Back in 1984 there was a lot of excitement in the village when a film crew from London arrived to film scenes for ‘Return to Oz’ at Down Barn on London Road.
Michael Walker of Manor Farm, who farmed the land around Down Barn, grew a crop of maize alongside London Road to aid the transformation to Kansas. AW from Middle Barn appeared in the finished film as an extra and local schoolchildren at Tilshead Primary were treated to a day at the London studios to meet the 10 year old star Fairuza Balk who played Dorothy.
Interior shots of Aunt Em’s house were filmed at the camp cinema at West Down Camp, Tilshead, and further exterior shots of a journey by horse and trap were filmed near Tilshead Lodge.
Where is London Road? It is by-way number 2 on the Rights of Way map, and crosses Chitterne parish from east to west to the north of the village until it meets the Imber Range where it ends abruptly.
I walked London Road from west to east, starting with the section to the west of the C22 that was also known as Down Barn Road. This part of the road passed by Down Barn Field Settlement in earlier years, but Down Barn buildings were taken down after the War Department (MoD) took over the site in the 1930s. The site is now just within the Imber Range and out of bounds to civilians, but leased to local farmers when not needed for training.
A short section of the road is paved where it combines with the C22 between the double bends at the bottom of Breach Hill. It then passes Middle Barn cottages and carries on uphill towards Copehill Down Training Village, which it skirts to the north.
At Copehill Down trees London Road gets very messy as it crosses two tracks. The first is by-way number 1, the old Bath to Sarum coach road, and the second an MoD gravel road, before passing the MoD’s Copehill Down Training Village. Wiltshire Council has erected a Voluntary Restraint notice to motor vehicles on London Road to try and prevent further deterioration of the track.
After passing the training village the London Road follows the parish boundary before it leaves Chitterne parish and heads towards Orcheston and Maddington (Shrewton).
Tuesday 3 May 2016 update correction: removed reference to Percy and Mabel Potter living at Down Barn. Thanks to AC for this.