If you are driving on the B3054 from Hatchett Pond towards Lymington, you might see what appears to a mound or hump or earth on the heathland. It’s on your right-hand side about 800 metres past the entrance to the Beaulieu Heath car park.
It’s easy to recognise as it’s covered in gorse bush. You can also see sandy gravel tracks going up it on all sides where people walk up. It is often mistaken as being a barrow, which was a Bronze Age burial mound, also known as a Tumulus.
However, the origins of this mound of earth and small hill are a lot more modern, dating back to 1944 when the World War 2 airfield was in operation on the land.
It’s actually the RAF Beaulieu shooting-in butt. It was made by digging out and piling earth and gravel into the mound you see today. Planes would then taxi into one of the hardstanding areas away from the runway perimeters and fire their guns into it.
The purpose of this exercise was to let the pilots test their weapons for accuracy and calibration before a mission.
During winter and wet months, the bowl that sits behind the mound fills with water to create a pond. This is also likely to be man-made, being where a lot of the earth and gravel would have been dug out for to create the shooting-in butt.
For more information and photos including a video of how it worked, you can read more on the RAF Beaulieu blog. This is an independent website developed by a local passionate about the airfield’s history.