The small village of Tyneham lies in a small wooded valley in the idyllic rolling countryside close to Dorset’s world famous Jurassic Coast.
The small collection of farm buildings, church, schoolhouse and tumbledown cottages have been trapped in a time warp thanks to the preparations for D-Day. In 1943 the residents were given just a few weeks to vacate their houses with a promise that they could return after the war. This never happened and it has remained a ruined ghost village ever since.
The large barn has a colourful hay wagon and an ever-expanding collection of farm tools and props, great for detail shots. There is also a theatrical stage showing a view of the old manor house, a fun location for portraits. In the outbuildings there is large farm machinery including an old Fordson Major tractor. In the stables there are rusting oil lamps and tools sat on cobweb-filled windowsills, all great material for close-up and urban decay type images.
The terrace of abandoned and decaying cottages comes complete with a brief history of what the building was and who lived there – a sad and poignant reminder of the passing of time. There is also the old schoolhouse which is lit by just soft window light, giving it a wonderful atmosphere.
The church is still intact, complete with stained glass windows, and now it serves as a bit of a historical information centre rather than a museum.
When to go
Autumn is the ideal time to visit as the colours, mist, frost and fog will all help make Tyneham a magical, ethereal place to shoot. Because of its location on military land, access to Tyneham is restricted. It is open to the public most weekends and the main holiday periods. Visit tynehamopc.org.uk/new/visiting-tyneham/opening-times
There is no charge to enter but a suggested donation of £2 will help with the conservation work. This will probably be the best two pounds that you will spend on photography this year!
Food and lodging
Facilities are limited at Tyneham. There are lavatories next to the farmyard at the southern end of the car park. Ice cream vans and food vendors are not allowed on site but of course Tyneham is a great place for a picnic.
If you want a bite to eat visit Clavell’s Restaurant on the road to Kimmeridge Bay, just two miles to the east. Clavell’s is possibly the best tea room/cafe in Dorset – the food and cakes are yummy.
As for accommodation there are plenty of B&B’s and campsites in the area but the nearest hotels are The Springfield just outside Wareham or the Mortons House Hotel in Corfe, both excellent centres for exploring this area.
- Macro lens Tyneham is a great location for close-ups and details, so a macro lens is ideal. If you do not have a dedicated macro lens, a close focus 50mm will do a good job. A 24-70mm (full frame) or equivalent will also be useful.
- Tripod A tripod will be handy, especially in the dimly lit church and schoolhouse, and for precise close-up focusing. Using a tripod at Tyneham has never been a problem, either inside or out.
Word of warning
Tyneham is still within the boundaries of the Lulworth Ranges, the live firing area of the Armoured Fighting Vehicles Gunnery School, and warning notices about unexploded ordnance and areas that are out of bounds should be heeded.