CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Ex-military locations in Hampshire playing host to a range of wildlife

PUBLISHED: 10:28 07 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:28 07 July 2017

Short Eared Owl at Farlington Marshes by James West ( via

Short Eared Owl at Farlington Marshes by James West ( via

EJW West

It might sound strange, but the places where our armed forces used to operate are some of our least damaged landscapes. Rich in history and in wildlife, these ex-military reserves are great days out

As well as offering the opportunity to see amazing wildlife, many of our reserves have an intriguing past. From Civil War battlefields to WWII airbases, places which have been protected for other reasons can offer a much needed sanctuary for nature. 

Blashford Lakes

Now a haven for wetland birds, the outbreak of World War Two saw this site in the Avon Valley become the RAF Ibsley airfield, used as a base for Spitfires. It was an active airfield, used by 22 RAF Squadrons, for six years, and was used for mineral extraction after being decommissioned in 1946. The derelict RAF Ibsley control tower still stands to the east of the much-loved nature reserve.

Farlington Marshes

Farlington Marshes played a key role during World War Two, as a ‘Q’ decoy site designed to draw enemy bombers from Portsmouth’s docks. Structures mimicking the city’s lights, and decoy fires creating the illusion of the city burning, were built nearby to draw Luftwaffe bombers in. It became the most successful Operation Starfish site in the country; on one night alone in April 1941, over 140 bombers unloaded over 200 munitions on Farlington Marshes and in Langstone Harbour instead of the city of Portsmouth, saving thousands of lives. Control bunkers for this elaborate operation of deception can still be seen around the nature reserve today.

Wherever you live there is a Wildlife Trust that covers your area. You can support their work by joining your local Wildlife Trust today. Visit to choose the Trust you would like to join.

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 10:42

Is this the ultimate city break? Winchester has it all: from ancient history to space exploration, plus cafes, cocktails, culture and countryside… But with so much to do, choices are going to have to be made

Read more
Yesterday, 09:55

10 of best photos of Hampshire shared on Instagram over the past week...

Read more
Mon, 15:25

Remember, remember… Here’s a quick round up of some stunning displays across Hampshire this year

Read more
Mon, 15:22

The community shop is thriving. Why? And what makes the perfect village store? We went in search…

Read more
Mon, 14:27

From Jane Austen to Karl Marx, our towns and villages have fascinating links to some of the biggest historical celebrities. Viv Micklefield follows in their footsteps with the help of a blue plaque or two

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Our guide to some of the best Halloween events on offer across Hampshire this October

Read more
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

We round up 8 things you didn’t know about this little South Downs village

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Enjoy some easy walking around the Lymington to Keyhaven Nature Reserve says Fiona Barltrop

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Hampshire this month

Read more
Monday, September 24, 2018

Head to the Isle of Wight to enjoy the charming villages of Brighstone and Mottistone, taking in superb views, an ancient monument and enchanting gardens with our new walks writer, Fiona Barltrop

Read more
Monday, September 24, 2018

With the centenary of the end of World War One commemorated this year, the reopening of the iconic Royal Victoria Chapel, part of our military heritage, is timely

Read more
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

This year Winchester’s Theatre Royal celebrates the 40th anniversary of its re-opening as a performance theatre

Read more
Monday, September 17, 2018

Avon Valley, Beer and Cake is the ABC of why Ringwood, a busy market town on the western edge of the New Forest, makes a quirkily clever choice for a break away

Read more
Monday, September 10, 2018

Lego enthusiast Duncan Titmarsh has built his business brick by brick; from tinkering in his garden shed to internationally acclaimed sculptures

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search