Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Axe Valley WW2 Defences - Taunton Stopline (Part Two), Devon

Following on from Part One, this stretch is from the village of Axmouth up to Boss Hill Cross and the Axe Bridge.

Although visiting parts to take photos at various times, the main full trek to document all this stretch in one go turned out to be quite an adventure. It included walking through several areas ankle-deep in mud and cow muck, finding myself frighteningly in the middle of a grassy bog, ripping out some of my hair on a barbed-wire fence when I crawled under it, and literally squeezing through a hedge backwards. Added to which, on the road I had to keep chucking myself into the hedge because of fast traffic on the narrow road, and ended up going home covered in scratches and dragging back half a field on my boots and jeans! It was great! :)

Sadly, not all of the pillboxes have survived. Two which were on the 1940 Royal Engineer Map for Axmouth couldn't be found at all. They may have been destroyed, as after the war farmers were paid £5 to demolish those on their land. Some may not have been built, as not all of them were. The next position along (above) revealed only a heap of broken bricks, and I did assume at the time that this was the remains of a demolished one. However, the farmer kindly sent me an email to say that the bricks are the remains of a chimney from his own house, that he put the rubble there himself and there was never a pillbox in that spot. Mystery solved!

This poor old T24 next along has sunk into the ground and was used as a rubbish tip at some point. Barely visible from the road, this is where I squeezed through a hedge (no damage caused I hasten to add, as it was just closely grown shrubs...although it was still a tight squeeze, mind).

 

The next T24 (below) is situated at the bottom of a field which is either ploughed and seeded, or is almost under water and cannot be accessed (I did try, and found myself stuck in an ever-deepening bog, which was rather scary!), so I took these two photos from the road. It can just be made out between the two trees in the centre. A friend, the owner of the forum 'Derelict Places', has a photo of this view that he took just after steaming muck had been spread, and it looks as if the pillbox was under attack from mortar fire!

Taken at different times, the one above during May 2007 and the one below in November the following year.

Further along are two more delightful  MG Vickers Emplacements, the higher one sunk into the ground.

On one of my visits the top, sunken emplacement was the perfect place to sit with my picnic lunch, a flask of coffee and a ciggy; very peaceful and with perfect views all around.

The lower emplacement also has an additional external blast wall protecting the entrance, which the higher one doesn't have.

There was a large drum wedged between the entrance and the blast wall, possibly to stop livestock from going in and getting stuck or damaging themselves. However, I managed to get over the drum myself without suffering a twisted ankle!

Interior of the lower one, below.

The view through the front embrasure, looking towards the river.

And a view (below) looking back towards them.

The next one along, a reinforced T24 (below), is nearer to the river and is surrounded by gnarled and twisty trees.  

My photos inside didn't come out too well, which is a shame as it's the only reinforced T24 I've seen, this one having bracketed shelves beneath the loopholes. There are two in the Photo Gallery album, but they don't show much detail of the interior.

There should be two more pillboxes, which I couldn't find unfortunately, so that brings us up to the last one in this section. Just before Axe Bridge, which spans the River Axe and carries the A3052 road between Exeter and Lyme Regis, sits this wonderful 6pdr Anti-tank emplacement. This is positioned in the field near to the crossroads at Bosshill Cross.

On one of my visits there was a party of schoolchildren here, from the local primary school in Seaton, along with their teacher. They were learning about WW2 and local defences, including the Taunton Stop Line, and were making notes and sketches. It was lovely to see that children are being taught about our local remains and how they connect with the wider history.

And finally for this section, a photo taken from the eastern end of Axe Bridge, looking towards the 6pdr.

Many more photos can be seen in the Photo Gallery albums, along with these. The third part continues across the A3052 road, also near to the Axe bridge, which can be seen here.  And, for ease of access, part one can be returned to from here.

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