Desert Rats Memorial Walk

Sunday 28 September 2014. Seven members turned out for what was planned to be an 8½ mile walk. We started by following the short trail around the site of the camp used by 14,000 “Desert Rat” soldiers in the build-up to the D Day landing in France. Just one of the many nissan huts remained as evidence of the former encampment. The Cromwell tank alongside the A1065 stands as a more visible memorial.

Leaving the Desert Rats trail we made our way in warm sunshine along a series of forest trails, stopping for coffee after a couple of miles. A further 3 miles of walking took us through Coldharbour Wood and out into an area of farmland. We stopped for lunch at the side of a farm track and were just about to start again when a farmer came along on a quad bike, armed with a rifle, to inform us that there was no public access along the track that we were on. I knew that we weren’t on a PRoW and had to accept that, technically, we were trespassing. We hadn’t encountered any problems when recceing the route and we were unfortunate today that the farmer came along when he did. We were only threequarters of a mile away from leaving the farmers land but, instead, we had to backtrack for 2½ miles to regain our intended route.

Back on track, we made our way along more forest trails to bring us back to the cars. Needless to say, the walk was further than planned and turned out to be 9¼ miles.

It was disappointing that the farmer was so intransigent and could not have been more accommodating but he was only asserting his rights and to his credit in a not too overly aggressive way. A lesson learned and in future we’ll stick to PRoWs.

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