Salisbury Plain village church access restricted by MoD

A Routemaster bus in the deserted village of Imber on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire Image copyright PA

Access to a "ghost village" church which was taken over by the military in World War Two is to be restricted.

The village of Imber was abandoned in 1943 and has been closed to civilians ever since as it is sited on the MoD's training zone on Salisbury Plain.

St Giles Church, the only building left intact in Imber, is normally open to the public for two weeks each August.

This year the MoD has reduced it to three days due to visitors "attempting to access restricted areas".

It was just before Christmas 1943 that Imber villagers were ordered to pack up and leave to provide a training area for American troops preparing for the invasion of Europe during World War Two.

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

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

Image copyright PA
Image caption St Giles Church will only be open to the public from 26 to 28 August

But this year it has been "significantly reduced", according to Neil Skelton, custodian of the church, because visitors have been "trespassing in the restricted areas" of the deserted village.

"Last August, we had probably around 4,000 to 5,000 people over the two weeks and at Easter it was manic," he said.

"It's the sheer numbers, we're attracting so many people but if you reduce the number of days, you'll be squeezing more people in to fewer days."

'Public in danger'

It is feared people are putting their lives at risk by trespassing in to areas where there could be "unexploded ordnance".

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said keeping visitors to Imber village safe was a "top priority".

He said: "Unfortunately we have received numerous reports of members of the public placing themselves and others in danger during previous open days by attempting to access restricted areas.

"Following these reports a risk assessment was carried out which resulted in the decision to reduce public access periods to the village."

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