Ludshott Common in Wartime
From about 1933, the land at Ludshott had been used by the Military for training purposes, but at the beginning of the Second World War the whole area was requisitioned.
Initially there was relatively little impact on the vegetation as the 1940 Annual Report records that work on the Common was not seriously hampered by troops, despite damage by tanks and vehicles. Two high explosive bombs fell between Headley Hollow and Grayshott Hollow in July that year and in October a 20-acre fire was caused by incendiary bombs.
Aerial photo of Ludshott Common from about 1965. Headley Down is top left,
Superior Camp lower right of centre, and Waggoners Wells
right of centre at the bottom
However, from 1941 Superior Camp was being constructed and the general area of the Common was used for tank training. This continued until the Common was derequisitioned in July 1945, by which time every bit of vegetation on the main heathland area had been obliterated, so much so that a Dakota aeroplane with engine trouble landed on Timber Way in 1944, mistaking it for a temporary airfield.
Although the land was now back under the management of the National Trust, there was a major residual problem caused by soil compression and oil impregnation from the tanks, so that any rain just ran off the surface down into the valleys. In 2007 one can still see the erosion ravines in the valley bottoms that were created at that time. The water that flowed down the Pond Road valley caused major flooding in Arford village.
Sir Edward Salisbury, the Director of Kew Gardens, visited Ludshott in 1945 to advise on the revival of the vegetation, and a claim was made against the MOD for restoration of damage to the habitat and the cost of flood prevention operations. Although the Army constructed many small barriers across the erosion ravines in 1946, the claim was not settled until 1948, after which major works were carried out including building a dam at the east end of Pond Road, in Fullers Vale, but despite this some flooding continued at Arford for at least the next couple of years until new plant growth stopped the water flow.
In the meantime, the Ludshott Commons Committee had to wait for the vegetation on the open areas to become established and it was not until 1953 that they embarked on a programme of creating a new pattern of tracks across the Common, which was continued in the following two years. Agreement was reached with Hampshire County Council on bridleways in 1967 and the Royal Engineers built the bridge across the erosion ravine at Ludshott Hollow in 1972, completing the routes across the Common that we know today. Latest news, events are on other pages of the site.