A few weeks ago, I helped the Disabled Ramblers learn about the history of Salisbury Plain and how our Armed Forces use it to live, work and train.
Salisbury Plain is the largest and busiest of the UK’s training areas and is made up of 94,000 acres of land. It has an incredible landscape which has accessible opportunities for a wide range of people. A network of tracks provides opportunities for visitors to get out and enjoy areas of the countryside uninhibited by gates and stiles.
Who are the Disabled Ramblers?
The Disabled Ramblers is a small charity which works across England and Wales to make the countryside more accessible for people with limited mobility. Its work includes organising a national programme of rambles for their members and finding routes that offer accessible experiences for people who use off-road mobility scooters.
What the visit covered
The Ramblers enjoyed a route around the Plain that took in the beautiful landscape near Tilshead water tower with a stop at the long barrow on Old Ditch. The long barrow is the largest of its type, being 130 metres long and 50 metres wide with large side ditches.
We then crossed the grounds of Tilshead Lodge, a former 17th century country house which was used as an army base during World War Two.
Tucked out of the sun, in the shade of the beech avenue, we found a good spot to compare the parkland features to the north with the wilder Plain to the south. Guy Salkeld, a DIO Archaeologist gave an interesting talk about the history of the site, before the Ramblers headed to Copehill Down village. The facility is purpose-built and was built in 1987 during the cold war and was designed to replicate a German village.
At the village we were met by some of my colleagues who gave members an overview of how the training area provides essential features that are needed by our Armed Forces to carry out large training exercises. It also plays an important role in preparing troops for deployment overseas.
Safety on Salisbury Plain
Members also learned about how DIO works to protect and manage archaeology and wildlife on the Plain. They also listened to safety messages about military training on the Defence estate. This included risks concerning unexploded ordnance across the Plain after over 100 years of use and the need to be aware of fast-moving vehicles in all areas of the Plain, not just red flagged danger areas.
The visit also gave me an opportunity to discuss some of the accessibility requirements needed for people with mobility issues, such as wider gates and tracks or paths free of simple low-level barriers that could be overlooked, including drains. We also discussed the need to raise awareness of where people with mobility issues can actually go.
Valerie Rawlings, regional representative for the Disabled Ramblers, said the group had really enjoyed their time on the Plain.
She commented: “Everyone said how much they enjoyed the interesting talks and the enthusiasm that shone through was impressive. Copehill Down village was very interesting and brings home how much we owe to our valiant troops. I love Salisbury Plain and find it endlessly fascinating so hope to be able to go there again.”