Tyneham - closed
Twice I have gone looking for Tyneham, the fabled lost village in the Purbeck Hills of Dorset. The first time we read the maps all wrong and ended up at another 'attraction' - a blue phone box in the middle of nowhere. The second time, a blazing February afternoon, we drove up, up into the chalk ridges, armed with pack-satchels and binoculars. Dorset has a peculiar cut-off feel to it as it is, Purbeck even more so - I feel time fall away when driving or walking there, other older timescales slipping across each other: the deep time of geological shifts, cut into the land in the toothed ridges, the impossible slant of the hills and chasms; the gentle yet ungraspable imprint of near history in the low-lying farms and the destructive clatter of the MOD presence - land claimers and land-shapers in their own way.
On this day the sense of being cut off was heightened by the presence of a heat-haze running deep into the valleys and hovering dense and white above the distant sea. Each ridge seemed a separate floating island of chalk and loam. We'd got directions off a toothy pub landlord and we're by now high on a ridge, scanning the MOD fences for a sign - anything to indicate where Tyneham might be located, crouching. Then, near the top of the next rise, we saw the sign telling us that the range, and the village were 'closed' - access denied. The ghosts of Tyneham were at peace this day and if we trespassed we were liable to get shot or blown up. Mostly I was beset with a kind of poetic tension - the tense urge to set eyes on a village, a village abandoned in full working order, and the feeling that it should remain sealed off, free from greedy prying eyes such as ours. As it was we continued to the top of the rise and tried to see into the appropriate valley, eyes straining to see through Purbeck stone, to see through Purbeck mist. It was an impossibility. It had to remain elusive for now. For ever perhaps.
Tyneham - ruins
The guys at Nothing to See Here however, recently managed to get sight of the place in all its cold-stone glory. In the quiet light of these pictures it isn't eerie or ghosted as I suspected it might be; instead it looks as though it might be waiting - waiting for the return of footfalls and the heavy thrumming weight of life. See for yourself with this Flickr set.
Also, check out Anne's iLike site if you get the chance.
And apropos of not much, I've been thinking about this track an awful lot recently:
Download: Meursault - A General Term
The village that died for England...
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