Harrogate’s Golf Balls

Travelling to York for an overnight stay, we passed RAF Menwith Hill a few miles west of Harrogate. It’s home to the ‘Golf Balls’ - over 30 white spheres, each one about 70 feet across - dotted across the huge site on the edge of the moors.

Menwith Hill isn’t any ordinary RAF base. There are no aircraft and hardly any airmen. In fact it is largely operated by the US military as a communications and intelligence centre and the Golf Balls are radomes which protect (and hide) sophisticated communications devices. These devices listen in to electronic communications, providing valuable information to the intelligence services. Menwith Hill is said to be the largest electronic monitoring station in the world, capable of eavesdropping on any phone call or email sent or received anywhere in the world.

Exactly what goes on at Menwith Hill is obviously Top Secret but it is a clear reminder every time we drive past on our way to Harrogate or York, that global security is perhaps even more precarious now than it was in the simpler days of James Bond versus the Russians.