Tyneham Village stands in a quiet valley in south Dorset. Quiet, that is, when the Ministry of Defence are not firing salvos of various ordnance over its head, because Tyneham sits slap bang in the middle of 11 square miles of firing range.
It wasn’t always like this; Tyneham was a casualty of war. In November 1943 its inhabitants received notice that the land was required for forces’ training. They were given 28 days to leave. A total of 225 people vacated the village under a veil of secrecy. An increase in local adverts was the only hint that something was going on – farmers had to advertise to sell their livestock and machinery. By 17 December 1943 the villagers had gone.
The military moved in. By Spring 1944 the area was a massive camp in preparation for the D-Day landings.
It is said that the last person to leave posted a note on the village’s church door:
“Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes, where many of us lived for generations, to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly”.
The inhabitants never did return. In 1948 the village was compulsorily purchased; it has been deserted ever since.
Part of the village is in ruins, although there is a pristinely refurbished telephone box. It stands incongruously by a row of cottages, looking so out of place it reminded me of the Tardis, set down in a post-apocalyptic English countryside.
The telephone box isn’t the only well-kept building in the village. The farm has been restored and the village church is in immaculate condition. The MoD covenanted to maintain it as part of the purchase agreement.
The village schoolhouse is now a museum. The clocks were suddenly stopped and time has stood still ever since.
I found a wall by the farm buildings particularly interesting. Artillery shells of various sizes and nationalities had been set into the mortar capping, many with their own little signs telling you where they had come from and why they were used. Some were spent, their casings having been ripped to shreds on detonation. Others were in-tact shell casings.
We could have spent a lot more time at Tyneham, but we had the coast of Britain to get round. After an hour or so we headed back out of the village and south, back to the coast.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- The Lost Village of Tyneham: N 50° 37.390 W 002° 10.150
Walk #79 Statistics (of which this post forms the third part):
- Date of Walk: 23 May 2015
- Walk #79 total distance covered: 9.61 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 671.24 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!
It’s amazing that you could visit it. Isn’t there a danger of unexploded shells etc about the place?
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I haven’t been to Tyneham for many years, but I remember thinking it was a very sad place to be. Melancholy. As you say, the clocks were suddenly stopped. Maybe we should pay it another visit – though it can only be visited on certain days of the year. RH