Monday 12 November 2012

Visiting Tyneham

Today is a dull, rainy day but yesterday was gorgeous and sunny. When hubby asked me where I’d like to go for a trip out, I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to go to Tyneham Village, Then I had to make sure that it was open this weekend, and that dogs are welcomed there. Yes was the answer to both questions so off we went.
Pics by Jim Champion
Why did I want to see Tyneham? No-one lives there now, but until 1943 it was home to a number of Dorset families. In that year during World War II, at very short notice, they were all ordered to leave and the village and surrounding area was commandeered for troops preparing for Operation Overlord, the D Day landings in Normandy, France. They left believing they would be able to return after the war, but unlike those from the Slapton area in Devon which was similarly evacuated, they were never allowed to do so. (I know about Slapton as it is near where I was brought up. I believe there were other villages also evacuated in wartime, but Tyneham is the only one where families never had the option to return to their homes.)

The village now lies in the Lulworth tank firing ranges which are still owned by the UK’s Ministry of Defence. All the former dwellings were left to the ravages of nature but some passionate campaigners managed to maintain public access to the Tyneham’s nearby beach at Worbarrow Bay. At first this was only on public holidays and while you could drive to the village and park your car, the derelict buildings were off limits. 

But the campaigning continued and in 1979 a service was held in Tyneham’s Church of St Mary – the first for 36 years.

Now many of the buildings have been reclaimed from the undergrowth and there is a large car park between the village itself and Tyneham Farm. Although most of the cottages are just ruins, you can enter them and read signs about their former inhabitants. The old schoolhouse is laid out with poignant exhibits and a sign in the church includes the final entry in the school diary; “Closed the school today”.

There are also permitted walks on the range when it’s safe and the area is open, and from Tyneham there is a cart track to the beach and a woodland walk so Jade was happy and accommodated. The range walks are marked by the yellow postsyou can see in the photo, and you have to keep between them.

The area is very beautiful. On the way home we stopped at a high viewpoint with rolling green hills to the sea on one side and a distant vista of Poole harbour on the other. I can’t believe we’ve been living here for over 3 years and not found that before. We'll be back.


David Robinson said...

What an engaging post, Jean. I envy your research skills finding all the lost nooks and crannies of our heritage.

Unknown said...

Cheers, David. Acrually I've known of Tyneham for quite a while, but never made the effort to get there before.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be making the most of life in Devon. I would like to see this village, it must have been a sad sight in some ways. Thank goodness that they gave Blackawton back to the people.

Unknown said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting, Anon. Tyneham is actually in Dorset, not far from where we live now.

Unknown said...

For other readers I should explain that Blackawton is village inland near Slapton. I'm not sure if it was included in the D Day preparation evacuations, but it seems my last commenter believes so.

aw said...

We've visited Tyneham a couple of times, Jean, and the setting is so peaceful it is hard to imagine its use for army training at all. A wonderful spot for wildlife of all sorts. I believe Imber on Salisbury Plain is another village evacuated around that time and that, too, still forms part of the army ranges. Not sure whether the inhabitants expected to return after the war though.

Bob Scotney said...

I'd heard about Slapton, Jean, but not Tyneham. This is a very interestiing piece.

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