Saturday, August 01, 2009


Spotted this in a National Trust shop during a day-trip at the beginning of the year, then - duh! - left it in the glove-compartment 'til it got unearthed today whilst rumaging for a Lady Ga-Ga CD.

This book covers Dorset's equivalent of Western Ghost-Towns: evacuted villages, plague-spots, hamlets of the 'disappeared', many of which are now just spectral smears on the landscape; stone-mounds or wall-shadows only visible in arial photographs. One of the most famous is the old Milton Abbas:

"In 1780, Lord Milton, the first Earl of Dorchester and owner of Milton Abbey, decided that the adjacent market town, Middleton, was disturbing his vision of rural peace. He commissioned the architect Sir William Chambers and landscape gardener Capability Brown to design a new village, Milton Abbas, in a wooded valley (Luccombe Bottom) to the south of the Abbey. Most of the existing villagers were relocated here, and the previous village was demolished and the site landscaped." (fr/ wikifuckinpedia)

Yes, I'm sure Prince Charles would approve of that; it fits his own benign vision of gated showcase rural communities; local heritage-zoos populated by on-call crofters, kennelmen and withymen ready to do, uh, rural-y things for him when he's down from Town.

Tyneham also gets an honorary mention. If you've never been there, then you should; it's down by Worbarrow Bay next to the old MOD firing-ranges. This is Quatermass Country. Haunted Britain. Go out of season; winter's best.

Tyneham was evacuated in 1943 as part of the war effort and though it's been dabbled with down through the years (there's a museum there now) it's still mostly intact. The village has a strange phantom quality about it; it feels like you're walking through a set left over from some forgotten early-50's British SF movie. Even on a summer's day the air seems grainy and monochrome, as if you've wandered into a film-frame or someone's photo-album.

My own home-county of Somerset (which, for the benefit of any off-shore readers sits to the left of Dorset down in the West Country) has its own share of Ghost Villages: Sutton Bingham Reservoir - a mere 4 miles from my own front door - has, according to various wise, old pipe-smoking locals, a clump of cottages and an old church sitting deep down in the murk. Time for a Yeovil-based Dagon Cult, methinks.

And, yes: the Sutton Bingham Sunken Village Myth does indeed live on as part of a further attenuation of reality, putting in a guest cameo-appearance in one of my forthcoming Oberon Cummings stories.


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