived and just eight are fully preserved and open to the public.

Cornwall’s Veryan Bunker is exactly as it was when it was closed for the final time, giving visitors the unique opportunity to experience what it would have been like to live and work there.

The Closure of The Veryan Bunker The bunker continued to be used in varying capacities throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s, hosting regular training meetings and simulated nuclear exercises.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the threat of a nuclear war had diminished, the bunker was eventually decommissioned. With the bunker no longer in use, the Ministry of Defence returned it intact to The National Trust, from whom it had leased it.

It was later restored through a partnership between The National Trust and the Royal Observer Corps and is one of the few remaining bunkers open to the public for tours.

Falmouth Decoy Bunker.

Remarkably, there's another piece of history near the Veryn Bunker.

Next to it is a grassy mound which was once a World War II bunker designed as a decoy for Germans looking to bomb Falmouth Docks.

When they received warnings of approaching bombers, operators would initiate lights and effects to mimic a railway line and street lights to fool the Germans into bombing the decoys rather than the real thing.

Those operating the bunker would trigger fires and even explosions to give the impression that the bombs had hit their intended target. And it worked. Decoy sites like this one were attacked a combined 786 times during World War II.

The Veryan Bunker is a poignant reminder of a bygone era fraught with the fear of nuclear conflict. Heritage Open Days provide a unique opportunity for visitors to unravel the mysteries hidden within its walls, offering insight into the lives of those who once resided and worked in this preserved relic of the past.

Additionally, the Falmouth Decoy Bunker located less than a stone's throw away, adds another layer of historical significance, showcasing the ingenuity employed during times of war.