By Emma Kirkup
Crossing the heart of Salisbury Plain, I travelled to the village of Imber. So what, you may be thinking? Well, Imber’s a bit different to other Wiltshire villages in that it sits in the heart of Salisbury Plain and in 1943 the villagers were evacuated to allow the military to use the area as training grounds in the war efforts.
In the centre of the village lies St Giles’ Church which is now under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. The church is opened for a very limited period at certain times of the year (usually Easter, St Giles’ Day and over the Christmas period) due to ongoing use of Salisbury Plain by the Ministry of Defence and the restrictions in place on the roads that lead to the village.
The church sits within the church yard which looks like a typically English village scene until you see the ‘Out of Bounds’ signs that surround it. Within the church you’ll find several boards depicting village life before the evacuation as well as volunteers on hand to answer questions about the church and for a small charge make you a warming cup of tea!
There isn’t much of the original village that remains unfortunately. From the road you can see the old Manor House and the village pub and a couple of other village houses however they are merely shells and you aren’t allowed to go into them. There are other more modern buildings that have been put up near to the church which are very much still used for military activities and again, you aren’t allowed to walk through them.
It really is an eerie place here, the village’s location was always remote but it’s strange to go to an area so quiet that has so much history to it. The church will be open for various dates over the festive period (although may be subject to cancellation at short notice). If you get the opportunity to visit it, I would recommend it. I have taken several people who have lived in Wiltshire a long time and have never been to it, despite having heard a lot about it over the years.