Imber is an eerie place to visit. It’s something of a secret village. Surrounded by the empty vastness of Salisbury Plain, you won’t find it on any road signs. Although it’s officially still an urban entity, no-one actually lives there.
In the run-up to the World War II, the whole population of the village was evacuated. It was 1943 and most of Salisbury Plain was owned by the MOD. Somewhere was needed for the American troops to practice street fighting in preparation for the Allied invasion of mainland Europe, and Imber must have seemed the obvious choice. The inhabitants were given 47 days’ notice to leave, which apparently they did willingly in the expectation that they would return after the war. This never happened, despite controversy following the war (including a rally in 1961 involving 2000 people).
The village is still controlled by the Ministy of Defence, and as such is closed to the general public. However, once in a while it is opened up for people to visit, as it was last weekend over Easter. It was a grey, cold April day, which somehow seemed quite suited to visiting a ghost village. Driving to Imber across Salisbury Plain, it was apparent how isolated the place is, down an unmarked track off the main road, past numerous roadside signs warning of unexploded debris, and then down into a wooded valley. You first see the pretty 700-year old church of St Giles (which is still maintained) through the trees, though on coming down the hill it’s apparent this is no ordinary English village – apart from the church, there’s not much that survives of the original village apart from the shells of a few buildings. Near the fenced-off church are some military buildings constructed in the 60’s. And that’s about all there is to it. But it’s fascinating all the same, perhaps for its inaccessibility, and perhaps for the fact that you can’t help thinking of the village as it once was and the community that lived there.