Monday, 6 April 2015

No rain on the Plain!

Apologies for appalling cliche!

You may have seen in the news about the evacuated village of Imber in the middle of Salisbury Plain being open this Easter weekend - we've never been organised enough to visit in time, but yesterday we were!

As were many other people - although it was busy, it was still amazing to wander through streets that used to be part of a living, breathing village, prior to 1943 when the MOD said 'ta-ta' to the residents. Visiting St Giles church (lovingly restored a few years ago) was touching - some of the graves surrounding it are relatively recent, as the people living there in the 40s pass on. And the headstones on the older graves, all wonky due to mole activity, were covered in a beautiful collage of lichens. A testament to the excellent air quality (comes from being in the middle of nowhere!)

The drive to Imber is pretty amazing too - it's not every day you get to drive through the largest piece of lowland species-rich grassland in the UK in an active military range - literally, you couldn't see an end to it, either way you looked. It must be beautiful in the summer with all the wildflowers - I really must get out there and explore it a bit more. I usually drive across the Plain (on the public roads!) onto somewhere else - not good enough!

And then today we've just come back from my great little walk to view Stonehenge for free! Now, of course you can do this from your car on the A303 - and in fact, as this was pretty much at a standstill, you would probably have got some good pics. The other option is, of course, to pay for a timed slot via the museum (apparently well worth a look) to see the stones via the land train. Although, for Amesbury residents, with the appropriate pass from the library there, you can get in for free (not so for Salisbury residents, much to my annoyance!).

I had been determined to see the stones for free, and first walked this route over a year ago - it's much more interesting than just paying to visit, I would argue. It starts at Woodhenge (with the post holes marked out by concrete bollards - not the most aesthetically pleasing but free parking! Also much older than Stonehenge and a proper henge!), takes in a dismantled railway via skylark-filled meadows, before crossing the Cursus (over 5000 years old and absolutely massive earth bank - check out an OS map!) with views of the stones getting closer, before finally traversing the end of the Avenue. When they closed the old A344 (that split the stones from the Cursus and Avenue), they turned it over to grass, which is now the only thing separating the low fence of the stones from the walkers. You get great views and get to take in the archaeological landscape, as well as some of the wildlife. On the walk back, again with many skylarks, we bumped into some oil beetles (violet oil beetle apparently) - beautiful glossy bulky beetles, that are so named because they emit pungent oil when alarmed. Apparently, the larvae climb flowers after hatching, and attach themselves to a passing solitary bee, being carried back to their nest, where they develop (feeding on the bee eggs and pollen stores) and become adults. The Buglife website says they have suffered massive population declines in recent years as they depend on healthy populations of their host bees. Fingers crossed the various research initiatives pay off and we can turn this around.

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