Ashley Walk is an area of open health land in the north west of the New Forest near the village of Godshill. The area is only accessible on foot or via the Hampton Ridge cycle route. If exploring on foot the Ashley Walk car park is the best place to park and is situated right next to the Brook-Fordingbridge road, just before entering Godshill. The cycle route along Hampton Ridge runs from Fritham to Abbotswell
The government first suggested the compulsory acquisition of land for bombing practice at Ashley Walk in November 1939 and though there was a lot of opposition to the idea by the Godshill Defence Committee the lease was agreed with the Verderers in February 1940. The 5000 acres (equivalent to 2833 football pitches) range was ready to use by August 1940. German Reconnaissance photos from 1941 show some of the range features in place, but many of the special targets yet to be added.
Ashley Walk bombing range was used by aircraft flying from the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) at RAF Boscombe Down, nr Salisbury. The range was used for training and testing, all types of munitions fired and or dropped from British aircraft were tested here first, except live incendiaries due to the fire risk.
The range consisted of several different target types including air to ground attack, mock ship targets, aircraft pens, gun emplacement, bomb fragmentation areas and the Ministry of Home Security target (known locally as the Sub Pens) as well as domestic facilities for crew, two small grass airstrips, observation shelters and towers. The range was split with one area for inert ordnance only. The site was also used day and night with one, the illumination target specifically for night raid practice.
The whole range was used extensively throughout the war, creating many bomb craters and even an aircraft crash site. Activities continued until 1946, but the range was not fully cleared until 1948. The vast majority of targets and facilities were removed, although various features such as the concrete illuminated target arrow and the various chalk marks still survive. The Ministry of Home Security target was covered over with an earth mound and remains visible today near to one of the surviving observation shelters. Some craters were filled, but many were left open.
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Here are some links to other articles relating to the Ashley Walk Range:
- Godshill Defence Committee and a New Forest Bombing Range
- No.2 Wall Target
- No.3 Wall Target and the testing of Highball at Ashley Walk Bombing Range
- The Illuminated Arrow and Target
- Ministry of Home Security Target (aka Submarine Pens)
- Air to Ground Target
- Ship Target
- Line Target
- Observation shelter for Fragmentation Target Zone C & D
- Post war at Ashley Walk Bombing Range
- Grand Slam – largest bomb ever dropped by British forces
- Memories of a Scientific Advisor working on Grand Slam