North Of Jackdaw Hill


And on we go. Albeit with an eye on the past.

Before my parents made the inordinately wise decision to move to the fine county of Norfolk they lived in the village of Lidlington in Bedfordshire. Given that they located a fairly short time after I was born I don’t have any real memories of the place, other than those planted by my parents in conversations with them over the subsequent years, including one unlikely recollection that at the time we were living next door to a “bank robber”.

I’ve only been back once, a couple of years ago when I had to attend a meeting in Bedford, and the visit was only fleeting (I’d spent too long trying to find the best vantage point to see the nearby Cardington airship hangars). The main thing I recall from the visit is being glad that my formative years were based in Lidlington and not neighbouring Sheeptick End which as glamourous addresses go leaves a deal to be desired.

The other thing that I remember is passing a sign for a Vehicle Proving Ground as I left – I had no idea what this was and to be honest I largely forgot about it until I happened upon an Ordnance Survey map of the area which details its peculiar markings.

The Millbrook Proving Ground as it’s now known (after another local village) was built in the late 1960s by General Motors to allow it to test a variety of its European models and is based on their US facility in Michigan (the first testing facility of its kind opened in 1924). The people at Millbrook state on their website that “Our custom-built facility provides virtually every test, validation and Homologation service necessary for today’s demanding programmes, complemented by a worldwide reputation for confidentiality, service and competitiveness.” Which is good to hear, because I’ve been considering changing from my usual Homologation service supplier.

Given that these places aren’t generally open to the public or largely visible to those that pass by, I think they’re geographic features that most are unaware of – which is a shame because as a card carrying cartographiliac (admittedly a society of limited numbers) I find them fascinating.

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