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.

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