Club Visit, M.O.D Otterburn Training Area - Wednesday 4th May 2016.

On Wednesday 4th May 2016, Morpeth Camera Club members enjoyed a pre-arranged private visit to the Ministry
of Defence Otterburn Ranges. This vast area covers over ninety square miles, is the second largest live firing range
in the country and has been used for military training since 1911. Following registration and security procedures we
were taken on a tour of the Otterburn Camp and then out into the Controlled Access Area. This bleak area of moors,
hills, wooded valleys, streams and farmland provides a realistic environment for training with live weapons, artillery
and helicopters.
Our tour had been arranged in the short live firing break to accommodate lambing time at the tenanted farms with
large flocks of white face Cheviot and Scottish blackface sheep. After several photographic stops to record the rugged
open landscape, we were taken into the danger area to see several old military vehicles that are used as targets
during live fire training. An abandoned Chieftain Tank was well photographed by members and had been one of the
items on our wish list of things to see. A hidden waterfall at Featherwood was our next stop, and here some of the
wildlife that frequents the ranges was also seen with buzzard, merlin and curlew all spotted.
We were then taken to an unexpected yet remarkable feature in the heart of the training area, a set of WW1 practice
trenches. This was a network of frontline, communication and reserve trenches that were dug to make training as
close as possible to the conditions experienced in trench warfare on the Western Front between 1914/18. As the war
changed from open fields men had to learn how to dig trenches and to live,work and fight in them over long periods.
These unique trenches are a scheduled monument and are preserved and protected by the M.O.D.
A fine day on the ranges continued with a stop at another tank used as target practice and this vehicle showed the
scars of several direct hits with tracks blown off and holes in the armour plating which gave a unique close up view
of the damage that could be inflicted. At a different location a moving target railway system was viewed where small
trucks are pulled around on a narrow gauge railway track to offer realistic moving targets of enemy tanks and vehicles.
After several hours our fascinating visit came to an end and we thanked the Officer who had been our guide giving us
an insight into the history and current role of the Army at Otterburn.
Most of the group then headed ten miles west to Bellingham where a late lunch was taken before we enjoyed a wood
land walk through Hareshaw Dene, following the Hareshaw Burn to the spectacular Hareshaw Linn waterfall. A warm
and sunny afternoon saw plenty of images taken with a good volume of water cascading down the falls and rounded
off a very good day of photography.
                                                 Davy Bolam.

  Range Relics.                                  Tank Target.                                    Hareshaw Linn.