Thursday, May 09, 2013

Keisby Wood's dark past

click photo to enlarge
Keisby Wood near Folkingham, Lincolnshire, is not all it seems. On the face of it this is a typical area of lowland woodland, somewhat neglected but with evidence of recent felling and thinning by the Forestry Commission. However, the visitor who walks the footpaths among the trees cannot help but notice concrete paths, sections of brick wall disappearing beneath the ivy and, every now and then, shattered concrete buildings, slabs resting on each other, broken edges facing skyward and all succumbing to a covering of leaf mould and moss. Today's photograph shows one such structure that is but a few years away from disappearing entirely under vegetation at which point it will have every appearance of a natural outcrop of rock.

What are these old buildings? The utilitarian nature of the shapes and materials together with the large areas of concrete covering the neighbouring fields did rather give the game away, but only after a little research when we got home was all revealed. They are relics of the second world war and later, all that remains of the airfield known as RAF Folkingham. This base became operational in 1940 and was used by the RAF and, later, by the United States Army Air Forces. Paratroops and manned gliders towed by transport aircraft flew from the base during the invasion of Europe and for later supporting actions.

After the war flying ceased and in 1947 the base was closed. BRM motors used the extensive runways for racing car testing. However, the Cold War saw a further military use for the site. In 1959 three Thor mobile Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) were located there with an RAF unit. These nuclear missiles, each capable of destroying a large city and all its inhabitants, were ready for firing with 15 minutes notice and remained in position until 1963. The base closed when the IRBMs were replaced by the deployment of  Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) on the United States mainland and, in the UK, the RAF's V-Bomber force of Valiant, Victor and Vulcan aircraft equipped with the Blue Steel stand-off nuclear missile. Today the airfield is used for the storage of old agricultural vehicles, lorries etc.

As we walked through the woodland great tits and chaffinches flew on ahead of us. All was calm, quiet and peaceful. We were oblivious of the aircraft that flew from here seventy years ago and the missiles that sat on their launch vehicles, thankfully never needing to be fired. On our next visit we'll look a little more closely and view the sylvan scene in a rather different light.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm
F No: f8
 Shutter Speed: 1/40 sec
ISO: 500
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On