Anyone who has read the novel will know that I’m very interested in hidden parts of Wiltshire. The vampire D’Toeni is found in a tunnel system based loosely on the Burlington Nuclear Bunker, located over near Corsham. In that case, I’ve never been able to visit the location, basing my research on photos and articles. But it’s not the only secret military location in the county.
If ‘remoteness’ was measured by number of visitors a year then surely Imber in Wiltshire would qualify as the most remote village in Britain. Sat in the middle of the army firing grounds on Salisbury Plain, its inhabitants were (in some cases) forcibly removed after the British Army gave the village 47 days’ notice to evict back in 1943.
Since then, the village has been used by the army as a centre for training troops in urban combat. Whilst many of the original buildings have disappeared, custom built houses now stand that have helped trained the army for situations like Northern Ireland and Bosnia.
One of the few buildings that still stands is Imber church. A quick look at some of the fresh flowers on a couple of the graves reminds you that people have loved ones buried here. The army allows public access to the site for just a couple of days a year. Even then though is little more you can access other than the church and the main road that runs through the firing range. Everything else is off-limits with warnings of unexploded ordnance.
Within Geocaching, it’s not always about finding plastic boxes. For a time there were things called virtual caches, caches claimed by visiting a location and taking a photograph or by answering a question about the site. The creation of new virtual caches was stopped some time ago, but a number of the best examples still remain, Imber being one of them (and one of the hardest to get due to the limited access).
As a result of its difficultly, the Imber virtual cache has been one of those that everyone vows to get one day only to find that their window of opportunity has passed for the next few months. The organising of a caching event at the location, therefore, fixed a date in people’s minds and yesterday resulted in the largest number of people Imber has probably ever seen. A couple of hundred cachers descended on Imber from all around the country. There was even a minibus of cachers come all the way from Cornwall.
The church is only small and soon became packed. It also appeared that many had been feeding their dogs the Xmas Brussel Sprouts because some of the dog farts made my eyes water. At least I thought it was the dogs!
We’d heard rumours of burnt out tanks up the road and so set off in search of them. We soon found them and whilst we weren’t allowed to leave the carriageway, they were close enough for us to take silly pictures in front of them. I was particularly proud of my gurning.
From there, we decided to head back to Stonehenge. Unlike most of my travelling companions, I’d already done the virtual cache there, but we also decided to do the Earthcache, which I hadn’t. This is another cache type similar to the virtual in that there is no physical cache, but where all the questions relate to the environment. Most of the questions were about estimating size and weight of various rocks around the car park, but one required us to walk across a sheep field and take co-ordinates of where Stonehenge dipped over the horizon. This resulted in a half mile walk across a sheep field only for it to start raining heavily as we got there.
The return trip was even worse as the wind turned the rain to ice. My head was so cold I had a permanent ice cream headache. We got back to the car completely drenched and freezing, and I was still dripping wet when I got home.
We’d had a fun and silly day though. Not only that but I’d got one of my must-do caches off my list and visited one of the most interesting villages in Britain.