After being evacuated from Kenya, I have found myself placed in the South West of England, more specifically the garrison town of Larkhill. I have never spent much time in the South of England so this is a whole new adventure for me. Larkhill can be found in the civil parish of Durrington in Wiltshire. It is approximately 10 miles north of Salisbury and of major interest to me, a mere 1 1/2 miles north of the prehistoric monument of Stonehenge.
The parish of Durrington in Wiltshire is around 1 1/2 miles from the town of Amesbury and this is another small town embraced by the River Avon as it cuts through the plateau of Salisbury. The beautiful medieval city of Salisbury will definitely be one to visit when it has re-opened. Covid-19 is still rife in the UK and with the lock down still in situ, villages, towns and cities up and down the country are closed to the public and the streets remain deserted. Social distancing is very much the norm and few people are to be found roaming around. The cathedral in Salisbury was built between 1220 and 1258 and has the tallest spire in England although this was added a generation later. Apparently, contained within the Chapter House there is a medieval frieze of an original 1215 Magna Carta. The area that I have found myself in is clearly steeped in history and I cannot wait to explore further, albeit alone.
Stonehenge is on my doorstep and is an impressive prehistoric monument which has unique importance as a World Heritage Site. Larkhill lies within this locality, an area rich in Neolithic and bronze age monuments, including ceremonial and domestic structures and hundreds of burial mounds, some of which are thought to be older than the monument itself. Around the corner is Old Sarum Castle, an iron age hillfort which was re-used by the Romans, Saxons and Normans before becoming a flourishing settlement in medieval England. I’m intrigued by all of this and whilst I miss Kenya dreadfully, I’m excited by the prospect of new discoveries.
Larkhill has a long history with the British military and is deemed to be the home of the Royal Artillery. It has become the main garrison on Salisbury Plains alongside Tidworth, Bulford and Warminster. The first purchase of land at Salisbury took place in 1897 and the first practice firing took place in 1899. It was the increase in range and mobility of artillery that led to the move to Salisbury Plain and ultimately to Larkhill. The camp and village of Larkhill began to expand and shops arrived in or around 1918. The Packway is the main road running through Larkhill and there is in existence the Parade which is a row of shops including a post office, numerous take away establishments and a convenience store amongst other delights.
The Packway Parade is not far from my new abode maybe around 1 1/2 miles, and I’ve walked, ran and cycled to these shops on numerous occasions now. My first bike ride was somewhat of an interesting adventure when the handle bars worked themselves loose from the turbulent tracks that I sped along, and this led to a rather long walk home. But it gave me the opportunity to take in the remarkable surroundings.
The camp has been extensively developed over the past 86 years. A church was built in 1935 and the original huts from First World War remained until 1966 when they were demolished and the present camp was built. There has been significant redevelopment and this has seen significant changes in the landscape and it now has a population of round 5000. The housing estate where I have been accommodated is brand new and there is still significant building works ongoing. The houses were finished only a matter of weeks before the evacuation took place and many people descended upon the small town, taking the existing residents by surprise at the rapid infiltration of numerous displaced folk.
I’ve found myself in a beautiful area of the country and a mere 5 minute walk from the house, one finds themselves on a gravelly track which opens up onto Salisbury plains. The expansive greenery rolls on as far as the eye can see. Unlike the vast plains of Africa, the animals dotted around consist mainly of cows, sheep and horses. No zebra, rhino, giraffe or elephants or any other exotic creature to be seen anywhere. I was out on an exploratory run one morning and was delighted to see a majestic deer leaping across the fields. Whilst this was not an impala, or a gazelle which are found in abundance in Kenya, it was still a wonderful sight to behold. I had to resist the urge not to ‘track’ the deer and chuckled to myself when I sought out its hoof prints in the muddy road side. At least in my dithering around and wandering aimlessly , I am safe in the knowledge that the wild life in England won’t attempt to pounce from behind a bush and devour me.
The country side is amazing and it is such a privilege to be in such glorious surroundings and the wild life is still something to be treasured and preserved. The Larkhill ranges have been used for military training since 1897 so there has been no deep ploughing or use of modern fertilisers and as a consequence, the land is of significant importance to nature conservation and wild life and it is now designated a site of special scientific interest. It is a refuge for many species of plants, birds and butterflies and is of increasing archaeological importance. There is quite clearly much to be discovered both archaeologically and with regards to the plentiful wild life. There is obviously a healthy deer population roaming the plains along side the farm animals that graze, and there is substantial bird life and insect life. Hen harriers, kestrels and buzzards have been seen, swooping on their unsuspecting prey along with the haunting sounds of the stone curlew heard at dusk, amongst many other birds. The wild life here is amazing, the country side is stunning, but I yearn to return to the rugged wilderness of the African bush! The never ending landscapes here remind me that I’m missing Mr Nomad and the furry nomadic children who are not by my side to enjoy this with me.
I am determined to make the most of the wonderful country side whilst I am in England and will treat this episode as just another adventure, just another safari with different animals, birds and insects to spot, and in a unique environment to be embraced whilst the world heals. I have no doubt that Covid-19 will eventually be cracked and until that time comes, I will enjoy the Great British countryside. I look forward to the day when I will be reunited with Mr Nomad and the furry nomadic children and we can continue life’s journey together.