Optical strain measurement techniques have been extensively developed in recent years in order to cope in various environments. Power stations and wind turbine blades can provide challenging environments for the use of a measurement technique. There are, however, many installation problems to be overcome. For example, there is the need to have regard for the hostile environment in steam generating plant and the demanding conditions to which wind turbine blades are subjected. Ideally the outputs from individual sensors would be used for continuous remote monitoring. However, measurements can also be useful each time the plant is shut down during a plant outage; which would be used to complement data from existing proven rugged monitoring methods. This paper addresses the monitoring of pressurized steam pipes as to their micro-strain growth related to time in service. This paper presents the progress made in the developing of a ruggedised digital speckle ‘sensor’ and associated image capture system. The effect of subsurface defects in the strain distribution is examined.