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*May 19 – Salisbury Plain: Tilshead and Copehill Down

Disabled Ramblers Wiltshire Tour – Tilshead & Copehill Down – Friday 24th May 2019.

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A different part of Salisbury Plain and completely different from the day before, more rugged – mainly due to tank activity on the paths and tracks which when dried out by the sun make for a rather bumpy ride!  12 scooters booked but 1 cancellation so 11 of us set out from the Water Tower (we only just missed Steven Spielberg filming with Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch, on the reccy there was plenty of activity, but they didn’t ask us to take part in the film!).  We were accompanied on the ramble by James Nevitt the Senior Access & Recreation Advisor to the MOD on Salisbury Plain, plus two of his colleagues and they were very helpful in answering any questions we had about the area.

We went along the edge of a longbarrow which is very ancient and dates back to 35000 BC or thereabouts and is a protected ancient monument, this path was very like a switchback and in the winter would be impassable for us due to the deep hollows being filled with water, but this time of year it is dry.  The MOD is very mindful of not damaging this area and we had a very interesting talk from one of Jame’s colleagues, an archaeologist attached to the MOD, and he gave a very detailed outline of the history of the Longbarrow which held everybody’s attention for half an hour or more, from there we progressed along the tracks to Copehill Village which is a military training area, specially built so that the soldiers can learn how to attack houses and climb in and out of windows while carrying all their accoutrements etc. as safely as is possible in wartime situations.  There are 88 houses there of all shapes and sizes, and we had a talk by Andy a serving soldier about the activities that take place there, it is the largest training area in the country being about as big as the Isle of Wight. The tanks can cross the Plain from one side to the other on their training exercises. We were a little disappointed because there was supposed to be an exercise taking place but it was silent, so obviously there had been a change of plan. We scared them off I think!!

Some beautiful flowers today – when we arrived I saw a member of the orchid family, a white heleborine (which I had never seen before), during the day we saw birds foot trefoil, many species of vetch and a beautiful pink plant called Sainfoin (member of the pea family), rather like a dainty lupin.  The butterfly in the photos is a Marsh Fritillary, and up there on the Plain there is also a good colony of the dainty blue butterfly family, especially later in the summer.

By now it was way past lunch time, so we went on to a wood we knew and where we could get some much needed shade and had a late lunch before setting on back to the car park.  I think during the two days the group did exceedingly well as both rambles were very challenging and were, perhaps, slightly more than a Cat 3. It is so difficult to get it exactly right, but congratulations to all you who came – you were marvellous!

Many thanks, as ever, to Veronica, John B, P & P, and the walkers and volunteers who are always there to help when needed.  Thanks also to James and his colleagues from the MOD for their help before and during the ramble.

Val and Bob. (photos courtesy of Pete and Paula)