Sunday, 29 January 2012

Forever Imber

Imber - an English ghost village on Salisbury plain. It was a thriving community until 1943 when the villagers were forced to evacuate to allow the village to be used to train American troops for the D Day landings. Although the villagers were told they would be able to return after the war, this never happened and the village is still used to train the army in the skills needed for street fighting.

The village is an active military training site and access is limited to a couple of days a year. There is little now left of the original village other than memories and photographs and of course St Giles Church.

We approached from the Warminster side, across the empty plain littered with the corpses of rusting tanks and notices every hundred yards or so warning of the dangers of unexploded military devices and forbidding the public to leave the road.

The plain is eerily quiet, no traffic, no electricity wires, just acres of grass, trees and flocks of birds. As it is out of bounds to the public it is a haven for wildlife with many rare species of animals - including the dormouse. Today we saw large flocks of fieldfares.

Driving into Imber itself is a surreal experience. The original old houses have been relaced with roughly built facsimiles of modern houses. Made of breeze block they have holes where the doors and windows would be and their own set of notices saying to keep out.

The only real surviving building is the church. This stands on the site of an earlier building but the current structure dates from  13CE. Most of the interior features were removed when the village was taken over and are scattered amongst other local churches but a few hints of what was still remain.

Some early graffitti in the porch

Some of the wall paintings dating from the 13 and 15th Centuries still survive giving a tantalising hint at the lavish decoration that must have once adorned the walls.

Even the stone of the archeways was painted. The church is now being actively conserved after years of minimal upkeep. It is still consecrated and occasional services held there.

There are recent burials in the surrounding graveyard which has some fascinating memorial stones, most of which are sadly in a very poor state of repair.


Saturday, 28 January 2012

Haute Savoie meets the Wild West!

Back to the Haute Savoie again for a weeks skiing to take advantage of some superb snow conditions. I'm also feeling the benefit of the regular exercise over the last 12 months or so, the higher level of fitness has certainly paid off.

Snowy mountain scenes are all very well but the camera doesn't really do them justice so far more skiing and much less photography than usual. However some sights are so bizarre it is always worth having a camera handy!

This was one of the stranger sights of the week....

 Just above Coucheval 1650 is a nice blue run named Indiens.   A very nice run indeed, not too steep and lots of snow. Oh and a "theme"...

We didn't stop to read the information boards but the dream catchers suspended above the run should have given us a clue as to what was ahead.

Coming round a corner and a most incongruous  sight! A Native American village, French style, complete with stuffed wildlife ( all fake I hope) and an" Indian Chief " offering face painting, archery and the chance to try on the stereotypical head dress.  We passed....

Definitely most surreal and completely unexpected on a French mountain top.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


There is nothing I can say about Stonehenge that hasn't been said already and a thousand times better than I can.

So just some pictures I took recently. One of the advantages of English Heritage membership is free entry and no need to queue for tickets.

Stonehenge is always busy and this was no exception but I did manage to get some shots that make it look deserted ( trust me it wasn't!). Hope you enjoy them

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Grey Hill on a sunny day

Glorious glorious weather - End of January so it must be a trip to Grey Hill. This seems to becoming a bit of an accidental tradition but no matter. It is not a place I tire of.

It's a steep pull up to the top but the views across Wentwood Forest are worth it. I'm also getting quicker at it - must be getting fitter at last!

On the top is Grey Hill Common, an expanse of bracken and heather with fabulous views of Wales on one side and the Severn Estuary on the other. Good view of both the crossings too, the hill is about in the middle. Not quite so keen on the view of the nuclear reactor but you can't have everything.

Buried in the bracken is a small stone circle. On our first trip here in high summer we completely failed to find it although we must have passed very close. A return visit at the end of January 2010 was much more successful. It is much easier to spot without  the head height bracken.

Reaching the circle itself we were in for a shock.

This was the circle almost exactly two years ago. Not a very good camera then so the quality isn't great but you can see the circle nestling into the undergrowth.

This is the scene now. Utter devastation. More stones have been uncovered but at a cost. The vegetation will of course grow back but it was a sad sight this morning.

The circle is now confused with a jumble of stones around it.

It has also  unfortunately been visited by the sort of neopagans who leave the detritus of their rituals behind them, in this case a Native American dream catcher ( WTH?), polyester ribbons and of course the usual tea light cases.

Somewhat saddened we walked on past one of the outlying standing stones and back to the path to continue our walk along the common before adjourning to our usual lunch haunt around here - The Greyhound.

I'm sure we will return soon though.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Skulls and Standing Stones

Another Sunday and another mudfest! Still the sun was out briefly and a few hints that spring might just be on its way- some new nettle growth and a few busting tree buds.

This week it was Bettiscombe, famous for the legend of the  Screaming Skull .

We passed closer to the haunted manor than we should have done - the path is ambiguous at that point and we ended up in the courtyard. The owners were very nice about it and no we didn't ask to see the skull! Strangely it took me three attempts to upload this picture and then it went into completely the wrong directory...

No sign though of the phantom funeral procession that haunts the path.


The pond into which the skull was (briefly) thrown.

Interesting as this, it wasn't the skull that had drawn us here but the standing stone on the hillside overlooking the village. The "wishing stone" has the power to grant wishes but on Midsummer Eve is said to uproot itself and walk down the hill for a drink at the stream before returning.

The stone wasn't hard to find despite being someway off the bridleway - at least once you start looking in the right place.

A lot of stones seem to go for a walk at Midsummer. An old folk memory rooted in stories to perhaps to keep the curious away on a significant night of the year whilst the stones were being used for ritual purposes?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Start as you mean to go on - Black Down

Best way to shake off some lingering malaise from last night is some exercise! As it seemed to have stopped raining for what felt the first time in weeks, a walk seemed a good idea. But where? Weeks of almost constant rain has left everywhere a muddy mess.

Black Down near Burrington Combe seemed the best bet. Not too far away and high enough for the  hope that most of the water may have drained into the cave system of the Mendips.

Yeah. Right. Of course.  The first 100 or so yards was enough to convince me otherwise.  Pools of standing water and paths of pure slippery mud greeted us on the climb up from Burrington Combe on to the Downs.

Still on the positive side, it wasn't raining, it wasn't even particularly cold and although we saw a few other groups of walkers it wasn't busy either!

This is the highest point of the Mendip hills and  right on the summit  at Beacon Batch is a collection of barrows

There are some of them (the grass covered "humps").

All of the barrows have been opened but there is only one recorded excavation which was in 1820. The main group is nine bowl barrows, a bell barrow and a disc barrow

Slightly further away are a further five bowl barrows. Quite a cemetery. 

 Black Down is believed to derive from  the Saxon for "bleak"  and it certainly lives up to that name. Acres of little other than bracken, heather and the occasional tortured hawthorn. Although  the area bears signs of human habitation from the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000+ years ago) it must have been an unforgiving environment.

By now the brief hiatus from the rain was ending and it was time to get back as fast as possible to the car. The mud if anything was getting worse by the minute but we all managed not to land in it but it was a close thing at times. Time then to head for the blazing fire at the New Inn at Priddy to dry out and enjoy a glass of Orchard Pig cider, dangerous stuff at 6.5%!

Hello and Welcome 2012

I started the blog about a year ago to make a record of where I have been. I never imagined others would want to come along for the ride as well!  Thank you all.

Looking back over the last year, the high light for me has to be Orkney. It is a truly magical place- and I am well aware we were lucky to be able to see it at its best. A week of glorious sun and blue skies made it a time to treasure and remember. I'm not sure that I'll better that this year but who knows?

Welcome  2012 

  Blwyddyn Newydd Dda  ( Happy New Year)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...