Sunday, 21 October 2012

The Nant Y Gro

This is the Nant Y Gro taken from the opposite side of the Reservoir it feeds into
 The photo below was taken in May 2014 and shows the dam after the trees have been cleared. The remains of one side can be seen top left with the water tank below. To the right of that you can see the stream flowing over the remains of the dam. The rest of the dam is in the wooded area to the right.

Nothing remarkable looking about it just a tree filled valley with a small stream running through but it had a big part to play in the history of WW2.
The Nant Y Gro fed into the river Elan and was dammed up to form a reservoir to give a water supply to the Navvy Village that sprung up near by when the Caban Coch dam was built. The water supply also filled tanks which were used for the steam cranes, stone cutters and other steam driven plant which was used on the dam. Once the Caban Coch dam was finished the old Nant Y Gro dam was left and the Temporary Navvy Village had become a permanent stone village at Elan and had it's own water supply. 
It more of less became forgotten untill the the government requested the use of a 35ft high dam for secret experiments (can you see where we are going).
This was what the dam looked like in 1942 though in this photo it is slightly damaged after one of the experiments.
The reason for the experiment were to find out how breach the Rurh Valley dams in Germany, the Nant Y Gro was going to be blown up. After a few tries a various depths and distance they finally breached the dam.
From that the Bouncing Bomb that Barns Wallis designed was derived  and the Dam Busters name was born. The rest is history as the raid was successful and the Rurh Valley dams breached though with some loss to the planes involved.
When I found out about this place and where it was situated I'm afraid there was no stopping me, I had to visit the dam.
The opportunity came one day when I was staying at Fforest Fields campsite and went to the Elan Valley for a visit 

This is a map of the Elan Valley today, the Nant Y Gro is and the bottom, as you can see it is not an easy place to get to now let alone what it was like during the war which was one of the reasons for it's use, the remoteness.
The first place you need to go is the top of this dam, take the footpath across the bridge here then climb the steps.

Next you will be following along the side of the reservoir on paths like this and up the steps.

Along the path on the side of the valley where
you will eventually come to the mouth of the Nat Y Gro.
The walk took longer than I thought it would due to the terrain you have to walk across but it was worth the effort.

This is the approach to the dam, you can see one of the water tanks ahead, go to the right for a view of the remains of the dam.

The remains of the dam today

One side of the dam and from behind the wall

 View to the other side of the dam and below one of the water tanks.

I had intended to go back but as yet have not managed to but one of these days I will as I would like to have a better look round and get some more photo's. If you go to the link Elan Valley it gives you a better history about the place and if you have time visit the church marked on the map near where it says 255. At the back are some photos taken when they built the dam, the church was built around that time as the other is at the bottom of the reservoir.
One last photo, about a year later I was at Brooklands Museum and came across this.
The bouncing Bomb. With out the Dam at the Nant Y Gro it would never have been developed and possibly the war would have gone on that bit longer, so the little dam in Wales had played it's part history of the war but and now lays almost forgotten but not by me.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Upper Thames Stopline Part 2

This section will take you from Radcot Bridge to Lechlaid though I have to admit I did it is two parts, the first at Kelmscott and the second Buscot. The Thames path will take you past all but two but I will mention these when I get to them. All the pillboxes in this section are Type 22's
I'll start at the first one you can see at Radcot.

From the bridge follow the Thames path and this is what you will see on the other side, it can also be seen from the bridge. I never visited it though I have no doubt if you ask you will be allowed.

Follow the path further and you should see this one come up on your right, and it is one of the cleaner ones I've seen.

You pass Grafton lock and a little further along you will see this pillbox, this is slightly being undercut by the Thames and does get flooded.

Going on towards Kelmscott you come to another very close to the Thames and has a tree growing beside it. Kelmscott has four pillboxes near it.

This is the second which you can see from the last pillbox.

Heading on towards Kelmscott you will need to head off the Thames path  and go towards Kelmscot Manorand just along the track on the left you will see this one which is the first that is not on the Thames path.

Head back to the Thames path and go towards Buscot and after about half a mile you see this pillbox. You need to watch out for Kilroy though.

This next one is about a Kilometer on though I came from Buscot to visit it. The top is braking up along the join but it is possible to get inside to look.

Next along is the first of the Buscot pillboxes, not sure it leans as much as in the photo but does have a number like the last one did.

There is no point in in showing the next one I only just managed to spot it through the trees. It is situated on the Thames Water treatment plant. I shall post a photo when I get one.  


 Going on from Buscot Lock you will pass this pillbox.
As you can see it is a little worse for ware and I'm thinking it was used for target practice like a few others I have seen.

Inside it's very beaten up where the
concrete has been blown in and looks even worse than outside. The river meanders from here to Lechlaide like it has all the way from Oxford so follow it to St Georges Lock and between there and Lechlaide you will see this pillbox across the river.

The last of the pillboxes I had come looking for though I am told there is one more to get near Cricklade. I will tidy up the rest over the winter. More photos can be seen on Flickr   Here  &  Here

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Upper Thames Stopline Part 1

This stars the other side of the Thames from Appleton Common. My first walk was from Duxford with the Rural Explorer, we had hoped to see quite a few pillboxes but it turned out a disappointment with some due to the overgrown state of the riverside. I'll split the blog in to two parts with this one finishing at Radcot.

The first one you come to from Appleton Common is this one.

It faces upstream towards a bend and is near Stonehenge farm.

Walking on towards the Rose Revived you will pass this one literally, we did when we walked the other way. I only found out about it from a guy at work so I went back and found it.

The next pillbox is off a tributary to the Thames, the river Windrush and out of all the pillboxes I have seen it was my favorite as it overhung the river.

Just across the field nearby is another like it along the Thames this photo shows it from the field but it can be seen across the Thames if you walk along the Thames path.

The next two pillboxes are impossible to see from the Thames path I searched them out on Google Earth then went and asked if it was OK to visit.

It's set back from the river and is surrounded in bushes like this , I came to it from a field and only just spotted it when I was on top of the thing.

 Next along is this one which is set back in a farm at Shifford, I went and asked if I could see it and they were fine and told me where the last one was thought it was on another farm.

Next along is this one at Duxford and as you can see from the photo on the left we paddled across. The pillbox suffers from flooding and was full of smelly water and old refuse sacks. It also has the ricochet wall removed.

From Duxford you will come to  Chimney Meadows where you will see three this is the first.

You have to love the second with the huge base it is sat on, as you can guess it floods round here, I've seen photo's of it surrounded by water.

This is the third and is inaccessible as it is now a home for bats though I must say it is suffering from erosion unlike the previous two which were in reasonable condition.

The next you see is one near Tadpole bridge and again it is blocked off so no access. Carry on to Rushley lock and along from the lock there is what looks like the Upper Thames Patrol hut to see.

The next couple of pillboxes are on the opposite side of the river Thames (Isis)

The next from this one is Radcot Lock though you do have to cross the bridge nearby to see it.

It's bee cast using a couple of different types of shuttering and is a bit crumbly, there are also a load of concrete sandbags laying around.

Head from here to Radcot and you come across some interesting Anti Invasion Defense Sites or concrete brestworks.

This is the first which is the longest the second you need to go over the bridge past the pub and it is in the caravan site.


As you can see it is filled in which is a shame, it could have been a gunpit of sorts.

Just before the bridge you will find this Type 28A which is the only one along this part of the river. over the other side of the bridge is a Type 22 that is in a private mooring.

I'll end this blog here and start the next from the other side of the bridge but before I go remember the one that overhung the river Windrush well a week after I finished the next section to Lechlaid I was told it had fallen in and here it is and I even did a Blog on it. It Fell in
 You can see more of the pillboxes in this blog on  Flickr

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Abindon to Appleton Common Part2

Now this section is probably the more interesting in that it is full of type 22A's. There were quite a few in the previous section but this tops it. The section starting in Abingdon would have had a deep anti tank ditch zig zagging across the countryside and there is a section on show near one of the pillboxes. We start by heading up the road to wards Longworth and in the grounds of a house you find a type 22.

I went and asked the owner to visit this one which they were ok with pointing out they used it as a wood store. As you can see it is well covered in shrubbery as well.
Nearby would have been a section post and road blocks but they are long gone.

Heading on down the road over to the right opposite Millets farm shop is a most interesting one as it has the anti tank ditch. I'd phone the owner first he was ok with me telling me all about it and how the local military history group helped with this. Next door on another farm is a second type 28A just through the hedge.

The next two you will find are along a footpath to Fyfield Wick and again are very close together. One is almost covered in Ivy and the main embrasure is blocked the other is reasonably clear. Both may have been used for animals at one time

The next two are in Fyfield round the back of a set of garages and are situated in a paddock. We just hopped over the fence to look but it is probably worth asking the owner if they don't mind you looking. Just watch out for the animals.

Now the next pair I visited were at Appleton common but in truth there are two more to visit before you get there as I found out after. I looked them up on the map then checked out GE and managed to spot part of one so it was off on the hunt again. The First two were outside Fyfield 

This one is in a small wood near a stream.

And the other nearer the road, when I visited they were clearing the area and I hope have left the pillboxes.

The next was a shock, I had read it had been demolished but did not realize I would see  this

After looking round a bit more I found the second which was in a bad state as well and I have come to the conclusion they used it as target practice as the thing looks like it has been hit by ordnance and the first had been destroyed.  Nearby is an ROC post which I did not visit due to  a lack of a torch.
I followed a hedge line to get to them but the farm they are on is nearby and you could just as easy ask and cross the fields, just watch out for cows.
I think there may have been a Type 22 nearby but I could see no sign.
Next two are at Appleton Common so you need to follow the road to the river where you pass another two together is a field.

Watch out for cows again but these are interesting and if you look you can see the marks for more shells and bullets on the pair of them. Thats it for the pillboxes on this side of the river but there is one last thing to see sh head to the river and go to the left along the bank.

And you will see this wonderful array of dragons teeth which are well worth seeing. they would have been at the end of the ditch. That's it for this section of the stopline you have to go over the other side for the next part. You can read more on Geograph in my article and follow it on my  Google Map