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Foto Fair Post your photos for friendly, non-critical feedback. This is the place to show pictures if you aren't yet ready for full-blooded critique, or simply want to share an interesting picture with other e-group visitors.

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  #1  
Old 20th April 2012
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Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Imber is a village on Salisbury Plain that embodies a rather shameful piece of recent English history. That part of the Plain is pretty bleak - it's not at all mountainous and not even very high up but somehow manages to be deeply inhospitable. The army have used lots of bits of the Plain for training for a long time. During the 1939-45 war some bright spark noticed that Imber was a long way from anywhere and smack in the middle of areas used for training, and thought it would be handy to get their hands on the village so they could use the whole area for heavy stuff with tanks, artillery etc. There is plenty about this on the web so I'll try to keep it short.

In 1943 the villagers were given about 6 weeks notice to evacuate their homes, without compensation or any offer of other accommodation, and they had to be out a couple of weeks before Christmas. Of course this was pretty traumatic but the government promised that they could return after the war, so in the spirit of the war effort off they went. The American army trained there. At the end of the war the Americans handed the land back to the UK and offered to repair the inevitable damage so that it could be returned to the villagers in a habitable state.

At this point some civil servant or army officer decided it would be nice to hang on to it. Despite numerous campaigns and appeals, the village and the land around it has remained in army hands ever since.

The whole area is normally closed to the public, but a few times a year the roads and village are opened to visitors. It was open at Easter and I visited with a friend. It was a cold, grey, windy (surprise!) day and the photo ops are limited because there aren't many places you can go, but I got a few. There are a few original buildings still standing, plus a bunch of basic shells of houses put up by the army for urban combat practice.

Here is the village sitting in its small valley in the Plain:



I think this used to be one of the pubs:



Some of the purpose-built houses, except that I think the red-brick one with the light green roof centre-left was the old school house:



The church had fallen into a very poor state. The army were not allowed to cause any damage to it, but it copped the odd stray shell and heavy artillery shaking the earth didn't do it much good. It used to be opened once a year for a service on St. Giles' Day, but had become quite dangerous. When I visited three years ago the churchyard was barricaded off and overgrown. Around then it was taken on by the Churches Conservation trust who have done a fine job of restoration. Here is a grab shot of the east window:



It would be nice to do a Nick T-F with a tripod and some HDR. Would have been a bit tricky at Easter, here is the view after turning 120 degrees to look westwards along the nave:



It felt as though everybody in Wiltshire was there!

The church and the graveyard (with a lot of perspective and distortion correction):



The incongruous oval window was added during the 19th century so that the squire had enough light to read his hymnbook in his private pew.

Teccie stuff - all handheld with E-5, long shot with 50-200 and EC-14, rest with Panaleica 14-150.

If you're interested, I've saved several other shots in my gallery on here.

Sorry for rambling. I guess if you've ploughed down this far you must have found it interesting!

Ciao ... John
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  #2  
Old 20th April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Very interesting piece of history and photographs. I've heard this story before and it's quite a shameful reflection on our society. We are not quite the fair and free country that we like to believe. Thanks for posting.
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Old 21st April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Thanks John. I don't claim any great photographic merit for these - dull conditions, retsricted access, crowds and an absence of talent put paid to that - but I felt the story needed telling.

A small consolation is that the area is still being used for the purpose for which it was acquired, rather than sitting idle while some land-grab speculator waits for its value to rise.

Ciao ... John
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Old 21st April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Very interesting and something I did not know John, thank you for sharing.
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Old 21st April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Shameful on the governments part, indeed John. The church is so picturesque and I bet Nick would like to get his lens around this one also !
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Old 21st April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Nice shots John, did you give advanced notice of the open day on this forum? I seem to remember a mention of it and then doing some research - a very interesting if somewhat sad story.
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Old 22nd April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

incredible story John, something I was completely unaware of. I wonder if any of the original residents are still alive.
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Old 22nd April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Quote:
Originally Posted by IainMacD View Post
Nice shots John, did you give advanced notice of the open day on this forum? I seem to remember a mention of it and then doing some research - a very interesting if somewhat sad story.
Thanks Ian. I spotted a notice inthe local rag before Easter and put a brief mention on here - it's not far from Nick T-F's manor, among others. There is more info on the Conservation Trust's website http://www.imberchurch.org.uk/ . It includes provisional dates when it will be open.

Ciao ... John
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Old 22nd April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

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Originally Posted by Crippledsandwich View Post
incredible story John, something I was completely unaware of. I wonder if any of the original residents are still alive.
If they are, they will be quite old by now. Anyone who was a baby at the time of evacuation would be nearly 70 now. There is a book "Little Imber On The Down" by Rex Sawyer which tells the story, with interviews with several of the former residents and a good account of the various campaigns to reclaim it. I won't include a link as there are lots - best to Google if you're interested. It is still available in paperback as far as I know.

It is a bit of a paradox. Life in Imber was always pretty hard. It is very remote, about 3 miles from the nearest main road and at least 5 from the nearest town. The soil on the Plain is not very good so scratching a living was quite a challenge, and for some reason the climate up there is pretty hostile. All of this bred a close-knit community. But if the evacuation had never happened, or the villagers had been allowed to return after 1945, I suspect that it would have withered of its own accord as all the younger people would have left in search of work. It might then have become a target for weekenders and holiday homes. Either way it would have been a very different place from its earlier life.

But that does not in any way excuse the disgraceful way in which the villagers were treated.

Ciao ... John
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Old 22nd April 2012
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Re: Little Imber On The Down (warning - rambly and image-heavy)

Very interesting John, thanks for posting these, shame the Americans were not allowed to restore it...I guess the only positive is that our armed forces, although now sadly diminished by Govt cuts since WW2, are still probably the best trained in the world.
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