“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Not So Secret Bunkers

Back in February, after hearing about a local legend, I took a trip to Grovely Wood near Salisbury.

The legend in question is the legend of the Handsel sisters. As the story goes in 1737 four Danish sisters moved to the Wilton area and unfortunately for them, their arrival coincided with an outbreak of smallpox which killed 132 people. The locals believing that the sisters where responsible for the outbreak and branding them as witches, took them to Grovely Wood and bludgeoned them to death. The sisters were supposedly buried in the woods in four separate graves and it is said that the graves were marked by four gnarled beech trees, the largest of which is said to have a hollow at the back in which people leave offerings.

Armed with my Ordnance Survey map showing a section of Grovely Wood labelled as "Four Sisters" I set off in search of the four trees. Sadly however the gnarled beech trees remained elusive, possibly hidden amongst the numerous pines.

Walking back along the old Roman road that runs through the wood I did however happen across a bunker on the edge of the tree line. As can be seen from the pictures below, the bunker was very conveniently labelled with the word "Bunker".  Inside the bunker there is also some rather interesting graffiti. On the floor there was an arrow pointing to the far end of the bunker, with the words "Head Rush". Also on the far wall of the bunker there was a painted symbol which resembled a "W". All rather odd.

A quick look on the internet hints that the nearby farm (Oakley Farm) served as an RAF Ordnance Depot and Head Quarters during WW II and that Grovely Wood was used by the US Air Force as an ammunition depot. Grovely Wood was seemingly chosen for this purpose due to its proximity to main line rail stations such as Wylie. Apparently, bombs and shells were left stacked out in the open in the woods, and the less robust munitions (e.g. fuses) were stored in hundreds of small huts that were dotted around the wood. Given the military history of the site, presumably the bunker is related to this WW II heritage.

The bunker seen from the Roman Road.

The entrance to the bunker.

I would never have guessed!

Looking into the bunker.

"Head Rush"  - what does it mean?

"W" - what does it mean?

The "vent" at the far end of the bunker above the "W".

Having stumbled across a bunker in Grovely Wood in February, I was again surprised to stumble across another bunker last week whilst out wandering near the village of Upper Chute in Wiltshire. This bunker, whilst of the same approximate size as that in Grovely Wood, seemed to be of a different design, with the only apparent access way being a padlocked hatch on the top, as opposed to an open doorway at one end. The “Chute” bunker as I will call it, is in a small patch of wooded land next to the road, apparently left and forgotten. The only discernible features of this bunker were the entrance hatch, a bent pipe on the top of the bunker (possibly a ventilation pipe) and a long straight pipe protruding near the base of the bunker. Searching the internet provided no obvious clues as to the nature and purpose of this particular bunker.

The "Chute" bunker. The access hatch can be seen on the left end of the bunker, and the possible ventilation pipe can be seen on the right.

A pipe protruding from the bunker.

The entrance hatch and the possible ventilation pipe in the distance.

So if any readers know the location of the Handsel sister’s beech trees or knows more about these two bunkers, please let me know via the comments section below.

Pictures, Wiltshire (February & March 2014).

*** Update October 2014 ***

Following some very welcome advice from reader Mr Hodder I took another trip into Grovely Wood to track down the Handsel trees. Following Mr Hodder's instructions I found the trees easily, as the below pictures show. Three of the tress still stand, and one of the tress has a small hollow at the back of it where people have placed offerings. From a quick look some of the offerings include small plastic toys, beaded necklaces, plastic coins and some fabric items. For those who want to see the trees for themselves, they are approximately located at 51.100393, -1.900126.

The main avenue through Grovely Wood. 

The first Handsel tree.

A rear view of the first Handsel tree, note the hollow at the base.

Peering into the hollow, numerous offerings can be seen.

Another Handsel tree. Sadly this one has fallen.

The third Handsel tree.

The fourth Handsel tree.

Pictures, Wiltshire (October 2014).

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  1. Thanks to Andrew May and the "Briton's Cold War Facebook Group" the first bunker has been identified as a Stanton air-raid shelter, similar to this one:


    The same group also suggest that the second bunker is an underground water reservoir.

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  3. he best way to see the beech trees is to drive up from the Wilton direction as far as you can go into the wood. Once you reach a farm on your left and a metal barrier leave your car and take the right hand path up to the main avenue of trees. Once in the avenue you need to walk for around 15 minutes. Around this time look to your left for three large trees roughly 20 yards in. The trees are visible from the path. A good clue is a 4th beech tree which came down about 4/5 years ago and sits fallen close by.

    The first tree you reach is the largest and I would say the oldest. Around the back of the tree is a very small hollow in the base which contains trinkets and coins etc. As a young boy I remember occasionally these items hanging from the trees.

    If your around at dusk this first large beech tree is home to a family of owls which are quite amazing to see fly in and out. Their nest is about 7 / 8ft up in a rotten hollow which used to house a large branch. If your careful it is possible with the aid of a friend to get an amazing photo of them nesting. However I would really recommend spending 40mins or so sitting near the tree for some amazing shots!

  4. Very many thanks for the description of how to find the trees! It is clear from what you have said what my mistake was. I entered the woods from the Great Wishford track and then head right (away from Wilton) towards the area of the map marked "Four Sisters", which is on the right hand side of the track. Making the assumption that the trees would be near the "Four Sisters" mark on the map I never considered heading towards the Wilton end of the woods. I will certainly now head back and have another look! Thanks again.

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  6. Hi does anyone know where the bunker is i tried to find it but couldn't see it anywhere on the old Roman Road?

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  7. From memory it is on the stretch of the Roman Road between Grovely Lodge and Powten Stone. As you head west along the track from Grovely Lodge, the woods are on your right hand side and the fields on you left hand side. The bunker is somewhere along this section of tje track on the right hand side and just a few metres into the woods.

  8. I was luckily able to find the stanton shelter today

  9. Pls give me more information regards ww2 bunkers in Wiltshire.

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  11. My Father was stationed at Grovely Woods in WWII. He was in the U.S. Air corps 1929th Ordnance Company Aviation, Combat Wing

  12. I only know that they consisted mostly of bombers.

  13. Has anyone got gps coordinates for the bunker? Thanks.

    1. Shared route
      From Grovely Rd to Second Broad Dr via Second Broad Dr.

      33 min (1.5 mi)

      1. Walk south-west on Grovely Rd towards First Broad Dr
      2. Turn right onto Second Broad Dr
      3. Arrive at location: Second Broad Dr

      To see this route visit https://goo.gl/maps/CzLzxodcrdzMpsoo8

    2. Approximate co-ordinates for the bunker 51.1082558, -1.9442482

  14. Approximate co-ordinates for the bunker 51.1082558, -1.9442482