Aircraftsman Ross-a walk

Moreton Plantation

Aircraftsman Ross had other names, as T.E Shaw he made his home in Dorset, his real name was Thomas Edward Lawrence, the world knows him as Lawrence of Arabia, and this is a walking trail named in his honour. It begins at the Tank museum in Bovington Dorset, where he worked for a time as T.E. Shaw when he joined the tank corps there in 1923. Today this is a world leading museum and I believe the only such museum dedicated to tanks – they have a “tank weekend” yearly when many tanks are run, crowds are huge! I used to visit here as a kid with my family, in those days it was a much smaller, simpler affair!

The Tank Museum
Small Tank with Conservation Centre in the background

Like any museum it has conservation duties, here in Bovington that’s on a different scale! They have a “little store” of items awaiting restoration in there – see below.

awaiting service

I started my walk at Clouds Hill, now a National Trust property. Lawrence lived here from 1923 to 1935, the property was given to the “NT” in 1937 by his brother Arnold as he wanted it to remain a memorial to his brother. Of the many places he lived during his life, this is one of the few that actually contain “evidence of his occupation” as the NT put it. Meaning that the books and artefacts that are in there are not necessarily his, but many of the improvements and decorations are.

Clouds Hill, Dorset
The walk begins

Walking away from his home, this narrow path, runs parallel to the road, just off to the right of this photo. It was here that on 13th May 1935, on a return trip from the local post office, Lawrence swerved his motorcycle to avoid two kids on bicycles, crashed and sustained fatal injuries, dying 6 days later on May 19th. The stone below marks the spot.

A Stone placed by the T.E. Lawrence Society

A few yards on is a small car park, where people often park for a few minutes, either to visit the stone, or watch the odd tank training exercise. Apart from the museum, this is a live M.O.D site and still home to the tank regiment.

Driver in training!
A “welcome” sign near the start of the walk!

Across from the small car park the trail heads off across the heath/plantation. It drops down to farmland, and heads south, across heathland towards the small village of Moreton.

Across the heath
A ford crosses the River Frome
Luckily there is a bridge for humans!

In Moreton, the church of St. Nicolas is noteworthy for two reasons. It was here on 21st of May 1935 that Lawrence’s funeral was conducted by Canon Michael Kinloch, although well attended and covered by the press at the time, the public were asked not to come. The second item of note in the church are it’s windows, not the usual stained glass but carved, by the late Sir Laurence Whistler, over a 30 year period, the last of which was dedicated in 1985.

St Nicolas Church, Moreton
Inside the Church
One of the windows
Window detail

Just across the road from the church is the graveyard, the final resting place of Lawrence. It is interesting to see that it records his “real” name, or rather birth name, as he had changed this to T.E. Shaw by deed poll by the time of his death.

Entrance to the graveyard
The Grave of Lawrence of Arabia

The trail retraces it’s steps a short distance back over the ford, but then diverts away from the original track, taking the walker out into the Moreton Planation, now part of the Forestry Commission property and hundreds of Pine trees, eventually back to Clouds Hill.

The Moreton Plantation

The walk is about 6.5 miles, but with plenty of stops to look at, and of course photograph things! For those interested all the images were taken on slightly out dated Kodak Color Plus film, in my Nikon F3, mostly with the 50mm lens, some may have been on the 35mm or 28mm – I can’t remember which!!

The Real T E Lawrence (of Tremadog, North Wales)

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