Posts Tagged ‘Salisbury Plain’

Strawberry Moon

June 22, 2016

When I took a picture of the moon as it rose on 20th June I certainly thought it looked lovely and I was amused to think that this beautiful moon rose on solstice day. I had never taken in that a June full moon was called a strawberry moon, but seemingly it is.

I took my photo from my home as the moon rose above Salisbury Plain. I deliberately exposed for the moon which means the tree topped hills and the sky look comparatively dark.


I actually love the streak of cloud across the moon.


On Salisbury Plain

April 4, 2016

Remembering – the poppy and the cornflower

My home looks out onto the chalk downland area known as Salisbury Plain. I am so lucky for I love chalk scenery and the plants and wildlife associated with it.

But unfortunately for me (although not for wildlife) most of my local area is a no go zone, being an artillery range. You tend to get faced with signs like this.


If firing is in progress that wonderful system of flying a red flag warns you.

image004But there are areas with access when flags aren’t flying and the ridgeway path is open and that allows you to see plenty of marvels.

Here we have a dry valley which would have pleased my inspirational geography teacher, Mr Cole.

image006The valley formed in an ice age. Water normally seeps through chalk to emerge at the spring line lower down, but when the water in the chalk froze then rainwater did form streams which cut valleys. And here we have a youthful valley with interlocking spurs – in fact everything but the stream.

But this was a flower spotting trip and just look at these cornflowers.

image008What beauties.

image010But it was another flower that had caught my eye from afar and I had set out to see – the poppy.

image012And there they are, en masse, in a field nominally of oil seed rape. But what a sight these were just above the village of Urchfont.

image014This was back in June 2007. As was discovered in World war One, poppies grow well when soil is disturbed for the first time.

Oh, as a little extra, where we in the UK use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, in France their equivalent flower is the cornflower. So we have a double dose of remembrance here.


An Imber Summer

August 12, 2015

Mostly flowers

In truth it wasn’t the most summery of days when I headed into Imber. The old village of Imber was taken over by the military in World War II. People who lived there are certain they were promised they could return, ‘when the emergency was over’. They never have returned nor ever will now for there is virtually nothing to return to.

But the road through Imber is open for about thirty days each year – a block of time in the summer and a block around Christmas and New Year. I went on August 11th – part of the summer opening.

I drove through the vedette (or gate) which was of course open. However, nearby it looked to have its own guardian, ready to turn some tables and make mincemeat of anybody foolish enough to leave the road.

image002He certainly looks quite a fierce beast. He’s a white park bull. They are reared on a local organic farm.

Well away from him there were some walkers.


I’m not sure they ought to be there, but it helps give an idea of the bleakness of Salisbury Plain. Yes, Imber is in the middle of that lump of chalk.


I stopped to get the long view of Imber Church. This has been restored this century from ruination.


Once upon a time a village surrounded the church. Very little else remains now, after 70 years in the care of the army.

But flowers, insects and birds were to be seen. Here are some of the flowers.

image009I think this is a cranesbill.

The ever popular (with me) knapweed.




I don’t know this one for sure. Some kind of Campanula?.


image017Birdsfoot trefoil.

These yellow flowers on long stalks usually baffle me! Is it a hawksbit?


image021This is Viper’s Bugloss

Mixed flora


A Dry Valley

October 13, 2014

Once again I am going to sing the praises of my old geography teacher, Mr Cole. He taught at Ifield Grammar School in the 1960s. That was before that particular school decided they’d be better off without me – a decision, which in retrospect, was a superb one. My life flourished. Its life, I’m sorry to say, probably went downhill although as I was no longer a member, I couldn’t say.

But I will say that had they had more inspirational teachers then I might have been encouraged to work hard. Of course, Mr Cole wasn’t the only one, but he was the one that did most for me and my brother who had a more torrid time at the school than I did. I would love Mr Cole to read this and know that he made a difference. I’m guessing that he’d be in his mid-70s by now for he was a young teacher back then, tall and quite lanky and, I would say, a bit unsure of himself. He was given the duff classes – like mine and my brothers! I do hope he made a success of his career.

It was from Mr Cole that I learned about so much geography and today we look at a dry river valley quite near my home on Salisbury Plain.


Now we know, because Mr Cole taught us, it is a river valley because it has a V shaped cross section. Had it been formed by a glacier it would have had a U shape. We also know it is a youthful river valley because it is going downhill in zig-zags with interlocking spurs.

But chalk is permeable and this is chalk land. Water just seeps into chalk and you don’t get rivers flowing on this rock.

But you did once and thanks again to good old Mr Cole for explaining. During the ice age water in the chalk froze and so the rock did become impenetrable to water. If rain fell – and it did – it had to flow off the hill as a river. It was frozen for long enough for the abrasive quality of the flowing water to wear away this valley.

When the temperature rose and the ice in the chalk thawed out, the rainwater, once again just seeped into the chalk to emerge at the spring line where the chalk met clay.

The photo sums up Salisbury Plain. It is very limited in distinguishing features. Once upon a time travellers got lost, particularly in bad weather, and died trying to find their way. Villagers near the Plain planted distinctive clumps of trees on the hill nearest the village and this results in some descriptive names. Near us there’s a clump called Chirton Maggot and another called Marden Cowbag.

This picture dates from 2002 but it still looks the same, of course.


March 2, 2014

Flooding has been bad this winter but I can feel lucky enough. I live up a hill and I always reckon if ever I get flooded, the whole country might as well abandon ship. Yet there have been floods nearby, in neighbouring villages, also set quite high up. I live near Salisbury Plain where the winterbournes – streams that only appear after heavy winter rain – have been in full spate.

There was an article on the BBC website which mentioned one of these villages, Tilshead, where the water table had risen 20 metres in a couple of months.

Villages along these winterbournes are, sadly, fairly used to a bit of flooding and there must have been a singularly bad one back in 1841. This was one of the first pictures I took, when I came to live in Wiltshire back in 1970.


This plaque was attached to a little row of cottages in Shrewton but Tilshead also has flood cottages and so, too, does Orcheston. The ones in Tilshead suffered a problem a couple of years ago when an end wall collapsed, but they are now back in use.

Here’s a brief summary of what happened.

On 16th January 1841, two days after a heavy snow storm, a rapid thaw led to a severe flash flood in the area of the Salisbury Plain drained by the River Till, down to the River Wylye. Two communities especially hard hit were Tilshead and Shrewton, where 36 houses were destroyed, 3 people drowned and more than 200 made homeless. The flood reached its peak between 8 pm and 10 pm, but by 3 am the next morning it was completely dry.

The above comes from the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre blog at .

The winter of 2014 has seen nothing quite like that. Driving through Tilshead has been difficult and reduced to single file, controlled by temporary traffic lights. But adding a few minutes to a journey doesn’t really compare with what happened back in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Imber – Now

January 10, 2013

The 6th January 2013 was a misty, murky day. But Imber was open to the public and was due to close by daylight on the 7th, so we went.

In truth, not all was open when we were there. This was the church entrance.


But had we been a couple of hours later, it would have opened up for visitors. That’s an improvement for in times past it didn’t open.


These modern military buildings have replaced most of the village. They are used to enable soldiers to learn how to do house to house fighting and clearance.

Here we have Seagrams Farm.


This was once a large house for it was all two storeys and housed a large farming family.

The Grange was one of the grander houses in the village. It has military uses now and at different times has worn different roof lines.



This was the village pub – The Bell Inn. No doubt it was a friendly meeting place for the locals. In 1943, the entire village was given notice to leave. Villagers had 47 days to get out.

The pub has survived quite well. No trace remains of the Baptist church although its burial ground still exists.


John and Emma Wyatt, born, bred, married and raised their family in Imber before they died and were buried in Imber Baptist burial ground.

The building that has fared best is St Giles Church. This has recently been restored to good order and the tower boasts a new peal of bells. They were rung on Christmas day 2012.


If you leave the village and travel the permitted routes – you see signs of activity by the local tank corps.

image016Where bustards once roamed, we now find dead tanks scattering the downs.

Imber – Then

January 9, 2013

Every now and then a little gloom must fall into the life of a happy nerd. Imber can create that feeling that not all is right with the world but maybe things are improving, albeit close on 70 years too late for some people.

Imber was a remote and rather pretty village set in a valley high up on Salisbury Plain. The little rhyme about the place goes:

Little Imber on the Down
Seven miles from any Town.

This is Imber as was.


It was a friend’s granny who lived in the marked cottage. This photo is taken from the West, looking in to Imber village. The terrace was known as The Dring. I cannot be sure, but these could be amongst the old cottages replaced by newer, drier but more soulless properties in 1938.

The War Department had all the land around Imber but it came as a shock to all when, on 1st November 1943, the authorities announced that the residents of Imber must be gone with all their possessions by 17th December.

There was a war and the residents had no option but to leave.

They all said they were promised they could return when the emergency was over. That never happened.

But from time to time people can visit what now calls itself Imber. We’ll take a look at that tomorrow.