Culver Hole: A Medieval Dovecote Steeped in Smugglers Myth

The medieval Culver Hole at Port Eynon on the Gower Peninsula.(Image: Andrew Bennett. Culver Hole at Port Eynon, Gower)

Nestled beneath the rugged sea cliffs of the Gower Peninsula, an area of outstanding natural beauty in the south of Wales, this remarkable collision of man and nature is easily missed from the coastal pathways above. A breathtaking walled sea cave, Culver Hole dates back to medieval times. Its history is steeped in folk tales of smugglers and secret passages, but the cave’s original function is rather less romantic.

“Believed to date from the 13th or 14th century, Culver Hole is sealed off by a sixty foot high stone wall, that resembles something out of an Indiana Jones film set”, wrote Martin Aaron in a BBC blog post. Visitors are, however, more likely to find evidence of Columbidae rather than Serpentes.

Culver Hole in South Wales.

(Image: Alan Richards)

From inside, the centuries-old purpose behind the construction of Culver Hole, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Scheduled Ancient Monument, is plain to see. Aaron writes that “the internal wall face is honeycombed with around thirty tiers of rectangular nesting boxes which would have been home to hundreds of medieval pigeons.”

(Image: Nick Earl)

Pigeons were an important source of red meat and fresh eggs during times of hardship, and their ability to breed year round made them attractive to people of all social classes. As locals and livestock struggled to stretch meagre food stocks across the long winter months, the Blue Rock Pigeon would have been an especially desirable option, writes Explore Gower.

(Image: Ceri Roberts)

Moreover, the word culver derives from the Old English culfre (or culufre), meaning a pigeon or dove. Explore Gower adds that “the term culverhouse is still used in some parts of Britain to denote a dovecote.” But what’s in a name? In the case of Culver Hole, it seems, everything!

Its hundreds of purpose-built nest sites located behind the high stone wall, concealing several floors and rough stone stairways, requires little further explanation. But this is the British coastline, so it’s not particularly surprising that centuries-old stories of smugglers have added a touch of derring do to the local pigeons.

(Image: Aaron Jones)

Folklore tells of smugglers stashing their contraband inside the walled sea cave. More elaborate versions of the legend tell of a secret passage, or smugglers tunnel, connecting Culver Hole to the nearby salt house at Port Eynon. Though there’s nothing especially mythical about a tunnel, even a hidden one, secret passages are common in urban legend, and have been linked to the notion of hidden gold or lost treasure. Perhaps there’s a touch of Indiana Jones to Culver Hole after all!

Read Next: What’s the Story Behind California’s Mysterious Pirate Tower?

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Historic Nothe Fort Inclined Tramway, Weymouth

The Nothe Fort inclined tramway at Weymouth, Dorset.(Image: Neil Owen. The Nothe Fort inclined tramway in Dorset, South West England)

Situated on the Nothe Peninsula in Weymouth, Dorset, Nothe Fort is a coastal defensive structure built between 1860 and 1872 by 26 Company Royal Engineers in a bid to protect the Royal Navy base at Portland Harbour. When the fortification was abandoned by the military in 1956, the local council soon took over and turned it into a museum. The fort stands adjacent to Nothe Gardens.

(Image: Neil Owen)

Fans of vintage transportation and little-known railways will find the inclined tramway especially interesting. Built around 1860, the wrought-iron plate rails straddle three flights of steps. Trolleys equipped with double-flange wheels were used to transport ammunition and other stores from the quayside to Nothe Fort.

(Image: Steinsky. The fortification seen from the harbour)

In October 1978 Nothe Fort, the inclined tramway and a large searchlight battery on the Nothe Peninsula were classed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments, receiving tens of thousands of visitors each year.

Read Next: 9 Abandoned Cableways, Aerial Tramways & Ropeways of the World

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5 Popular Misconceptions That Stubbornly Persist

Popular misconceptions and modern myths, from the five-second rule to Beam me up, Scotty!

Popular misconceptions, both localised and widespread, are a common aspect of modern life. There are some things we simply accept without questioning, taking as read what has been constantly reinforced within our belief system. The fact that hearing something enough times can lead us to no longer question it, turning myth into “fact”, is both fascinating and worrying at the same time. From an immortal pop culture catchphrase and the mundane maintenance of one’s automobile to darker modern myths, here are five popular misconceptions that have persisted over time.

“Beam Me Up, Scotty”

When James Doohan passed away in 2005, his Associated Press obituary read, “James Doohan, 85, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original “Star Trek” TV series and movies who responded to the command “Beam me up, Scotty,” died July 20 at his home in Redmond, Wash.”

Only, he never actually answered to “Beam me up, Scotty”. It’s a popular misconception so persistent that it even appeared in the poor man’s obituary. So what’s the deal? TV Tropes dug deeper in a bid to find out where this particular phrase, popularly uttered by Captain Kirk, came from. It turns out the exact four-word catchphrase was never uttered either in the original television show or in Star Trek: The Animated Series. They found “Scotty, beam me up,” and even “Beam us up, Scotty”, but never that most famous line. According to the wiki, its first appearance was actually on a bumper sticker, and it wasn’t until 1995 that William Shatner finally recorded the line in an audiobook version of The Ashes of Eden.

There’s another footnote to this popular misconception, too. Since Scotty was the chief engineer, he was rarely the person sitting at the console pushing the buttons, anyway. The most common version of the line was, “Four to beam up,” directed at whoever was sitting there at the time.

Fan Death

Fan death, a popular misconception of South Korea.(Image: Infrogmation)

Fan death is a real fear in South Korea, where there’s a persistent belief that falling asleep in a closed room with a fan going is potentially deadly. The popular misconception is so widely believed that – according to The Atlantic – many fans have a timer that will automatically shut them off in the middle of the night. The Korean Herald calls it the country’s best-known urban legend. Even though people understand that its a myth, the story persists.

The Korean Consumer Protection Board issued an official advisory in 2006, warning that nighttime exposure to a fan can cause hypothermia and death by an “increase of carbon dioxide saturation concentration and decrease of oxygen concentration”. Snopes also looked into the myth of fan death, including claims that fans turn oxygen into carbon dioxide, and that their blades render air unbreathable.

Needless to say, it’s not true. Most nighttime deaths attributed to fans have been found to have other tragic causes, like undiagnosed heart conditions. No-one’s entirely sure how this popular misconception took root in the South Korean psyche. One theory posits that it was started by the government in an bid to get people to use less electricity.

Related: Sleep Paralysis: Evil Spirits & the Terrifying Night Hag

The Five-Second Rule

Popular misconceptions: the five-second rule for picking up dropped food.(Image: Rachel Glaves)

It’s unclear where this popular misconception originated, but we’ve all done it – especially when the tasty morsel we’ve just dropped is our favourite cookie or chocolate. The belief is that if you pick something up off the floor within five seconds (or sometimes, three seconds), it’s germ-free and safe to eat. It’s not that easy, of course, so let’s look at what the science says.

In 2016, National Geographic reported on a series of experiments published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, and to make a long report short, they found a few things. The longer an item of food was in contact with a surface, the more bacteria it accumulated – but there was also plenty of bacteria that transferred instantly. Researchers found that the type of food was important. The more moisture present in the environment, the more bacteria was transferred. So you may want to think twice about picking up that piece of watermelon you’ve just dropped.

On the flip side, you’ll also occasionally read news stories claiming that scientific research supports the five-second rule, like this March 2017 article in the Independent, quoting a germ expert at Aston University. Nevertheless, buried in that story is a caveat that picking up food is never 100 percent safe, so better to err on the side of caution.

The 3,000 Mile Myth

The 3,000 mile myth for changing your cars oil persists to this day despite negatively environmental consequences and wasted cost.(Image: Myke Waddy)

It’s probably one of the first things you learned about car care when you start driving, especially if you live in the USA. But the idea that you need to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles isn’t just a falsehood, it’s a popular misconception with serious unintended consequences.

In 2008, SF Gate reported that California’s waste management officials were kicking off a campaign to debunk the 3,000 mile myth and hopefully help the environment along the way. The site reported that 73 percent of California drivers were changing their oil far more often than necessary, meaning they were wasting money and damaging the environment also.

Just how often you really need an oil change depends on a range of factors, such as the age of your car and what kind of driving you can do, but a campaign website aimed at debunking the 3,000 mile myth stated that “automakers are regularly recommending oil changes at 5,000, 7,000 or even 10,000 miles based on driving conditions.”

Tornado Myths

Tornado myths(Image: Will Campbell)

Tornadoes – those vicious, twisting columns of air – are terrifying, but there are many popular misconceptions over the safest thing to do when one strikes. Let’s discuss a couple of them here. It might just save your life.

According to Popular Mechanics, one dangerous myth is that overpasses are safe places to head to if you’re caught out in the open. An overpass is actually highly dangerous in a tornado. The narrow space can create a wind tunnel with even faster winds, and you should never seek shelter there. Equally dangerous is the idea that you should open windows in your house to equalise the pressure. Doing so just isn’t necessary – finding somewhere safe and heading to the basement is more important.

There’s a plethora of non-safety related myths about tornadoes, too. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just restricted to North America and have been seen on every continent except Antarctica. There’s also no kind of terrain that can prevent or stop a tornado, and twisters don’t gravitate toward sparsely populated or rural areas over urban ones, either. Another popular misconception? They can’t happen in winter. Yes, while it’s true they generally form in warm weather, it’s entirely possible for twisters to strike snow-covered areas during the winter.

Read Next: 8 Creepy Internet Characters Who Became Urban Legends

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The Ruined “Smugglers Bothy” at Lamberton Skerrs

The ruined "Smugglers Bothy" at Lamberton Skerrs, the southernmost tip of Scotland.(Image: Graham Robson. The ruined ‘Smugglers Bothy’ at Lamberton Skerrs)

Travel by train up the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh and, on the border of England and Scotland, you may just catch a fleeting glimpse of an isolated ruin overlooking the chilly North Sea. The abandoned building at Lamberton Skerrs is the remains of a long-disused fishery with a history steeped in tales of smugglers from centuries past.

The abandoned fishery at Lamberton Skerrs is steeped in tales of smugglers from centuries past.(Image: Iain Lees)

The fishery at Lamberton Skerrs, at the southernmost tip of Scotland’s east coast just a few miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, consists of the ruined cottage, an old net winch and several storage caves carved from the rock face, where other forsaken relics of industry slowly rust away.

(Image: Lisa Jarvis)

Rumour has it that the cottage was once dubbed the “Smuggler’s Bothy”. It was allegedly built around 1760 by merchant and tea smuggler John Robertson, who brought his contraband ashore at this rugged point under cover of night. Only later was the bothy repurposed as a fishery. Its proximity to the mysterious Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway may possibly be related.

(Image: Richard Webb)

Sadly the building shows signs of vandalism in more recent times, and it’s understood that the roof was destroyed by a fire that was deliberately set. Nevertheless the abandoned fishery offers a fascinating glimpse back into the history of this stunning stretch of UK coastline, both legitimate industry and more shadowy dealings.

(Image: Lisa Jarvis)

For more information on the ruins at Lamberton Skerrs, check out this 2016 article from Two Local Explorers, titled “The Smugglers Bothy”.

(Image: Richard Webb)

Related: 10 Swashbuckling Buccaneers from the Golden Age of Piracy

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The Ruined “Smugglers Bothy” at Lamberton Skerrs

The ruined "Smugglers Bothy" at Lamberton Skerrs, the southernmost tip of Scotland.(Image: Graham Robson. The ruined ‘Smugglers Bothy’ at Lamberton Skerrs)

Travel by train up the East Coast Main Line from London to Edinburgh and, on the border of England and Scotland, you may just catch a fleeting glimpse of an isolated ruin overlooking the chilly North Sea. The abandoned building at Lamberton Skerrs is the remains of a long-disused fishery with a history steeped in tales of smugglers from centuries past.

The abandoned fishery at Lamberton Skerrs is steeped in tales of smugglers from centuries past.(Image: Iain Lees)

The fishery at Lamberton Skerrs, at the southernmost tip of Scotland’s east coast just a few miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, consists of the ruined cottage, an old net winch and several storage caves carved from the rock face, where other forsaken relics of industry slowly rust away.

(Image: Lisa Jarvis)

Rumour has it that the cottage was once dubbed the “Smuggler’s Bothy”. It was allegedly built around 1760 by merchant and tea smuggler John Robertson, who brought his contraband ashore at this rugged point under cover of night. Only later was the bothy repurposed as a fishery. Its proximity to the mysterious Marshall Meadows Seaweed Railway may possibly be related.

(Image: Richard Webb)

Sadly the building shows signs of vandalism in more recent times, and it’s understood that the roof was destroyed by a fire that was deliberately set. Nevertheless the abandoned fishery offers a fascinating glimpse back into the history of this stunning stretch of UK coastline, both legitimate industry and more shadowy dealings.

(Image: Lisa Jarvis)

For more information on the ruins at Lamberton Skerrs, check out this 2016 article from Two Local Explorers, titled “The Smugglers Bothy”.

(Image: Richard Webb)

Related: 10 Swashbuckling Buccaneers from the Golden Age of Piracy

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Mothe-Chandeniers Chateau: 13th Century Ruin Saved by Crowdfunding Effort

The ruined Mothe-Chandeniers chateau in Les Trois-Moutiers, France.(Image: Pierre Mairé. Ruined Mothe-Chandeniers chateau in France)

A crumbling 13th century French chateau has been saved thanks to an unlikely crowdfunding campaign, which brought together 6,500 internet users from 45 different countries. By donating at least €51 each, contributors were able to raise the €500,000 needed to buy and ultimately renovate the ruined Mothe-Chandeniers chateau in Les Trois-Moutiers, south-western France.

The abandoned centuries-old chateau has endured and long a turbulent history. Built in the 13th century or the Bauçay family, it was twice captured by the English in the Middle Ages and all but destroyed during the tumult of the French Revolution. Later painstakingly restored by a wealthy businessman, Mothe-Chandeniers chateau then suffered extensive fire damage during the 1930s.

Heavily overgrown and fortified by an extensive moat, the ruined castle in the commune of Les Trois-Moutiers is today a forlorn shell of its former self, albeit an impressive one. But thanks to those who contributed to the campaign, its fortunes are now poised to change.

Each donor is now a co-owner of Mothe-Chandeniers chateau and will have a say in how the ruin is renovated. The castle was sold on December 1st by Dartagnans.fr, a website specialising in cultural heritage. The crowdfunding effort was organised in collaboration with heritage group ‘Adopt a Castle’.

The ruined Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers in France.(Image: via Google Earth)

The organisers wrote on Facebook that “love of heritage has triumphed and the beautiful adventure is just beginning!” We’ll be sure to keep an eye on this brilliant project, and any others that it might have been inspired by Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers as the new year approaches.

Keep Reading: Citadels of Christendom: 6 Mighty Crusader Castles

Hap tip: The Local Europe

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ZA372: Gulf War Tornado GR4A Fuselage Dumped at Leeming

The remains of Tornado GR4A ZA372 "Sally T" after RTP at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire..(Image: Michael Britton. The remains of Tornado GR4A ZA372 at Leeming)

In a similar sad state to the remains of ZA600, which was scrapped the year before, the gutted fuselage of Panavia Tornado GR4A ZA372 was photographed in July dumped outside a hangar at RAF Leeming awaiting the scrap man. Heavily spares-recovered, the Tornado hulk had in the preceding months undergone the RTP (reduce to produce) programme, whereby all useful parts are removed for use on the active fleet before the hollow fuselage shells are carted off and shredded.

ZA372 flew combat missions during Operation Granby in the 1991 Gulf War. The Tornado GR4 was reduced to produce in 2017 and dumped for scrap.(Image: Michael Britton)

ZA372 will be known to many Tornado aficionados as Sally T, the name she carried during Operation Granby, the UK military’s contribution to the 1991 Gulf War. A recce airframe operating out of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, wearing the tail code “E”, ZA372 flew highly dangerous missions deep into enemy territory to seek out Iraqi missile sites along with other famous Tornado GR1As like ZA400 “Scud Hunter”, which was scrapped without ceremony in 2016.

(Image: Michael Britton)

ZA372 first flew in August 1982 and was delivered to the RAF two months later. The jet was one of 30 Tornado GR1A airframes (14 converted from existing GR1s and 16 new-build aircraft), the dedicated reconnaissance version of the Tornado. Outwardly similar to conventional GR1/GR4 airframes, the most notable difference was the TIRRS (Tornado Infra-Red Reconnaissance System) which replaced the Mauser cannon.

(Image: Michael Britton)

Tornado ZA372 was one of around 142 GR1 and GR1A airframes selected for the Mid-Life Upgrade programme. She underwent the MLU at Warton in 2001, emerging as a GR4A with improved avionics and weapons systems. Returned to front line service in October 2001, 372 soldiered on until December 2012, when she was withdrawn from use and made her final flight to RAF Leeming to take her place in the dismantling queue.

Dumped: Tornado GR4 ZA602 (F for Freddie) special tail fin scrapped at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire.(Image: Michael Britton)

During the RTP process Tornados are reduced to empty, stripped out fuselage hulks that barely resemble the proud reconnaissance/strike jets they once were. These photos of the remains of ZA372, her windscreen still fitted, were taken in July 2017. Alongside the hulk lay the tail fin of another Tornado GR4, bearing the ominous scrawl: “ZA602 scrap”. ZA602/067 (F for Freddie) was one of two XV Squadron airframes to receive a special paint scheme. The other, ZA461, has also been scrapped.

Related: Tornado ZA412: Special ‘Dam Busters’ Tail Fin Preserved at RAF Scampton

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The ‘Beaulieu Letters’: Echoes of Hampshire’s Great War Past

The Beaulieu letters at East Boldre in the New Forest.(Image: Mike Searle. The Beaulieu letters at East Boldre)

Since the end of the 1950s, the old wartime fighter base RAF Beaulieu has steadily returned to nature, its flat expanse – now administered by the Forestry Commission – a haven for wild ponies and model flying enthusiasts. From above, the ghostly forms of three abandoned runways are still visible and the eastern perimeter taxiway is now a cycle path. But as this airfield, in Hampshire’s New Forest, has slowly returned to heathland, an even older aerodrome across the B3054 road has been partially uncovered by the local community. In doing so, the illusive ‘Beaulieu letters’ have been revealed for the first time in decades.

The 100-year-old Beaulieu letters in Hampshire, Southern England.(Image: Mike Searle)

On the opposite side of the B3054 (Hatchet Lane) from the World War Two airfield, on the edge of East Boldre, lay an early 20th century flying school that was requisitioned by the military during the Great War. The school dates back more than a century, to 1910, and operated for just two years before returning to grazing land. But in 1914, one of its original sheds was taken over by the Royal Flying Corps as the demand for pilots increased. The following year, as World War One gathered pace, the quiet field adjacent East Boldre officially became RFC Beaulieu (though Beaulieu village itself is actually two miles to the west).

(Image: via Google Earth)

It was during that period, between 1910 and 1916, that the word ‘BEAULIEU’ was carved out of the heath in a bid to help early flyers identify the field from the air. When the Royal Flying Corps vacated the aerodrome in 1919 after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the giant Beaulieu letters remained, a quiet reminder to those flying overhead of the young pilots who had once trained there. And as the years passed, the letters became increasingly overgrown.

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter at RAF Beaulieu in the New Forest during World War Two(Image: USAAF)

Two decades later, war once again reared its ugly head across the New Forest, this time demanding a more robust infrastructure. To meet the Air Ministry requirement, a new airfield with three asphalt runways and dozens of hard standings was opened in 1942 due west of its Great War predecessor on the opposite of Hatchet Lane.

RAF Beaulieu during World War Two.(Image: Ordnance Survey. RAF Beaulieu during World War Two)

RAF Beaulieu was first used by the Royal Air Force and later handed over to the US Army Air Force. During that time it became home to the P-47D Thunderbolts of the 365th Fighter Group (above) and the B-26 Marauders of the 323d Bombardment Group.

Remains of RAF Beaulieu today.(Image: via Google Earth. Remains of RAF Beaulieu today)

Security during this period was paramount, and the devastating threat of enemy raids on bases in Southern England had played out for all to see during the Battle of Britain. Like other airfields, RAF Beaulieu was assigned a Pundit Code: BL. But for security reasons its American occupants referred to it only as USAAF Station AAF 408. The giant Beaulieu letters, which stood some 15 feet tall and 100 feet wide, had to be fully concealed.

RFC Beaulieu was a WW1 Royal Flying Corps aerodrome and before that a flying training school.(Image: via Google Earth. Letters visible on the old RFC aerodrome east of RAF Beaulieu)

They would remain that way for decades. After the conflict, control of the adjacent World War Two airfield was passed to the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE), which used it for parachute drop tests. By 1950 the site was left to decay, and by the end of the decade the Air Ministry returned the land to civilian use. Now managed by the Forestry Commission, the site is now a wildlife haven used primarily by model flying fans. A small section at the eastern end of the original main runway (27/09) survives.

(Image: Mike Searle)

The 100-year-old Beaulieu letters remained hidden amid the heath until 2010, when a local enthusiast hatched a plan to unearth them during East Boldre’s Centenary of Flying celebrations, held at the nearby Turfcutters Arms pub. Environmental checks were carried out over the next year to ensure sensitive species wouldn’t be disturbed by restoration efforts.

More giant letters! RAF Beaulieu's WW2 Pundit Code(Image: Mike Searle. More giant letters! RAF Beaulieu’s WW2 Pundit Code)

Then in March 2012, over a three day period, the ghostly forms of the Beaulieu letters reemerged from the heathland near Hatchet Pond. Thanks to the villagers who restored them (filmed for the BBC), the chalk letters are as sharp today as when they were first crafted more than a century ago. Accessible from the nearby Beaulieu to Lymington road, those wishing to take a look can also do so via a 15 minute walk from the Turfcutters Arms.

Related: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain

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The ‘Beaulieu Letters’: Echoes of Hampshire’s Great War Past

The Beaulieu letters at East Boldre in the New Forest.(Image: Mike Searle. The Beaulieu letters at East Boldre)

Since the end of the 1950s, the old wartime fighter base RAF Beaulieu has steadily returned to nature, its flat expanse – now administered by the Forestry Commission – a haven for wild ponies and model flying enthusiasts. From above, the ghostly forms of three abandoned runways are still visible and the eastern perimeter taxiway is now a cycle path. But as this airfield, in Hampshire’s New Forest, has slowly returned to heathland, an even older aerodrome across the B3054 road has been partially uncovered by the local community. In doing so, the illusive ‘Beaulieu letters’ have been revealed for the first time in decades.

The 100-year-old Beaulieu letters in Hampshire, Southern England.(Image: Mike Searle)

On the opposite side of the B3054 (Hatchet Lane) from the World War Two airfield, on the edge of East Boldre, lay an early 20th century flying school that was requisitioned by the military during the Great War. The school dates back more than a century, to 1910, and operated for just two years before returning to grazing land. But in 1914, one of its original sheds was taken over by the Royal Flying Corps as the demand for pilots increased. The following year, as World War One gathered pace, the quiet field adjacent East Boldre officially became RFC Beaulieu (though Beaulieu village itself is actually two miles to the west).

(Image: via Google Earth)

It was during that period, between 1910 and 1916, that the word ‘BEAULIEU’ was carved out of the heath in a bid to help early flyers identify the field from the air. When the Royal Flying Corps vacated the aerodrome in 1919 after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the giant Beaulieu letters remained, a quiet reminder to those flying overhead of the young pilots who had once trained there. And as the years passed, the letters became increasingly overgrown.

Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter at RAF Beaulieu in the New Forest during World War Two(Image: USAAF)

Two decades later, war once again reared its ugly head across the New Forest, this time demanding a more robust infrastructure. To meet the Air Ministry requirement, a new airfield with three asphalt runways and dozens of hard standings was opened in 1942 due west of its Great War predecessor on the opposite of Hatchet Lane.

RAF Beaulieu during World War Two.(Image: Ordnance Survey. RAF Beaulieu during World War Two)

RAF Beaulieu was first used by the Royal Air Force and later handed over to the US Army Air Force. During that time it became home to the P-47D Thunderbolts of the 365th Fighter Group (above) and the B-26 Marauders of the 323d Bombardment Group.

Remains of RAF Beaulieu today.(Image: via Google Earth. Remains of RAF Beaulieu today)

Security during this period was paramount, and the devastating threat of enemy raids on bases in Southern England had played out for all to see during the Battle of Britain. Like other airfields, RAF Beaulieu was assigned a Pundit Code: BL. But for security reasons its American occupants referred to it only as USAAF Station AAF 408. The giant Beaulieu letters, which stood some 15 feet tall and 100 feet wide, had to be fully concealed.

RFC Beaulieu was a WW1 Royal Flying Corps aerodrome and before that a flying training school.(Image: via Google Earth. Letters visible on the old RFC aerodrome east of RAF Beaulieu)

They would remain that way for decades. After the conflict, control of the adjacent World War Two airfield was passed to the Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment (AFEE), which used it for parachute drop tests. By 1950 the site was left to decay, and by the end of the decade the Air Ministry returned the land to civilian use. Now managed by the Forestry Commission, the site is now a wildlife haven used primarily by model flying fans. A small section at the eastern end of the original main runway (27/09) survives.

(Image: Mike Searle)

The 100-year-old Beaulieu letters remained hidden amid the heath until 2010, when a local enthusiast hatched a plan to unearth them during East Boldre’s Centenary of Flying celebrations, held at the nearby Turfcutters Arms pub. Environmental checks were carried out over the next year to ensure sensitive species wouldn’t be disturbed by restoration efforts.

More giant letters! RAF Beaulieu's WW2 Pundit Code(Image: Mike Searle. More giant letters! RAF Beaulieu’s WW2 Pundit Code)

Then in March 2012, over a three day period, the ghostly forms of the Beaulieu letters reemerged from the heathland near Hatchet Pond. Thanks to the villagers who restored them (filmed for the BBC), the chalk letters are as sharp today as when they were first crafted more than a century ago. Accessible from the nearby Beaulieu to Lymington road, those wishing to take a look can also do so via a 15 minute walk from the Turfcutters Arms.

Related: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain

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Derelict Royal Observer Corps Orlit B Post (Guist, Norfolk)

The disused Royal Observer Corps Orlit B Monitoring Post at Guist, Norfolk, was built during the Cold War and has been abandoned since 1968.(Image: Evelyn Simak. Disused Royal Observer Corps Orlit B Monitoring Post)

We’ve featured several abandoned Royal Observer Corps installations on Urban Ghosts to date, such as the ruined ROC Monitoring Posts at Ponteland (Northumberland) and Culham (Oxfordshire), and a number of other forgotten fortifications built for the defence of Britain during World War Two. This is the first time we’ve looked at Orlit Posts, however, which date to the Cold War and were often constructed near existing ROC monitoring installations. The abandoned Royal Observer Corps Orlit Post pictured in this article is located in the vicinity of Guist, a village in the East Anglian county Norfolk.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

All across Europe and beyond, World War Two had demonstrated the devastating reality of aerial bombardment. If the United Kingdom were to go to war again, it stood to reason that enemy aircraft would pose an even more deadly threat to the nation. The 1940s had given rise to the Jet Age, and existing monitoring technology would struggle to keep up with newer, faster planes, capable of carrying a heavier bomb load that their Second World War predecessors.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

Though the need for updated ROC posts had been identified by 1947, it wasn’t until the early 1950s – with the deployment of the vast ROTOR air defence radar system – that more substantial buildings were constructed, in a bid to counter the increasing threat of Soviet bombers.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

Named for their manufacturers, Messrs Orlit Ltd, two variants of installation were constructed; Orlit A posts were built at ground level while Orlit B examples perched some six feet above ground on four legs. Accessed by a ladder, these basic, ultilitarian structures were usually constructed of pre-cast concrete.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

The abandoned ROC post at Guist, which was operational during the decade from December 1958 to October 1968, is an example of an Orlit B installation. It’s situated near a derelict subterranean monitoring post (above and below) some 150 yards north of Furze Lane, between Guist and the small village of Wood Norton. To the west lie the remains of RAF Foulsham, an abandoned Bomber Command station and one of the few World War Two airfields equipped with the FIDO fog dispersal system.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

When Subterranea Britannica documented the disused Orlit B post in 1999, they reported that the surface structures were “in fair condition” but that “all the doors, shelves etc have been removed.” Describing the overall site, Subbrit wrote: “Some compound fencing remains in place. All surface features remain intact but the ventilation louvres are missing and the ventilation shaft is reduced to a pile of rubble above ground level. The hatch is open. Internally the post is strewn with rubbish and has been completely stripped. The internal door to the monitoring room is hanging off its hinges.”

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

These photographs, which were posted to Geograph more than a decade after Subterranea Britannica visited the abandoned Orlit B facility, suggest that little has changed at the former Cold War monitoring installation in recent years. The internals are gutted and littered with debris. Even so, the structure echoes those tense Cold War decades and, like many other forgotten posts up and down the country, serves as an unassuming reminder of the Corps, which was officially stood down in 1996.

(Image: Evelyn Simak)

Related: 10 Surviving Military Abandonments of World War Two

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