I recently posted my travel wish list for 2021. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to start making travel plans again soon, but for now we remain in lockdown. That means lots and lots of local lockdown walks. Try saying that quickly after a couple of generous gins.
Luckily, I love walking. I’m out everyday and I’m blessed with some good company in the form of our dog, affectionately known as ‘The Wolf ‘ and sometimes the kids. The teenagers are definitely fair weather walkers, though. When we first moved here in November 2019, we walked to see what we could see. In time, we worked out some favourite routes, the scenic walks and the dog friendly ones.
Fast forward to 2021. We know the local area pretty well now, so try to plan walks to new places or areas of interest. A country church, a bit of local history, that sort of thing. In the neighbouring village stands a castle ruin and a path leading into some woodland walks. I’d been before with Mr THL, but only for a fleeting visit. I figured a crisp winter day when the sun was up and the temperature was making it (just ) above freezing was as good a time as any to go back and explore. A grand idea, but best laid plans. We never made it to the castle.
The walk started out well enough. I feel lucky to call Wiltshire home. Despite living in a ‘Super Garrison’ and all the building that has taken place to create new homes for military families, there is still a vast amount of open space. You don’t have to walk far before you’re surrounded by rolling fields and countryside. Wildlife is abundant; I regularly see pheasant, deer and rabbits. Oh, and magpies, who always make me say things like, “Is there one, or is there two? One for sorrow, two for joy…C’mon, tell me you see a second one?” Anyone else superstitious like that?
All of that to say, we weren’t long out of the front door before we were enjoying some lovely rural views. We also weren’t long out the front door before we realised everyone else had the same idea. Fellow walkers, horse riders, dirt and quad bikers, cyclists. Nice as it was to see everyone out making the most of things, it all got a bit much for The Wolf. Too many people, too many chasing opportunities. When 40kg of wolfy dog goes into a tailspin, you really have to find some space and calm.
So changed the plan. Goodbye pretty rural views en route to a romantic castle ruin, hello rough-and-ready military training area. I’m always telling the kids they don’t know how lucky they are, they can’t say I don’t take them places. Jokes aside, they actually think the military spaces are pretty cool. This one especially because it threw up the find of the day. Cars. Smashed up and abandoned cars shunted into a group like some bizarre open air art installation.
A note about the training area. Its perfectly safe and (mostly) open to the public, if they want to use it. It’s very popular with bikers who like the man made challenges and rough terrain. The area is made up of rough land, sections for testing vehicles, and open space for simulating military situations. Much of it was created by the Royal Engineers , who left their mark on the bridge. Obviously if the army is using it, keep out the way. The odd occasion I’ve been up there and a big old tank/tracked vehicle has gone past me, got to admit it’s a bit intimidating. Makes the heart beat faster.
I’ve no idea where these cars came from and why they’d been piled up there. Looking at them, the damage wasn’t from a road accident or anything like that. It looked more like someone had been playing with them, maybe shunting them around with one of the aforementioned tracked vehicles. I could definitely see some of the blokes being up for that. Living out all their Robot Wars meets Top Gear daydreams. Could just be these cars were just dumped here. I’ve no idea.
What I do know is that the junk got a bigger ‘oh wow!’ reaction from the kids than any castle ruin would have. And that the pile of junked up motors actually did capture my imagination. I love stories, the telling and the crafting of them. What could the stories behind these be ? Some young ‘uns first car, gifted by proud parents? A car picked up returning to the UK after time abroad… or sold because they were being sent abroad at short notice? Who’d sat in these cars for long journeys or short hops, held happy conversations or heated arguments. Maybe someone brought their first child home in one of these cars… maybe this and maybe that. I’ll never know, of course, but I can always imagine.
That turned out to be about it for that lockdown walk. The kids had a good time nosing about the cars and playing with the dog on the training area. Turns out courses and obstacles built for military vehicles are also perfect for running the energy out of a big dog. I’d taken my camera out in hope of ruins under a blue sky but enjoyed snapping away at the junk instead. The last year has taught me to adapt and work with whatever comes my way, so… yeah, that.
There won’t be much more dog walking and messing about on this area as it stands. Part of it has already been built on, a mixed development of military and civilian housing. Plans are afoot to convert more of it into a green space and nature walk. You could argue it does the job as is ,but I guess it going to get a make over. An intriguing thing about Wiltshire is how the past is woven into the landscape. The cone shaped hill on farmland that is actually an iron age hill fort. Roads to no where that used to lead to a disappeared army camp or airfield. Eventually, this site also will be a ‘used -to- be’ .
I wonder if anyone will look across it in years to come and say, ” I remember when this was all army ground, I used to drive tanks up here…”. Or maybe, ” I remember, when I was a kid, Mum used to bring us up here on dog walks. Didn’t look like this then though…”. Memories in the making, eh?