Wiltshire

Salisbury Plain 'ghost village' attracts record visitor numbers

Imber, Wiltshire
Image caption Imber was abandoned in 1943 and has been closed to civilians ever since

Record numbers have visited a "ghost village", which is only open to the public for up to 50 days a year.

Imber, on the MoD's Salisbury Plain training zone in Wiltshire, was abandoned in 1943 and has been closed to civilians ever since.

Vintage Routemasters were used to bus people to the lost village on Saturday.

Neil Skelton, custodian of the village's St Giles Church, said: "It was the most we've ever had, we were almost at breaking point."

Just before Christmas 1943 villagers were ordered to pack and leave to provide a training area for troops preparing for the invasion of Europe during World War Two.

They were never allowed to return and the village vanished off the map.

Image caption St Giles Church is the only original building left intact in the deserted village
Image caption Vintage Routemasters were used to bus people to the lost village on Saturday

Since then, up to 50 days of public access is granted each year by the MoD, including five days in August.

"We had a very busy day yesterday with the buses, we had about 5,000 visitors," said Mr Skelton.

"They were running more buses than ever this year, about 28 buses. We were almost at breaking point at one point."

Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy, who is a member of Imberbus which runs the bus service, said the village was the "most obscure place you could possibly run a bus service".

"It's not open most of the time, nobody lives there, so it's the absolutely perfect place to run a quarter-of-an-hour bus service one day a year," he said.

"Last year, we raised £13,000 and the money goes to the church."

This year, for the first time in 20 years, the church - the only building left intact in the village - is being used for a christening.

"It's an Army officer, who's serving on the plain," said Mr Skelton.

"There aren't any pews in the church and the font was taken out in 1950, so the rector will be bringing a bowl with him and some water."

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