1 February 2015 I’m not a great fan of Facebook. In fact, I resisted it for a very long time but, working in marketing for Dream Factory, the day came when I could resist no longer because I was put in charge of the company Facebook page. This meant I had to sign up for myself. These days I run a Facebook walking page, Walking Is Exercise Too and, recently, I discovered another very interesting page, Southampton Heritage Photos. Lately, there’s been a lot of talk on there about Hum Hole. Several people mentioned there used to be aircraft burged in Hum Hole back in the war. Some said the aircraft had crashed there, others that it was used as a dumping ground for planes that had been shot down. This may be true, although I’ve not been able to find anything about it online but, when someone posted that there was still a large part of an aircraft, sticking out of the ground by the path, I was pretty sure this wasn’t the case. After all, I walk through there a lot and I’m certain I would have noticed something like that. Anyway, just in case I was wrong, I decided to give the area a thorough examination on Sunday morning.
Hum Hole is fairly close to my house so it was hardly what you would call a long walk to get there, just across the Main Road and up the hill a little way beside the bypass. When I was a child this was a much larger area of woodland, leading down from what I believe was a bomb site on Lances Hill (otherwise known as the Big Hill), right down to Glenfield Avenue where my first school was. Bomb sites were common in my childhood and this was one of three in the area close to my house. Online there is an Ordance Survey map of the worst two nights of the blitz superimposed on a modern map. It doesn’t show any bombs in that particular area but, of course, there were lots of other bombs on lots of other nights. Below is a section of the map showing the pink ribbon of the new bypass, the green area in the centre which is Hum Hole and just how badly bombed even my little village was.
With the building of the bypass the bomb site was turned into a car park, several houses were demolished and a road cut through a large swathe of Hum Hole. Thankfully, some of it was preserved and today you have a choice of steps or slope to walk down into the dip. On Sunday I stood at the top and looked carefully around for any sign of aircraft parts. There were none.
Slowly, I walked down the slope, keeping any eye out for large or small pieces of metal as I did. There were broken branches, bits of twig and a small and rather unecessary sign warning the path might be slippery, which could probably be best viewed from the ground after you’d slipped over and were laying on it, but nothing else. When I reached the crossroads of the main trails I turned left towards the place where the steps meet the slope. This leads out onto Glenfield Crescent and the front gate to the school. There was nothing untoward here either.
Just to be absolutely certain I peered down the grass bank towards the pond. Unless there are aeroplane parts hidden in the tangle of brambles though, there was nothing there. At this point I had to decide where I was going next. Usually I keep going straight ahead at the bend in the path and walk uphill on the circular trail then come back down the other side, unless I’m on the way to somewhere else. The one path I never take is the short stretch leading to the pond. For a start it’s a dead end, plus the pond is small, overgrown and, sadly, generally full of rubbish. This time, for the sake of thoroughness, I decided to walk up it. As I turned the corner I spotted a clump of daffodils in flower behind a tree. These must be the earliest daffodils I’ve ever seen.
My childhood memories don’t include a pond, although there was always a stream, and I think this rather unattractive feature was probably added when the bypass was built. It’s a series of concrete triangles with a paved area, a broken seat and a bin that no one appears to use. Personally I’d prefer something more natural and with less empty beer cans. The whole thing makes me want to buy a litter picker and some black bin bags but I’m fairly certain it would be in the same state a week later if I cleaned it up. Still, maybe one day… Feeling a little grumpy, I walked back to the circular path and began to climb.
The path crosses the stream, which is really more of a trickle at the moment, and goes steeply uphill. As I walked I looked around just in case there were any pieces of World War II aircraft concealed anywhere. There are small trails leading off from time to time, some of which I’ve explored in the past. When I was small some of these led right into the school playground but these days there is a fence dividing Hum Hole from the woods surrounding the school. From the top I looked back down in case I’d missed any planes but all I saw was another warning sign, this one so covered in mud and algae it was almost unreadable.
Rather than taking the circular path back to the beginning I took one of the two trails that lead off into the woods. These are trails I know well and the one I chose would take me out close to the back entrance of the school. From there I could walk into the village, grab some milk and take the second trail back to the top of the circular path. Luckily it wasn’t too muddy and soon I was passing the familiar garden fences bounding the trail. Last time I came this way I saw lots of interesting fungi. This time I saw just one, close to the fences, it was large and orangey brown. Something had been eating it.
So, with a four pint carton of milk in my rucksack I set off down the hill to the point where the second trail comes out on the bypass. If you didn’t know it was there you’d probably never find it. The narrow, slightly muddy trail winds through the trees until it comes out onto the top of the circular path. Here there were trees, rotting logs, lots of brambles but no parts of planes.
I took the path back up to the road and, once I’d crossed the bypass, looked back and tried to remember what it had been like before the new road cut through it. This proved to be almost impossible but I did know that the triangle of grass and shrubs between the two roads was once part of it and that the car park was where the bomb site once was. In the end I went online and found an old map, which surprised me when I saw how much more of it there was back then. In many ways the bypass was a good thing, it took traffic away from the village and I like the precinct and not having to cross the busy road to get from the supermarket to the butchers. It’s a pity they couldn’t have saved Hum Hole though.
Still, I can now say, with absolute certainty, there are no parts of World War II planes in Hum Hole. There may well have been once but, these days, you’d need a metal detector and even then all you’re likely to find is the odd nut and bolt and an awful lot of beer cans. What I still don’t know is why it’s called Hum Hole. If anyone can enlighten me I’d be very happy.
A little addendum. Someone on the Heritage Page directed me to an article about the planes from the Heritage Gateway. As follows.
A hole was dug by archaeologists at Hum Hole Park in Bitterne, possibly in 1993. Aircraft parts and other items were exposed. These are thought to have been dumped at the site following the post-war redevelopment of a nearby factory. A hole had been dug in Hum Hole, Bitterne, perhaps by treasure hunters. Parts of an aircraft had been exposed. The hole was then further excavated by archaeologists. A pile of airplane components, rubber hoses, a Wellington boot and floor mat were found, all covered in oil. Some large circular components were thought to be exhaust manifolds from a large-engined plane such as a Lancaster. A few pieces that bore serial numbers were retrieved. Enquiries at the Hall of Aviation (museum in Southampton) suggested it was a dump of rubbish from a nearby factory following post-war redevelopment, and of no interest. (There is a local legend of a German plane being brought down in the vicinity.)