After blogging two years ago about the ruins of a simulated fragment of the WWII Atlantic Wall—the notorious Nazi coastal defensive system—now slowly crumbling in the woods of Surrey, I finally had an opportunity to go hike it in person with my wife and in-laws.
The ruins themselves are both larger than you’d expect and quite compact, forming a ridge of lichen-covered concrete, jagged with rebar, nearly hidden in the vegetation.
A Dutch family was also there climbing over the ruins, and as we headed slightly further up the hillside into the trees smaller test-obstacles emerged, including “dragon’s teeth” and monolithic cuboids of stained concrete.
We arrived during a live Ministry of Defence training exercise, with soldiers wandering out across the terrain, speaking to one another on radio headsets, their movements interrupted here and there by Sunday hikers out for an afternoon stroll.
This led to the surreal scene of seeing fully outfitted military figures crouched down behind shrubbery, holding machine guns, while kids, their dogs, and their grandparents noisily ambled by. It felt like some sort of stage play gone wrong.
Then the soldiers disappeared again over the next ridge and we were left looking out over an empty landscape of heather and gorse, the ruins now behind us somewhere in the thicket waiting for next weekend’s hikers to come by.