Long Valley (B4) Training Area, Aldershot
Since 1854 the military training lands in Aldershot have been available for casual recreation when not in use by the army. Section 2 of the byelaws confirm access permission.
In 2018 Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) fenced Long Valley enclosing 950 acres.
The justification was protection from military driver training. The gates remain locked for days at a time yet DIO records record minimal levels of use – 7.6 hours from 495 in October 2020.
DIO now delete records preventing audit.
The fenced area covering 950 acres.
The actual area of driver training use is just under half. DIO standing orders prevent driver training outside of this area.
The DANGER signs. Note the use of bold text and a red background.
For these signs to tell the truth two conditions must exist; military training is underway and its dangerous. The first time these signs were used was in support of a civilian event.
Based on analysis of training records and monitoring what is actually going on – noting tyre tracks etc – the area is empty and unused and often for days at a time.
Clear puddles, where suspended silt left by the passing of vehicles, indicate nothing has driven this way for a long time.
Dried mud with no fresh vehicle tracks. No use for a long time. No use is more frequent than use but the gates remain locked.
A very rare sighting of military training. The vehicles are noisy and difficult to miss…they have presence and avoiding them is easy.
Seeing a vehicle is very, very rare. They use the driver circuit for a few hours and then leave and the area reverts to empty/unused.
Most trails are in the wooded areas and parts of the lands military vehicles cannot or do not access.
The area is wild and naturally beautiful, supporting sensitive habitats.
The wooded areas or open heath represent the majority of the lands. The mental and physical benefits of access to the local community are massive…yet to DIO they count for nothing and the public is seen as a liability and inconvenience.
The area is both Special Protected Area (SPA – ground nesting birds) and SSSI (Lowland heath).
Twice in my life I have heard a Nightjar churring…and for over 45 years the area has been my sanctuary…access is priceless, cared for and its part of my soul.