I’ve been fascinated by Imber since I discovered the existence of the village through, you guessed it, geocaching.
The ghost village of Imber sits in the middle of the MOD’s training area on Salisbury Plain and is therefore inaccessible to us civilians for most of the year, except for a few days when the MOD lifts its restrictions and allows people to visit the old village church.
With the War Office needing large expanses of land to train troops in preparation for the D-Day landings, the village was evacuated in November 1943. Imber’s residents were promised that they could return after the war, however this never happened and the village has remained in military occupation ever since. Today, most of the original village buildings have disappeared and the MOD has constructed numerous mock houses for training. There are a few original buildings remaining, including the parish church of St. Giles which dates from around 1400 with later additions.
Yesterday was one of the days when access to the village is allowed so me and Bob drove down to attend a geocaching event – Imbibing Imber II.
As we approached via the military roads, we crested a ridge and spied the village nestling below.
As well as the geocaching event, many locals also made the trip to visit the church, not to mention the Imber road running club and a bike club organising races and lots of trail bikes and 4×4 vehicles stopping off. The place was absolutely packed.
We made our way up to the church; which of course was primarily why we were here; as well as the event itself there were two church micros and a virtual cache to find, all of which required us to locate specific items and clues. The church micro information then had to be converted into the actual coordinates so that we could find the physical caches – these were located elsewhere as the hiding of geocaches on MOD land is prohibited.
Unusually, their war memorial lists all those villagers who served in the First World War, listing the fallen and injured separately.
After exploring the church we wandered about looking at the rest of the village and meeting up with some familiar cachers, it was good to see quite a few from our local group had made the trip. We then retreated to the car for lunch; while munching our sandwiches we worked out the coordinates to the caches using the info we had collected earlier.
The Army’s fighting houses are out of bounds to the public, even on open days such as this. As is the case elsewhere on Salisbury Plain Training Area, straying off the public rights of way is neither permitted nor sensible – there is always the risk of encountering unexploded ordnance and no one wants to get blown up.
Then it was time to leave the village and find those caches. This part of the afternoon reminded me of Mega events I’d attended: our approach to each cache was populated by numerous cachers doing the same thing. For one cache we drove along a metalled byway to find more than half a dozen cachermobiles at an impromptu parking area. It was bordering on chaos but Bob nevertheless managed to park his car (wishing no doubt that he’d brought his Land Rover). We then had a short uphill hike to GZ, which had the added benefit of a magnificent view across the plain.
After signing the log we returned to the car and eventually negotiated the narrow lane back down to civilisation. Then it was time to head for the A303 and home, stopping a few times en route to pick up some cache & dashes. All in all, another great day out on Salisbury Plain and a tally of 9 finds.
For those who want to learn more, here are some links: