On September 23, 1915 the Bedfordshire Standard published a splendid description of the Bedfordshire Training Depot trenching ground. Recruits dug the WWI trench complex near the Northern edge of Warren Wood, Steppingley – land now occupied by Center Parcs Woburn Forest. The trenches were used to help prepare soldiers for the Front.
The trenching ground was orientated East-West on open land alongside Woburn Road, Ampthill. The complex was more than 400 yards wide. The frontline fire trenches faced South.
In 1918 the practice trenches were abandoned when the Bedfordshire Command Depot closed. Over the years nature has quietly claimed its own – the trench sides became unstable and collapsed. In 1928 Warren Wood was planted with trees which further obscured the site. The earthworks filled with woody debris and an endless supply of leaf litter.
In 2008 Marcus Webb filmed parts of the WWI trenching ground in Warren Woods. The footage was taken before Center Parcs started to build. Here is a videoclip.
Later that year an archaeological survey was commissioned in relation to the Center Parcs planning permission. The survey concluded that “irregular linear trenching….. is almost certainly the area of World War I practice trenches….“
In 2013/14 the development of Center Parcs saw the site boundary and a bridle path trisect the trenching ground East-West. However, signs of the trench complex remain. These photographs were taken in March 2016.
Here is an artist’s impression of how the trenching ground may have been organised.
In February 2017 a guided walk explored what remains of the trench complex.
2019 – we are developing a heritage project to map, tidy and sign the trenching ground. Watch this space…..
Thank you – to Ian Church (Military Historian) and Stephen Coleman (Central Bedfordshire Council) for assisting with information about the trenching ground.
Bedfordshire & Luton Archive Service
Central Bedfordshire Council
Planning permission 08/00614/FULL
All text and photographs copyright S.Hartley (2015-) unless otherwise stated.
BUY: Ampthill Camp WWI Centenary Postcard
This special postcard commemorates the centenary of the WWI Bedfordshire Training Depot (1914-16). Limited edition: 500
Proceeds will help to fund a book about the Ampthill Camp ~ profits to benefit the charity Combat Stress which was founded in 1919 to help WWI veterans deal with shell shock.
£2 (inc p&p). Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to order by PayPal or BACS transfer.