'Stanta', said the road sign. We were nearly there, the weather was perfect,
and the evening had not been cancelled because of possible military
emergencies. Enter the Army's Stanford Training Area (Stanta) to a slight
surprise - a farrier making horse shoes! Our guide for the evening, Range
Warrant Officer Mez DeMeyer, soon informed us that this is because the
Household Cavalry Mounted
Regiment were 'on holiday' here. First a loo stop, giving time to view the
exhibition in the Lecture Room of former inhabitants of the area evacuated in
1942. There was Mrs Fuller, Headmistress of Stanford School with a group of
children in 1936, unaware - how could they be? - of the future of their
Over a cattle grid and we were in the military area - on the left the impact
area where live firing had finished an hour ago, on the right the dry
training areas (blanks used). Our first leg-stretch stop was Frog Hill, with
beautiful grand-scale scenery of Breckland of former days, sheep peacefully
grazing, a scene much admired by Ipswich Society members. But how different
for the Army personnel earlier in the day and again tomorrow - grenades,
mortar bombs, booby traps, C130 Hercules aircraft battalion drop zone,
special forces camouflaged as trees (were there any watching us?). And the
sheep? They are cleared each morning by a shepherd with dogs before firing
begins; of the c.18,000 sheep only about fifteen are lost to bullets each
Past Tottington (once a village with council houses and church still
remaining) then to Bridge Carr village. But today Bridge Carr is no longer
an English village; it is' Sharabak' of Afghanistan. Here we wandered into
compounds, down alley ways and visited shops. The villagers, the enemy and
booby traps were absent after Army training earlier in the day. but the
deserted alley ways, the physical evidence of night-time training were all
too real and quite frightening, but reassurance came from our guide and
(incongruously) our Soames coach waiting for us further up the road. In my
view our tax money is well spent to help our troops train before the life and
death of the real thing.
We had our picnic tea by Buckenham Tofts Lake (or was it the Helmand River?)
sharing it with the wonderful wildlife in the training area. Then to St
Mary's Church, West Tofts - a Pugin restoration church well looked after by
the Army. I quickly looked at the gravestones; the newest I found was 1919.
But there was one from 2008 - a 76 year old, an 'original inhabitant' allowed
to rest here. Was he one of the children in a Lecture Room photo?
We said farewell to two barn owls and to Warrant Officer DeMeyer who had
informed us for four hours, and we returned home with a magnificent sunset.
A wonderful trip - thank you Caroline.
Cover, issue 189