Taking off

Catalina – a seaplane on the ground

Leaving Bury St. Edmunds behind wasn’t hard – we’d been there three nights and it was time to move on.

Our next destination was The Red Lion in Duxford in readiness for a day at IWM Duxford Air Museum.

We’d chosen The Red Lion over the nearby Holiday Inn Express as the thought of staying at a coaching inn appealed, especially as we were due to stay at a Holiday Inn Express whilst in Cambridge later in the week.

What we didn’t realise that the two Duxford hotels were so close to each other and were linked. The car was parked outside the Holiday Inn Express and that’s where we had to check into for The Red Lion.

Given the previous three days, the remains of the day were spent relaxing, reading, snoozing before our evening meal and then a brief indulgence courtesy of watching a fully functioning television to catch up on news and the weather prospects for later in the week.

Breakfast was taken in the Holiday Inn Express the following morning – porridge and coffee for Caroline and a bacon roll and coffee for me. We’d already indulged in coffee in our room though as we had a bag of decent coffee with us to use in conjunction with the stainless steel cafetières that are usually packed on our UK ventures.

Yes, we have tried coffee bags to make brews, but the cafetières definitely make a better brew as a wake up call.

With tickets already booked and a guidebook paid for in advance, all we needed to do at IWM Duxford was to mask up, use the hand gel and show the hard copies of the booking confirmations.

The visit had been on the cards for a while as we’d missed it out for various reasons when we’d made a couple of visits to nearby Suffolk.

Whilst there’s numerous famous warplanes around Duxford, the must sees in AirSpace were the Lancaster and the TSR2. Thousands were made of the former, but only two flying examples exist at the moment – one with The Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight at Coningsby in Lincolnshire and the other over in Canada. There are plans for a third to fly once more, but as far as I’m aware, that is still a work in progress…

The TRS2 is a different animal though. Only two exist after the project was cancelled in the 1960s – the other is at RAF Cosford (pictured below), but other examples were placed as targets on RAF firing ranges.

TSR2 – at RAF Cosford

The other aircraft of interest in AirSpace were civilian ones – Concorde and the De Haviland Comet airliners, both planes that I’ve always admired and ones that are among those that I’d wished I’d had the chance to fly in.

Spitfires were starting up and taking to the skies as we investigated other hangers, but the aircraft I really wanted to see where in the line-up of commercial aircraft that are kept outside further down this working airfield.

Bristol Britannia in Monarch livery

The likes of the BAC 1-11, Bristol Britannia, Trident, Vickers VC10 and Vickers Viscount all played their part as the popularity of air travel increased. I have flown in a BAC 1-11 on a few occasions, but the last time was the memorable one – a Dan Air (aka Dan Dare – allegedly) – from Bergen to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We’d arrived at the airport early, checked in and then waited for the flight to be called. A member of the check in crew found us as we waited to head into the departure lounge to tell us that the plane had been delayed due to a fault and a replacement aircraft was being sent out.

The plane touched down, people disembarked and then we boarded and the engines fired up for the flight home.

We commented on how quick the replacement aircraft arrived and got the reply “It’s not a replacement – they fixed the fault at Newcastle”.

Such reassurance wasn’t the first thing in our mind when the plane hit turbulence halfway across the North Sea…

We did get to Newcastle, but one thing was for certain – we never flew on a Dan Air BAC 1-11 again – the HS 148 was much, much better on the other trips we made to Bergen using Dan Air!!

Trident in BEA livery
Vickers VC10 in BOAC livery

Last up after this visit to the airline memory area was to the American Air Museum. I thought that this was going to be more interesting than I thought, but I suspect that that is down to being more interested in UK aircraft.

The only personal standouts were the SR-71 Blackbird, the F1-11 and B52 bomber. Some of that was down to the layout of the display area and personal thoughts regarding how space could be created as a means of getting a better look at the planes themselves by moving the static display section to another part of the museum.

After the amount of wandering around we’d done, food beckoned and ended up being a sandwich deal and this was followed by some serious shopping as Caroline needed to sort out pressies for her grandsons and her son-in-law’s imminent birthday date. And me? A new watch at a not unreasonable £40 and a Spitfire themed face mask.

Once back at The Red Lion, a decision had to be made. We were due to move on to Cambridge the following morning, but we’d seen the weather forecast for the next couple of days and it did not look good…

Although we’d booked tickets to visit King’s College Chapel the following day, we had a message to say that it was going to be be closed on the day of our proposed visit and that a refund was being processed. So cancellation it was and the Cambridge leg of the trip was postponed until we head back down to the area at some point.

About Keith Rickaby

I’m a writer and photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and I'm originally from the North East, but now based in Yorkshire and back to home life after three years with a travel and outdoor activity based retailer.
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