Between 1910 and 1916, the word ‘BEAULIEU’ was carved into the heath at East Boldre, in letters approximately 4.5 metres (15 feet) high, making the whole word spread over 33.5 metres (110 feet).
There is some disagreement about its age. Some historians think that it dates back to the WW1, RFC flying school and suggest that it appeared in about 1916. Another theory is that it was excavated for the 1910 flying school. The letters are quite unique. No other RFC or RAF training school had or has similar letters which suggests that it was not made for the WW1 military airfield.
During the days of the 1910 civilian flying school, numerous races were held and maps of the day which show the circuits they flew, indicate that the aircraft raced across the heath to a certain point where they turned for the return leg of the race. Neither pylons nor flagpoles to mark the turning point were permitted on the heath but the turning point coincides almost exactly with the position of the BEAULIEU letters. (In fact, they did build a pylon but were immediately ordered to remove it.) During these races both altitude and speed records were broken at East Boldre.
The letters were covered up during WW2 and do not appear on any aerial photographs of the day. Over the years, the chalk was gradually covered with soil and vegetation. Some local people think that the letters were previously restored during the 1960s. Since then, nature has reclaimed the letters and, once again, they became barely visible.
During March and April 2012, local villagers carefully uncovered the letters by excavating down to the original chalk infill. The entire restoration process was filmed by the BBC and was televised on the BBC1 programme, ‘A Great British Story’ on Tuesday 12th June 2012 at 10:35 pm.
The letters are situated about 150 yards opposite the entrance to Little Hatchet (Hatchet Moor) car park on the B3054.
Those who took part in the restoration:
East Boldre Village Hall Committee:
Steve & Gina Antczak, Robin Street, Tony Johnson, Sue Adams and Owen Wright.
Forestry Commission Volunteers:
Henry Cole, Bob Chorey, Trevor Bumfrey, Lindon Fennell and Derick Tippetts.