The Abandoned Village of Imber
Sunday, 02 January 2022
I vaguely recall hearing about a village on Salisbury Plain that the MoD had cleared during the Second World War. For no reason that I can remember, I thought that the village was left 'as it was' and to the forces of nature and time.
On our New Year's trip to Wiltshire, someone had mentioned that 'Imber Village' was open to the public for two days. I had no idea what 'Imber Village' so I Googled the name and realised that this was the village that I had once heard of many years before.
In 1943, The villagers of Imber were given 47 days notice to vacate their homes and leave their livelihoods so that American Troops could train in the area. The villagers were told they could return after the war, and the War Office provided no alternative accommodation for them.
Today, Imber Village is the property of the Ministry of Defence, and all access to the village is prohibited apart from a few days a year when the village is open to the public.
Susan and I decided we would visit the village. Someone we know advised us to go via New Zealand Camp Farm (A on the map), but there was no road to the village when we arrived there, so we decided to walk to the village (B on the map), roughly following the line shown.
I have spent more than thirty years walking on Dartmoor, including the many ranges there. The rules are simple. Stay out of the range if the Red Flags fly and never touch anything you find.
Susan and I stuck to these rules and followed a clear track for three kilometres until Imber Village. We had a look around, had coffee in the church and bought some honey.
Sadly, the MoD seems to have demolished lots of the original buildings and replaced them with houses for Urban Warfare training. But we had an enjoyable visit all the same.
It was when we started to walk back that the trouble began!
As we made our way up the hill, we heard a car horn and turned to see a 4x4 behind us. A polite woman working for a security company on behalf of the Ministry of Defence told us that we were not allowed to walk anywhere other than the road and would have to return to the road and walk back to our car only via the roads.
We studied her map. The security woman told us that we would have to walk to Gore Cross (E on the map). A detour of 9km. I asked her if we could use the road at Observation Point 71 (C on the map), but she said firmly that the road was not open to the public.
I noted that there was a track just outside the range's boundary (D on the map) and asked her if we could use that. She didn't give us permission but indicated that it was outside her jurisdiction. So that was the route we used—a detour of approximately 7km - 4k more than we had planned.
The Map of our route and detours
New Zealand Camp Farm
Me NOT touching anything that we see on the path
The thing that I absolutely did NOT touch
Our first view of Imber Village
Starting to suspect the village is not Ye Olde Worlde
St Giles Church Imber Village
Inside St Giles they sell coffee and honey to raise money for the Church
MoD Training Buildings for Urban Warefare
On the edge of the Danger Area