'I Built an Underground Bunker and a Secret Tunnel'

Growing up, I lived next door to a quarry with areas that were not used and could be played in. There were always wooden barrels and pallets that would be tipped into one particular hole there, so as I got older, my friends and I would make underground dens out of them. It was amazing.

We used to dig a hole in the clay ground and then we'd get pallets, cover the top of the hole with them and heap the mud we'd dug out over the top. Nine times out of 10, by the time we'd built it more people would become interested; some big boys might come along and bash it up, or they'd get excited by it, take it over and make it bigger. But one we built had two rooms; we dug two holes and connected them together with a little tunnel.

I'm quite practical and I just started messing around building stuff in my spare time. When my dad was alive, he used to have a big shed in our house in Stamford, England, which I was never really allowed to use, so there was a lot I had to try and do in my bedroom. I had a lathe machine in my room at one point, which was madness. I then became a plumber and when my dad passed away, I inherited his shed. That happened to be around the time YouTube started so I signed up in November 2006. I rode BMX bikes at the time and I used to make silly videos, so I took bits of those videos and uploaded them, and they started doing quite well. Then, I began making stuff in my dad's old shed and filming that too.

Some of my early videos were a bit comedy sketch-esque. Once, I got a caravan—what the British call trailers—cut a hole in the side of it and made it into a burger truck. I have a couple of friends who help me, Tom Lamb and Rick Sampson, and together we made a video of me serving people while we were driving. Of course, as soon as you get a plate of food and put it out the window, the whole lot flies away.

Underground Secret Tunnel and Bunker Builder Colin
Colin Furze has been sharing his unusual inventions and projects on YouTube since 2006. Colin Furze

But the first really massive thing I built was a wooden "wall of death"—a wooden cylinder that I could ride my BMX in—made of a wall of pallets. I filmed that build from start to finish at the age of 26. Soon after, I had a plumbing customer who had given me a motor from a boat, so I tried to put that on my back and have floats on my feet so I was like a human speed boat. It wasn't fast at all and I'd never recommend people try my inventions at home!

Building the underground bunker

I had wanted to build an underground bunker for years. The little underground dens I had built as a child were so cool and I loved the idea of having a bunker that was built properly. It ended up being paid for in 2015 as part of a program by British broadcaster Sky about the apocalypse. I always say that what I have done in my backyard is the adult version of what I did as a kid, but with a budget.

When it came to the actual design, I drew a square on the lawn, looked at it and thought it wasn't big enough, so I drew a slightly bigger one. When we dug the hole out, I remember saying: "S***, this is really big!"

The hole was about 11.5ft deep, and the bunker is a bit smaller because there is concrete that surrounds it all. Building it was fairly simple; we just dug a massive hole with a digger. That part only took two days. Then we built a metal box inside and surrounded it with concrete. Of course, that was a lot of work because the metal structure was fabricated and welded together, but the process itself was simple. It took two months in total; six weeks of building and then about two weeks of sorting the yard out and the interior of the bunker.

When we first started building it, people asked why I didn't have a ladder dropping into the corner of the bunker itself. My answer was: that would be boring. I knew I wanted a bit of a tunnel leading into it, so you go into a shed at the bottom of the yard and there's a hatch you lift up on the floor. From there, you climb down a ladder and into the bunker via a short tunnel.

People also suggested building the bunker from shipping containers, but I thought that would make a dull room with a flat ceiling, which wasn't the effect I was looking for. I wanted an arched ceiling so it does feel like you are underground, in a subway station or something.

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The underground bunker is 24ft long, 16ft wide and 8ft high at the center. It's currently kitted out with a couch, a TV, a drum kit and it has a sink. I also store some of my inventions down there—including an "ejector bed", a turkey cooking machine and a flame-throwing guitar—so it's a bit of a "Colin museum" at the moment. I now watch all the Formula 1 racing down there and Rick has his band practice in the bunker because you can make a lot of noise and no one hears it.

Because of what's currently happening in the world, there is an added interest in the bunker. It probably wouldn't be nuclear proof, because you need certain air filtration systems, but if we did get attacked, I'd rather my family and I were sat in there with two feet of concrete above our heads, than in our house. But I wouldn't say I'm a prepper, it was mostly built for the coolness of doing it.

The secret tunnel

By the end of 2015 we had a bunker at the bottom of the yard, and I began to think that it would be good to be able to get to it from the house via a secret tunnel. The idea was left on the backburner for a while, but I always say that the best way to do any project is to make a start, so in 2018, I chopped the floor out of another shed we have in the yard and put a hatch in that went nowhere. Then in November that year, I started working on digging down.

Creating the tunnel was a little bit trickier than the bunker, because we were digging in a shed and winching the soil and rock out of a hole. I only used to do it when my neighbors were on vacation, because I had to use a jackhammer. You can't be jackhammering away while they're there!

It was about a foot from the depth it needed to be and then of course, COVID hit, and my neighbors never went on vacation. So in 2020, nothing happened; it was just a dormant hole. At the beginning of 2021, I was fed up and wanted to get on. One day, our neighbors went to the grocery store, so I got the jackhammer down there and broke up the last bit of rock.

Once we started digging the sideways part of the tunnel, we were able to do it in relative silence using a hydraulic digger to move the dirt and rock, and then lift that out in buckets. Once you start digging sideways you do need to shore up the walls and ground above you. From March to May 2021 we dug about halfway to the house, shoring up the tunnel along the way. We had breaks and then in early March 2022, we finally got connected to the house. The entrance inside is in a cupboard off my kitchen, you open a hatch, climb down and can walk through the 12ft-long tunnel. I'm 178cm tall and the tunnel height is somewhere between 185cm to 190cm.

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It started three years ago and took a full year of work to complete, but it's been one of the most enjoyable projects we've ever done. There's something about the simplicity of it. The tunnel is currently between a shed and the house, and I would estimate it's double the distance again to get from that shed to the bunker, so we do have more work to do. We'll probably dig that tunnel from above, because I can get a large digger in.

I am now thinking about putting another bunker in the backyard and having it as some kind of workshop, because there is room. When we dug the hole for the original bunker, Tom did suggest digging up the whole backyard; I probably should have just done that!

I'm not sure that my kids think they have the most amazing life, because the bunker has been there since they were old enough to be aware of it. But now they're getting a bit older, I think they're realizing that not everyone has bunkers in their backyard. They also really like the secret tunnel because it's like a circuit; they can go out to the shed, go down into the tunnel and come back into the house, playing hide and seek and shouting at each other!

I've slowed down a little bit now because you get burned out on the internet; it's easy to get sucked into the machine of having to produce lots of content. It takes a lot of effort to build an audience and at some point you have to let it plateau a bit or you'd probably go nuts. I'm 42 now, so it also takes me a lot longer to build stuff than it used to!

Tom, Rick and I are making a hot tub at the moment. That's my next project; I've been doing a lot of digging and I have an achy back so I need a hot tub to relax in. But with energy prices at the moment a hot tub is luxury, so we're making a wood-fired one. We have a massive vessel that we've dragged out of a scrap yard, it looks like it's full of germs at the moment—but we'll clean it up and I'll add copper around it so it has more of a steampunk look.

When your hobby becomes your job, you can always feel like you're at work, or, you can feel like you're never at work. It just depends on how you look at it. But if you're doing something fun, it doesn't really matter. I think I'm just going to end up going slower and slower and slower; I don't think I'll ever actually retire.

Colin Furze is a British shed inventor and video maker. You can follow him on his YouTube channel ColinFurze or on Instagram @realcolinfurze.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.