New Year vigil for abandoned village

Ecovillage Network UK office at
Fri Jan 6 19:19:21 GMT 2006

Vigil is held for an abandoned village


18:00 - 05 January 2006

People from all walks of life visited Imber on Salisbury Plain over the 
Christmas and new year period when access to the abandoned village, 
normally out of bounds to the public, was temporarily opened by the 
Ministry of Defence.

The fourth consecutive New Year's Eve Peace Vigil was held in the village 
at noon, led by organiser Ruth Underwood.

Ms Underwood is the daughter of the late peace campaigner Austin Underwood, 
who started a campaign for Imber's restoration in 1961.

Representatives from various Wiltshire faith communities attended, 
including Quakers, the Devizes Peace Group and Swindon Interfaith, with 
members of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and the Movement for the 
Abolition of War.

Ms Underwood said: "The Peace Vigil is not a political rally nor a platform 
for anti-military activity.

"It is an opportunity to focus on our common humanity in the search for 
sustainable, non-violent solutions to conflict which avoid the tragedies of 

"We look forward to the day when restoration of St Giles's Church is 
complete and its potential can be realised as a place of spiritual retreat, 
historical and environmental awareness, community development and 
creativity - a training ground for peace education and reconciliation."

Requisitioned by the Army during the Second World War, the village is now 
in the middle of the Salisbury Plain Army training range.

When the Army took control of Imber in 1943 the villagers left on condition 
that they could return as soon as hostilities were over, but the Army 
reneged on its promise.

The poignancy of the ghost village has inspired the imagination of the 
international community, and on New Year's Eve journalists from the 
Washington Post travelled to the site to interview former residents.

The few surviving evacuees were very young when they were evicted from 
their homes.

Jane Paget accompanied her uncle Ken Mitchell, 79, to Imber to revisit his 
birth place. Mr Mitchell left the village aged 17.

Mrs Paget said Imber was in her blood.

"Where other children listened to Hansel and Gretel at bedtime, I heard 
stories about Imber," she said.

"This is a scattered community. The surviving inhabitants only see each 
other once a year.

"It's so bleak and desolate, but people get drawn back here.

"I've been talking to a lot of people who have been visiting Imber for the 
first time. We need young people to carry on visiting and to let other 
people know about it."

One young person who attended was Jon Nash, now studying drama at Exeter 

He co-wrote a play about the evacuation of Imber which was performed at the 
Woolstore Theatre in Codford during his A-level theatre studies at Kingdown 
School, Warminster.

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