A couple of years ago we visited the ghost village of Imber which was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence in the Second World War. Tyneham is a similarly abandoned village, taken over by the military in 1943 and used as a training ground for the D-Day landings. The Army compulsorily purchased the land after the war and its 225 residents were never allowed to return.
Although the Army still own the land the village and range walks are open to the public most weekends and holidays. We combined a visit to Tyneham with a walk to Worbarrow Bay.
Whilst there are obvious similarities between Tyneham and Imber there are differences too. Although the houses have succumbed to nature the school and farm house have been restored at Tyneham. The village is peaceful and no longer used for active training, unlike Imber where Army training continues.
We wandered around the ruined houses, stopping to read the poignant display boards with their stories and photographs of the families who once lived there.
The recreated schoolroom harked back to a different era. There’s a nature table and exercise books, filled with records of flower and butterfly sightings. Not a fronted adverbial anywhere, how times have changed.
The best part of the day was the walk up to Gad Cliff and along the South West coast path.
Leaving Tyneham we followed the yellow posts that mark a safe route through the firing ranges. There are plenty of signs telling visitors not to pick things up off the ground; a timely reminder that this is still a live firing area.
You almost forget how close you are to the sea. That was until I reached the top of the hill and realised I was standing on the edge of a cliff. The coastal views are incredible but it’s hard to ignore the Danger signs on either side of path. One warning of cliffs, the other of a military firing range!
Pondfield Cove and Worbarrow Trout
The path dropped steeply down to Pondfield Cove, its small stony beach tucked into the promontory of Worbarrow Tout.
We walked onto the beach past several concrete structures. I later found out these were tank barriers, constructed in World War II to make it difficult for invaders to leave the beach.
I’m not sure why anyone would want to leave it. I could almost imagine I was on a Greek beach. Blue skies, crystal clear waters and sun, it was almost perfect. Pity there wasn’t a taverna!
We eventually dragged ourselves the short distance from Pondfield Cove over to the shingle beach of Worbarrow Bay. Sea mist rolled in over the cliffs, an unexpected sight on such a warm and sunny day.
There were a few people sunbathing and picnicking on the beach, but nothing like the numbers we experienced at Durdle Door later that afternoon.
I couldn’t resist a paddle out to a large rock a few feet offshore. The water was freezing! Yet further down the beach a couple of brave souls were swimming.
I’d originally planned to walk along the beach and up to Flower’s Barrow hill fort before returning to Tyneham. However heat and hunger got the better of us so we cut short our route. Instead we took the direct path back to Tyneham, passing lots of families heading in the opposite direction. From our track we could see the rusty shells of military vehicles littering the hillside, an indicator that it’s not always a peaceful place to visit. Fortunately we’d had a great morning; particularly as I managed to tick off another place on my UK bucket list!
- Check the Tyneham website for opening dates before you visit. It’s free to visit the village and beach, car parking costs £2. There are no shops or refreshment facilities.