Westbury Hill, with White Horse

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Imber Village, Traffic Sign

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Imber Village, Shells of Houses used for combat training

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Ruined Farm Buildings on Salisbury Plain, off American Road

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

02-Jan-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Young green growth on red soil, near Reeves Farm

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Cley Hill beyond Warminster

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Battlesbury Camp

SWC Walk 286 Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range)

16-Apr-17 • thomasgrabow on Flickr

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Westbury to Warminster via Imber Range walk

Westbury White Horse, 5 hills (3 of which Iron Age Camps), pristine chalk downland on Salisbury Plain, an abandoned village on the rarely open Imber Range

History

This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Updated: Fri, 07-Dec-18

Date # Post
Sun, 16-Apr-17 2

Easter Day Walk - Salisbury Plain: Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Range) [New Walk!]

...this slot is a swap with Chris L against my Saturday 27 May slot...

This walk had an aborted ‘outing’ on April Fools’ Day, when the Imber Range was shut to the public anyway, but this is the real thing…
It is a long and expensive outing, but – and I’ve said this before about one or two of my other walks – a walk like no other.
Westbury to Warminster
Length: 30.4 km (18.9 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 494/436 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 7 hours
Toughness: 9 out of 10
or
start from Bratton or Edington, and/or finish in Heytesbury, from as little as 16.5 km/10.3 mi (rated 3/10)
[due to the buses not running on Sundays, these options require a taxi journey from Westbury or to Warminster today]
Take the 08.57 Plymouth train from Paddington (09.32 Reading), arriving Westbury at 10.21.
Return trains: Ticketing is complicated, as both stations are served by different train companies and outside the Network Southeast area, here are the options, ranked by level of expense (the general rule – of course – is: the more you spend, the more options you have!):
(A) Split Tickets (London-Newbury return + Newbury-Warminster return) - £41.20 Full Price (£27.30 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards, £33.05 with a Network Railcard), your only eligible returns are the 17.36, 18.44, 19.44 and 20.44 trains from Warminster, connecting to the 17.56, 19.55, 20.28 and 21.44 trains from Westbury respectively, as your train has to have a stop at Newbury (i.e.: you have a long wait at Westbury for the latter three trains, and I can’t guarantee that the excellent waiting room with café will be open on the evening of Easter Day, but there is a pub 2 mins away).
(B) GWR-only Off-Peak Warminster Return - £52.50 Full Price (£34.60 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards), you have to return to Paddington (and change at Westbury or Swindon), your options are: the 17.36, then hourly 17.44 to 21.44.
(C) Off-Peak Warminster Return - £57.50 Full Price (£37.95 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards), valid on all returns into Waterloo (16.53, 17.08, 18.23, 19.08, 20.10 or 21.46) and Paddington (as above under (B)).
Little Imber on the Downe, 7 miles from any towne.
Bookended by indifferent, tarmac-heavy urban stretches through Westbury and Warminster, this walk is a fascinating journey across the Imber Live Firing Range on Salisbury Plain, an accidental wilderness due to having been MoD property since 1898, and out-of-bounds for most of the year, apart from short stand downs over Christmas and Easter and for some weeks in August (most years). Imber village itself was abandoned in 1943 at five weeks’ notice to be used for training house-to-house combat in preparation for the invasion of Continental Europe and is one of the most haunting and evocative places visited on any SWC walk. Imber Church will be open 11.00-16.00 hours today, an Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for noon (i.e. before we arrive, unfortunately).
Either side of the Plain the route conquers five hills, three of which with notable remnants of Iron Age hillfort sites: Bratton Camp, Scratchbury Camp and Battlesbury Camp, and also passes Wiltshire’s largest White Horse, at Westbury. You get superb views across Salisbury Plain and of the surrounding countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset.
Shorter walks, starting from Bratton or Edington, or finishing in Heytesbury, involve short taxi journeys, due to the buses not running on Sundays.
Note 1: Before embarking on this walk, please read the chapters on Public Safety and Access Rights on Salisbury Plain/Imber Range and on General Health & Safety Rules for military areas and ranges on page 2 in the walk directions pdf.
Note 2: These rare Open Days on the Imber Range are very popular; we may be the only walkers in Imber when we get there, but there will be lots of other people coming by car or bike.
Picnic lunch (although there will be hot drinks and biscuits sold at Imber Church (14.4 km/9.0 mi)).
For the tea options in Heytesbury and Warminster check page 2 of the walk directions pdf. T=swc.286

For the walk directions, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files and photos click here.
Intend going.
After scratching my head on this for a while this morning, I concluded that perhaps the optimal mix of flexibility and cost would be to do a groupsave GWR return to Warminster. A groupsave allows groups of 3 9 to travel off peak with a 1/3 discount and is not limited to the SE network. The only hitch being that you would need to coordinate and return together on the same train.... I will plan to be at the ticket window around 8:40ish on Sunday for anyone who would like to join together for a groupsave ticket....Happy Easter....
A select group of 2 assembled at the ticket office to purchase groupsave tickets (ending up with Newbury split tickets instead) and ultimately emerged into blazing bright sunshine at Westbury. Quickly leaving Westbury behind we soon launched up a steep hill towards a very handsome white horse and the ramparts and barrows of an iron age hill fort. Atop the hill, we were rewarded with stunning views far and wide and briefly parted company to explore different routes, regrouping to commence our traverse across the high rolling landscape of Salisbury Plain rich with grasses, flowers (loads of dandelions) and birds. Eventually, we reached the perimeter of the Imber Range which we initially skirted around before infiltrating. The terrain within the range was mainly wild rolling grasslands marked with the occasional tank track (and tank), archaeological site, grove of trees and military training structure. Nestled in a crease of the landscape and comprised of a combination of haunting remains and newer purpose built training structures, Imber Village presented a poignant reminder of the cost of military conflict. The church offered a small array of much welcomed refreshments (personally, I think a pop up pub in the remains of the village pub would be a great (and lucrative) addition to the range open days) and had a very interesting and informative exhibition on the history of the village with a number of fascinating photos of the original village. Some clouds gathered on the horizon as we set off to complete our journey across the range towards 4 small hills in the distance (thankfully the near/middle distance). Leaving the range we passed by a cow and calf nursery with many new arrivals and several expectant mothers and descended into the valley bottom before gently ascending and following a ridge along the 4 little hilltops seen from afar (two of which had impressive remains of iron age hill forts). The route along this ridge offered further fantastic views across the countryside both near and far (including glimpses of the Isle of Wight) and back towards Imber Range before eventually descending from the fort ramparts into Warminster. We grabbed a quick bite from one of the various options available and caught the 19:44, arriving back in London just before 22:00.

All in all a rich and rewarding day out!
Sat, 01-Apr-17

Saturday Extra Walk - Apocalypse Now! – Imber Live Firing Range (Salisbury Plain)

New Walk! – SWC 286: Westbury to Warminster (via Imber Live Firing Range)
Length: 30.4 km (19.0 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 490/432 m
Net Walking Time: ca. 7 hours
Toughness: 9 out of 10
Take the 08.06 Exeter St. David’s train from Paddington (08.35 Reading), arriving Westbury at 09.42.
Return trains: plenty of options either to Waterloo (direct, or change at Salisbury) or to Paddington (change at Westbury or Swindon). Journey time from 2 hours, but mostly a lot longer.
Ticket prices are admittedly a little on the high side, as both stations are served by different train companies and outside the Network Southeast area: Buy an Off-Peak Warminster Return at £57.50 (£37.95 with Senior, Two Together etc. Railcards, but not with Network Railcards: tough luck, folks!).
Bookended by pretty indifferent, tarmac-heavy urban stretches through Westbury and Warminster (a typical garrison town full of low-rent pubs, plenty of shabby housing and a Wetherspoon’s Hotel: be prepared for a bit of aggro), and a White Horse set in concrete and painted white for easier maintenance, this walk is a challenging but fascinating journey across the Imber Live Firing Range on Salisbury Plain, an accidental wilderness due to having been MoD property since 1898, and completely out-of-bounds to the public.
The SWC, in its greatness, has negotiated exceptional access to the range today though.
We will be met by Sergeant-Major Watson at the sentry box at the Bratton Entrance to the Range, where he will assess our equipment and physical fitness for the adventure. He will also give us the mandatory Health & Safety briefing and assessment (see below ‘Rules’ for a taster).
We will then march in formation, accompanied by a drummer (left-right-left-right-left-right…), for 6 km to Imber village (abandoned in 1943 at short notice to be used for training house-to-house combat in preparation for the invasion of Europe and easily the most haunting and evocative place visited on any SWC walk, ever) with its burnt out shells of pockmarked buildings and the pervading smell of napalm (and not just in the morning).
En route to, and at, Imber do follow these Rules especially: don’t climb on abandoned tanks (they are targets, not playgrounds); don’t pick up unexploded ordnance; mind tanks crossing our track (they do generally have right-of-way, and even if not…); follow any instructions given by military personnel and don’t talk back to passing troops (they are armed, we are not); stay cool, calm and collected when shells explode close by; hide your accents (London or other foreign): this is deepest Brexit-Land.
Note: Before embarking on this walk, you have to read the chapters on Public Safety and Access Rights on Salisbury Plain/Imber Range and on General Health & Safety Rules for military areas and ranges on page 2 in the walk directions pdf, as there will be a written test on the train to decide whether you are allowed to join the walk! I don’t want to be embarrassed by you not passing the Sergeant-Major’s assessment, comprende?
A three-course lunch (made from long-life military rations with much watered-down ‘tea’ and some gruel) may be provided by the army at Imber, if we’re nice… T=swc.286
For walk directions, a map, a height profile, gpx/kml files and photos click here.
Great stuff I am defo doing this one as I have heard about the abandoned village since my childhood and always wanted to visit
Not sure about marching to yhe veat but daresay i will manage and suprisibgly I quite fancy the lunch i have had too many gourmet middays.
Well done Thomas a decent walk at last
Truly magnificent post, Thomas, in style and substance. Thank you.
Any special clothing required? I think I have a tin hat somewhere. (Might once have been used as a potty but it was a long time ago.)
And a white flag ..
This is a fantastic idea for a walk, Thomas: literally fantastic. But are you planning to do this one of the Milton Keynes one? It seems a shame to have two so incredible walks on the same day.
Split ticket option for youngsters: Padd Bedwyn return with Network Card £19.10; Bedwyn Warminster Cheap Day Return £16.90. Total £36. No need to get off train at Bedwyn.Please stick to April 1st for this walk. Thank you.
Walker: thanks for the praise, much appreciated. The MK walk is probably a little too short for me on this first long Saturday of the year, but I'm well up for this little adventure here. Just checking my storage shed for my old Bundeswehr fatigues, they gotta be somewhere surely...
In reply to Anonymous (Comment #5): that's true only if the return train also stops at Bedwyn, which the fast one's don't, so please disregard this option.
Definitely an upgrade on MK!
It's April fool's day......
Will there be Poisson D'Avril for lunch?
Yes this walk defo an April Fool's joke
Sorry, folks, but I just had a call from the Army to tell me that my permission to enter the range this Saturday has been rescinded. No reason given, of course.
Might have to do with my time served in the Bundeswehr. Or maybe it's just the date.
So the walk is off. I'll try again another time. Stay tuned.

And thanks for reading.
Probably a wise move to postpone this very intriguing walk……definitely one to do with the appropriate clearances and instructions…..However, I simply could not resist the lure of the adventure today, so I set off on the appointed train to embark on the journey with a map (as an unusual glitch on the website resulted in me not being able to find the written instructions). Needless to say, I was not surprised when I was the only person to alight from the train under partly cloudy skies. After quickly passing through Westbury, I entered the Imber firing range and things became very interesting. Within moments of entering the range, I narrowly escaped being mowed down by a platoon of tanks moving in formation. It was only due to some fast action that I was able to sprint from harm’s way into a remnant of a derelict building. Once I caught my breath, I carefully carried on picking my way across the wild terrain and passing several burnt out tanks along the way.
Fortunately, I stumbled across a pub for lunch which much to my surprise featured poisson d’avril as the special of the day – however, I found it a little disappointing – somewhat dry and, well, papery…..After lunch the fun really began. Upon seeing a group of soldiers in the distance seemingly pointing riffles in my direction, I jumped behind a mangled and rusted jeep, ducked down and closed my eyes just in time to sense a shower of bullets whiz by narrowly missing me. When I opened my eyes, I found that I was staring down the business end of a riffle held by an apoplectic sergeant major who then unceremoniously marched me double time at gun point to the boundary of the firing range. Finally, upon reaching Warminster, I made my way to the Wetherspoons for a much needed drink where I succumbed to the offer to buy a whole bottle of red wine for just 1 pound more than a large glass. Having had too much to drink, I wobbled off to catch 20:10 back to London – only to fall asleep from too much wine and miss my connection in Salisbury, waking up at the train terminus in Portsmouth Harbour….
Notwithstanding the challenges encountered today, this area holds great promise for an interesting walk – I definitely look forward to doing the official route at another time – preferably with written instructions and proper clearances…

Thanks to all contributors. I had such a laugh reading this and was almost taken in but for the excellent humour displayed by Thomas. I tried to visit the abandoned village taken over by the army near Lulworth Cove on the Isle of Purbeck coast a month ago on a week day but the access road was closed and shrouded in sea fog. There were views of tanks and military burnt out equipment but it does open on the weekends when sadly I'm working. You don't need permission then but need to check as its a long way from civilisation and fortunately i was driving