02 September 2011
Skipwith Common is a very special place, not just for its tranquil open areas which transport you back to another time, or for its wildlife, it is also a place of history to be discovered with your family. Seventy years ago Skipwith Common resonated to the sounds of Riccall airfield, now birdsong and the native-breed sheep and cattle grazing the heath are all that disturb the peace at England’s newest National Nature Reserve.
RAF Riccall was built specially for training men to fly missions in Halifax bombers during the Second
World. Thousands of men learnt there and a massive 61,577 sorties were made. Unfortunately there were many crashes and other accidents and 221 personnel, including six Australians, lost their lives as part of the war effort.
After the war, the site was abandoned with only a few foundations, runways and buildings still visible today. Nature is slowly beginning to reclaim the airfield and as the concrete surfaces weather and crack, chalk-loving plants have found a toehold in the heath’s acid soil. The remains of laboratories blossom with foxgloves and honeysuckle in summer whilst grass snakes, adders and common lizards bask in the defunct bomb bunkers, retreating into the brickwork to hibernate.
These hard surfaces now form the basis of an easy access walk allowing people to visit the memorial and enjoy this haven. Enigmatically named, Bombs and Lizards, this is one of three new routes visitors can download and follow around the site.
Posted by Kerry Netherway, Natural England
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