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Posts tagged ‘wiltshire’

The Bulford Chalk Kiwi

One of our must-sees was the Bulford Kiwi in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge.

But try as I might, both online and locally, there was a lack of information about how to get to the kiwi.

With the help of Google maps I came up with a plan of attack. Hopefully the information in this post will be useful to others also wanting to find the kiwi.

About the kiwi:

The Bulford Kiwi is a huge kiwi bird designed with white chalk into Beacon Hill above Bulford Military Camp.

It was built in 1919 by New Zealand soldiers who were waiting to come home after the end of World War One. They were based in Sling Camp, an annex to Bulford Camp. While they awaited repatriation, the troops got restless – and a bit disorderly. The kiwi was devised as a project to occupy them constructively.

Sling Camp was big, being home to over 4000 NZ troops. It was pulled down in the 1920s but the kiwi was left. This is a great photo of Sling Camp and kiwi back in the day.

Interestingly, during World War Two the kiwi was disguised to avoid it being used as a navigation marker. In the late 1940s a local scout group began a project to uncover the kiwi which actually resulted in them having to re-cut it out of the hill. How fantastic that they did this.

For the last few years, the Ministry of Defence has taken responsibility for maintaining the kiwi.

My genealogist mother first thought there had been a family connection with Sling Camp, but further research discounted this. Never mind, it didn’t diminish the desire to see this historical Kiwi landmark such a long way from home.

Bulford Camp retains the odd reminder of its NZ connection

Bulford Camp retains the odd reminder of its NZ connection

The kiwi is visible on Google Maps satellite view – search for Gallipoli Rd in Bulford Camp; the kiwi is to the right and down a bit.

For a close encounter with the kiwi:

Bulford Camp is separate to but near the town of Bulford. Set your satnav for the intersection of Gaza Rd and The Crescent.

We found a parking space there just off the road. From that point Gaza Rd becomes a path through the woods, and to get to the kiwi it’s maybe a 15-20 minute walk.

Note that some of the roads on the map are more like paths and cannot take vehicles, including half of Gaza Rd and all of Gallipoli Rd. I have since wondered if they date back to the days of Sling Camp and were no longer required when the camp was disestablished.

We were unsure whether we could or should use the trail. But we had come too far and were prepared to take the risk. Later on when mum asked the person serving in the local post office, he said that unless there are signs expressly forbidding public entry, it is ok.

This seemed to be where the path started so we left the car and ventured into the woods

This seemed to be where the path started so we left the car and ventured into the woods

One of mum's pics - dad on an especially nice section of path through the woods.

One of mum’s pics – dad on an especially nice section of path through the woods.

You can either follow the woods path in a straight line and pop out at the base of Beacon Hill, or venture through an opening to the left.

Popping out of the woods, you join this track to the end of this straight before trekking up the hill

Popping out of the woods, you join this track to the end of this straight before trekking up the hill

Beacon Hill isn’t a mountain by any means but does have a decent gradient so reasonable footwear is a must. It’s also pretty rough…

The hillside was littered with diggings - moles maybe?

The hillside was littered with diggings – moles maybe?

Once you start up the hill, veer over to the right and there, finally, should be the bottom of the kiwi. That was a pretty exciting moment.

Kiwi feet!

Kiwi feet!

It was designed to be seen from a distance and at this proximity you simply cannot see it in its entirety. Further down this page are directions to a viewing spot further away.

Kiwi legs!

Kiwi legs!

"NZ"

“NZ” – to give you an idea of scale, these letters are 20m long

Kiwi beak!

Kiwi beak!

The kiwi is fenced off but you can get beyond the fence in a civilised manner when you get to the top.

Once you've trekked up the hill you can access the site through this gate

Once you’ve trekked up the hill you can access the site through this gate

Plaque inside the kiwi enclosure

Plaque inside the kiwi enclosure

View from Beacon Hill. Sling Camp had been located on the ground below

View from Beacon Hill. Sling Camp had been located on the ground below

So happy to have succeeded!

So happy to have succeeded!

From up here I scanned the horizon for a road that could give us a good front-on view of the kiwi. With a bit of an idea in mind, we returned to the car back the way we came.

A good place to view the kiwi:

Set the satnav for the corner (if possible) of Bulford Droveway and Sheepbridge Road. This is a little way out of town. Pull off into the large dirt layby area. One of the dirt military roads leading off from here is almost straight ahead from Sheepbridge Rd, up a slight incline. Head up here; mind the ruts and holes!

We drove up this military road - there were no signs screaming that we couldn't - to get a great view looking back to the kiwi

We drove up this military road – there were no signs screaming that we couldn’t – to get a great view looking back to the kiwi

Bulford, military road signs

And up the rise on the flat, you can indeed see the kiwi.

It was the perfect road to get a view back to the kiwi

It was the perfect road to get a view back to the kiwi

The end of a successful mission – I was very happy.

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Update March 2015: Adding a link to an excellent article this week about the kiwi’s history.

——
Update June 2016: One of the commenters below has passed on the useful suggestion for anyone wanting to get up close with the kiwi who may have to contend with walking difficulties of parking just off Tidworth Rd past Firing Range 1, as the hill gradient from there is much more gentle. Thanks Mr Apperley!

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Update June 2017: The kiwi has now been given protected status and a book on the kiwi is coming out soon by Colleen Brown who has previously commented on this post. Update Feb 2018: Colleen’s book is due out in April. She has set up a Facebook group called ‘The Bulford Kiwi – The Kiwi We Left Behind‘ and would love for interested people to join!

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Update July 2017: There are now ‘official directions’ published on the fabulous Ngā Tapuwae Trails website, directing people to a track off Tidworth Rd.

Britain’s most famous stone circle

We wanted to see Stonehenge. It wasn’t actually the main drawcard for us in Wiltshire, but, y’know, since we were going to be in the neighbourhood…

Our stop for the night ended up being in nearby Amesbury. The route there took us past Stonehenge, or should I say beside – I was really surprised at how close to the road this famous place is. I imagined something a bit more remote. It is incredibly accessible.

Many stop to simply view the stones from the road, saving themselves £8 or so. Not us though.

We returned for our proper look-see the following morning, arriving just before opening time. While you kinda gotta resign yourself to queuing at these places, mercifully at that time of day we didn’t have too long to wait. After 20ish minutes we were in, collecting our audio guides and walking through the tunnel that takes you under that much-too-close road.

From here you pop up at the start of the walkway that takes you around the outside of the stone circle.

This was the closest we would get to the stones. I probably should have lingered here longer, but a) I lacked patience in among the big crowd of people clustered in the same spot wanting the same photo; and b) I knew there was still a bit to fit into the day.

Until 1977 the public could freely walk amongst the stones. To get closer these days you can try to book a sought-after tour in the early morning or late evening that allows you to gain access to the circle. This did appeal to me, but it simply wasn’t something we had time to contemplate organising.

A Station Stone – originally there were four, now two remain

It is thought that the stone structure originated between 2000 and 3000 BC, and the whole site (much bigger than the main circle and contains other stones as well as earth banks and ditches) probably took around 1500 years to complete. It is quite something to be in the presence of such culturally significant oldness.

Experts believe that Stonehenge was last used for ritualistic purposes in the Iron Age, which in Britain was roughly the period 1200 BC – 400 AD.

Some restoration was undertaken periodically up until the 1960s, mainly to stand up the stones that had fallen over. As you might expect, archaeology has been carried out at various times and I can imagine how fascinating a place it must be to uncover traces of its past life.

I try to minimise the number of photos of the same object in each post. But I can’t help being a bit repetitive with this one!

As close to civilisation as the site feels, it is thanks to some concerned people of the 1920s that it was saved from further urban encroachment. The National Trust was able to acquire the site and steps were taken to start preserving it: nearby buildings were removed and grass allowed to return. However, the roads were left and today the site is flanked by two main A roads. I see there has been much debate about this over the years so I’m by no means alone in feeling concerned about how intrusive these are.

The Heel Stone, a wee distance away from the circle and in between the road and walkway. It gives you a feel for how close the road is

We completed the circuit and I contemplated going around again, but we really did need to get going. But that wasn’t the end of our stone monument visits that day. Next though we needed to find a local landmark with a strong link to New Zealand.

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