Taking a walk on the National Trust‘s property at Culver Down, on the extreme eastern end of the Isle of Wight today, The Ranger was pleased to see the strange object set into the ground that has intrigued him for decades. As a youngster he wrestled with it, and now his own children have the pleasure of attempting to pull it free – achieving as much as many thousands of overconfident boys in the past.
No doubt some old chap will know what this great chain was for, but it seems so mysterious, right there in the middle of the down. It’s well away from the former military installation that is at the top of the hill, and whilst no doubt it’s connected with the army’s use of the Down prior to 1956, it’s hard to see what purpose it could have fulfilled, unless it was an anchor for letting cables down the precipitous 100m chalk cliff-face below – a startling prospect. It’s also interesting to speculate on why it remains, when so much of the equipment which surrounded the old gun emplacements has gone. (Update: a very likely explanation is provided by Ranger reader Richie Barron in the comments below) As it is, it serves as a reminder that the most natural-looking of habitats can often be masking signs of the most disruptive of human activities. In the half a century since the huge links were last used in anger, the nibbling of the sheep and rabbits has softened the grass around it, and it now rests incongruously in what appears to be virgin downland: a physical and intellectual challenge to passers-by.