Such was the case of a visit to the Dorset ghost village of Tyneham - one of the most fascinating and thought provoking visits I have made to anywhere in a long long time.
Tyneham is just a few miles from where we have been staying in Dorset, but it feels as if it is a million miles from anywhere. For Tyneham as a village no longer exists, apart from a well preserved school room and church. It is a shell of a village, a ghost town of almost epic proportions, today visited by people interested and fascinated by history and the fate of a village.
The story of Tyneham is so much more than the story of a village that is no more. For this isn't a village destroyed by the plague in the middle ages or ripped apart by a greedy monarch for his or her own ends. Tyneham was a living and breathing village in living memory before the Ministry of Defence destroyed it during the Second World War.
The Government didn't physically rip it apart as much as allow it to decay. The Government openly drove villagers from their homes in the name of the war effort. Villagers were promised that they would be able to return - they never were. This was corporate vandalism on a huge scale, destroying the homes of people on a whim.
There is a comprehensive web site about Tyneham village with some powerful then and now photographs illustrating that a picture can tell the story better than thousands of words. This site can be accessed by clicking here.
My interest in this and many other historic sites is of a social history nature. I am not so much interested in the buildings and the fabric as how people were affected. Imagine living and working in a closely knit community. Your day is spent on the land or in other honest pursuits as you work long hours for relatively poor pay in order to look after your family. Times are hard, the cottage in which you live has little heating or comfort, but it is home. Then suddenly you are told that you must give up your home as part of the war effort.
Of course there may be a certain pride in doing this, but you have an assurance that you will be allowed to return after the war is over. This is a promise that is never kept. Rather than maintain the buildings ready for your return, the Government allows them to decay. It is incredible how they have decayed in little over 70 years.
Not everyone was happy about the situation as one letter sent to Prime Minister Harold Wilson well after the war illustrates. This asks when the villagers will be allowed to return to their homes as promised. I suspect Wilson had no more thought for the villagers than Winston Churchill or other subsequent leaders.
The result is a series of derelict and decayed buildings with only the church and schoolroom now recognisable. It's a stark and frightening reminder of just what went on in the name of nationalism that helped turn a thriving village into a piece of history.