2 May 2019

Gina Pretlove discovered a wonderful hidden gem in the valley of Elham on Roundhill Farm called Hawthorne Trenches.  It was developed by Toby Dingle, whom at the time was only 17 years old, but had always had a keen interest in WW1.  One day he asked his father if he could dig a trench - 18 months later 200 metres of German and British trenches were established! The location is historically accurate right down to the type of soil in the ground.

On Tuesday 30th of April, Project 15 took 5 students on a History trip to Hawthorne Trenches. When we arrived we were greeted by Toby Dingle; given a safety briefing and taken the 2 minute walk up to the trenches. We first explored the German trench; all students were allowed to walk around and engage with their surroundings. Toby answered all questions, even pointing out the main features of the German trenches, which were helpful when noting the differences with the opposition.

The British trenches were far more extensive and the students were very keen to learn more. We wandered around the winding paths, into hidden underground stations and explored the commissioned officers’ chambers. Toby pointed out further plans for expansion, such as creating a railway line which would have been used for transportation of goods and injured soldiers. All students had a chance to handle and wear replicate/genuine historical clothing, equipment and resources.

One pupil asked Toby and his father, Richard, if they could hold a lamb and meet the horses. They were happy to comply and we all were given the opportunity to interact with the animals. 

The Project 15 students greatly enjoyed their trip to Hawthorne Trenches and found it a truly enriching experience. Just this morning one pupil commented, “I can’t believe the distance between trenches was only 40 metres!” They all learned something new, explored our history and left the site smiling.