Monday, 25 August 2014

Railways, Routemasters, Rain - and a lost village!

August Bank Holiday, and the weather forecast was appalling.  But there is only one chance a year to travel on a Routemaster across Salisbury Plain to a lost village, and that is on August Bank Holiday.  So, despite the rain, we set off.

The day started badly.  We were hoping to catch the 9:27 from Clapham Junction, which would have been a direct train with no changes.  However, no sooner were we on the bus than we noticed we'd left a window open, so we had to get off to go and close it, and lost all chance of that train.  When we finally got to CLJ, we realised that the Swan Whisperer's free tickets were, in fact, day Rover tickets, so I need not have bought tickets at all!  What a waste of £25, we thought - but then, the very kind inspector on the first train suggested that I get them refunded when we got home, not something that it would have occurred to me to do. 

We got to Salisbury, where we had 20 minutes to wait, and then realised, to our horror, that the connection to Warminster was run by First Great Western, not South West Trains.  Oh well, we thought, we'll just have to use those tickets after all, and the Swan Whisperer will have to buy one.  But we ran out of time to buy anything from the ticket office, so spoke to the ticket collector as soon as we got on the train - and he let us travel on our day tickets!  People are so nice sometimes.

We arrived in Warminster at about 12:00, I think.  TfL route 23A leaves from outside Warminster station.
We bought a day ticket, but it was so wet that we ended up staying on the bus for the next couple of hours, while it drove through Imber and out on to Salisbury Plain,
passed through a couple of random villages (with great difficulty; the roads are really not designed for London buses), and finally back to Imber, where we got off. 

Imber was a tiny village in the middle of nowhere until 1943, when the villagers were given six weeks to get out (which is a lot more than my grandparents got - they had to leave their home with only ten days' notice!) and the village has never been inhabited since.  Most of the houses are shells, built to train troops in house-to-house fighting.

The Church, however, has managed to remain open, and a service is held once a year.
  It was open today, and there was an exhibition showing the history of the village, and photos showing what it used to be like:
People were selling things to raise money for the church - tea and biscuits, plants, honey, books and booklets about the village, and so on.

When we had seen enough, we had a wander through the village, and then finally got back on the bus to head back to Warminster.  We had already noted when the South West Trains service was, and caught that train, which took us all the way to London without a change.  And the kind person in the ticket office refunded my tickets, so I hadn't wasted £25 after all! 

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