On Saturday, several thousand people took the chance to take a trip in a random assortment of buses to an empty village where no one lives, because, well, why not?

That was Imber Bus – a now annual event that’s been running since 2009 and it can be fairly said that it has hit peak popularity. What started with five buses and mostly people who know about buses, is now hugely popular, and candidly, this year, unexpectedly so. Maybe there’s pent-up demand after last year’s train strike made it difficult to get there and the previous year’s pandemic cancellation.

Whatever caused the surge, what was previously small clusters of people loitering around Warminster station to catch a bus was now a long queue that snaked down the road and around a car park, and at times, was being reported to take over an hour to get from back of queue to on a bus.

And while there were grumbles, a queue when you’re waiting to do something fun is often good natured, and here, the excitement was assisted by regularly seeing the buses going past filled with people waving and smiling. The sheer oddity of it was already starting to become infectious.

Maybe next year, they’ll have to think about preselling time slot tickets to ensure the number of people attending can be managed.

But success is a good problem to have.

Bus running days can tend to be modest affairs for bus nerds – but ImberBus is so much more than just the buses. It’s the rare chance to visit a landscape used by the army as their firing range and is untouched by modern farming. To drive past burnt-out tanks, wander around a deserted village filled with modern buildings used for urban warfare training, to visit an old church, to sit in an open top seating and be covered in bits of trees that are unused to being pushed away by double-decker buses.

And not just Imber, but the villages nearby that live within earshot of regular gunfire.

To squash along narrow roads in small villages that will see more people visit on one day than they probably see in a whole year. To take tea and cake in a village hall, and take oh so many photos of signs you never see anywhere else warning about tanks and unexploded bombs.

And to do all that in a medley of old and modern buses, because, well, why not?

It’s a perfect mix, and I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to someone who didn’t have a good time. Even with the amazingly long queues that turned up this year.

The unexpected influx being great for the local community as well. The copyright dodging cafe of St. Arbucks never opens on Saturdays, except once a year. A village hall once locked up is now a hive of activity with tables under a new marquee serving coffee, and a sign nearby thanking visitors for visiting as the funds help support the village hall through the rest of the year. Private homes have started selling cream teas, the pubs are busy, and Imber Church itself was doing a roaring trade in cakes and souvenirs.

What brings thousands of people to a deserted village? The sheer barmy bonkerness of it. That’s what.

If you missed catching a trip on bus route 23A, don’t worry, they’ll be back again next year.

See you next year!


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  1. Julian Dyer says:

    A fantasic day. The crowds were indeed almost overwhelming, with most buses full making getting off a bit of a gamble at the far-ends with fewer services. But it all coped. Heading through the extraordinary landscape on an open-topper was superb, not so good for those standing rammed into the Boris-buses. I’m sure the very effective organisers will do what they can next year but as you say, peak popularity. Pre-booking would be a real faff: more buses might be a tight fit but would preserve the just-turn-up ambience which is the essence of bus operation.

  2. Lisa Hirsch says:

    Love your photos!

  3. Jonathan Wadman says:

    Am I right in thinking you couldn’t get there by car this year? If so, that will have added to the bus queues.

    • Travel With Taz says:

      They open for cars this weekend 25th to 28th August 2023 11am till 4pm each day.

  4. Colin says:

    Super day out,open top bus was a treat around the lanes.
    Well done to the organisers,i don’t think they expected that many sightseers. Copped with it very well.Many thanks to the bus drivers for bringing along their prize possession and driving all day.Excellent Day

  5. Teresa armstrong says:

    Great to have that chance to do something unusual and helping with villagers and getting the history of a place and sacrifices made in order for things to change for all our lives in 1943 and even now. We should be forever thankful to their losses. A great day. Busses made it more so.

  6. V says:

    Is there a story behind the route number 23A that the buses all carry?

  7. Norman Hutson says:

    Wonderful day, obviously enjoyed by all.
    Well worth all the queuing, the Buses were fantastic and the drivers also.
    Hopefully be back next year
    Great photo’s

  8. Denise barrett says:

    A great day out.

  9. Roger Farmer says:

    Lovely day out…would love to hear how many bus tickets were sold

    • ianVisits says:

      They raised £38,000 from ticket sales, so that’s circa 4,000 tickets sold depending on the mix of adults and children who attended.

  10. Travel With Taz says:

    Was a great day and a great experience yes not great doing all the queuing when you suffer with mobility issues but the pain was worth it to see something so magnificent with so much history, Including the village and the chance to ride on the vintage buses 😃

  11. Bonita Green says:

    Maybe the high attendance was something to do with that beautiful photograph of a line of buses crossing the plain with a rainbow in the background in the D Tel a couple of days before.

  12. Nicholas Bennett says:

    A pity SWR cancelled trains in the early evening leaving hundreds waiting for trains to Salisbury and Bristol whilst others like me managed to cram on to the last service bus (17.45) from Warminster to Salisbury.

  13. Susan Dredge says:

    Wonderful day out, thankyou. I am a Warminster born and bred girl who left when I got married 56 years ago but had never gone to Imber village or the church. It was a real journey down memory lane for me going up through the army camp and being able to go onto Salisbury Plain. Thank you everyone involved in organising and volunteering for this event and the lovely people at Chitterne Village Hall for the efficient serving of lovely food.

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