WHEN student Bruno Neri contacted the Bournemouth Echo about the amazing air-raid shelter he’d found in his garden, he wondered if he was the only person with such a structure.

But, as these images show, Bournemouth and Poole are positively bursting with all manner of bunkers, shelters and underground refuges, constructed to save lives during the Second World War.

And many of them are enjoying a new lease of life as they are cared for by their adoring owners.

Bournemouth Echo:

Look closely at the garden of Margaret Bridgeman near Kings Park and all you’d see at first is an impressive rockery.

But, says her friend, Elaine Findley, that rockery hides a secret.

“It’s raised in a domed shape because the rockery is actually the roof of a WW2 bunker and there is an entrance at one side with steps going down,” she says.

There is also a glazed, angled opening at the other end of the structure. “It’s bizarre because I’m not sure that would have been wise during the war,” she says, adding that her neighbour has used the shelter for storage over the years. “We’d both love for it to be recognised and noted,” she said. “It's been a talking point between us for over 30 years.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Meanwhile, in Poole, a grandly-named ‘Branksome’ shelter still stands in the garden of a house near Sheringham Road. Lisa Jolliffe sent pictures of the shelter in her mum’s garden. “It’s a shed now but I used to stay in it as a teenager,” she says.

The walls are single skin but, says Lisa, they are still strong. “It used to have a wall down the middle to house two families with a blast door each side," she says. "Dad knocked a window in it the 1980’s.” She would love to know more about the structure which is now used for storage.

Paul Vallance’s still-atmospheric shelter was built in Upper Parkstone by his own grandfather, who received a brick grant from the government. “Because we were near the gasometers and Branksome railway arches, they were considered to be a possible target,” he explains. “Also, German bombers flew over the area on their way to the cordite factory at Sandford.”

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As a child in the 1950s and 60s he used to play in the shelter and discovered a gas mask, two bayonets and a tin helmet inside. “It's not used at the moment although a friend suggested growing mushrooms in there! The grandchildren are fascinated with it,” he says.

Jeremy Woodford recalled a shelter similar to Mr Neri’s at the bottom of 97a Ensbury Park Road in Moordown.

“It belonged to the family who lived in the flat downstairs from us,” he said. “ As kids in the 60s we used to try and go down there but were always turfed out by the owner! So I didn't really get to see it properly and it will probably still be there as I seem to remember it being made of concrete.”

Talbot Heath School were proud to show off their mega-shelter, now refurbished and used as a Living Classroom, which was open to the public during the 2014 Dorset Architectural Heritage Weeks.

Best news of all came from Mr Neri who was keen to learn more about his shelter. Following our report he was contacted by the granddaughter of the Drayton family who are believed to have constructed the shelter.

Bournemouth Echo:

“The grandfather split the house in two for his two sons and the granddaughter used to live upstairs and her uncle downstairs," he says. "Apparently their relative buried the shelter for reasons unknown to her.”

According to Mr Neri, previous owners of the property had suspected the shelter may have been there but never dug it up.