There are many aircraft that the British aircraft industry produced in the middle to late 20th century that did not end up being terribly successful. There was the occasional commercial product in there but a lot that did not have large production numbers, even by the standards of the day. It was not unusual for the Royal Air Force to end up operating a few of these as the government of the day found a way to prop up an ailing manufacturer. One type like this was the Bristol Britannia.
A turboprop airliner, it was too large given that jets had taken over the market by the time it was coming into service. The Royal Air Force was the “willing” recipient of some of these airframes and, for transporting troops that didn’t have a choice in the matter, they were probably just fine. One of these airframes, Regulus, is not preserved at Cotswold Airport at Kemble in Gloucestershire. I didn’t know it was there until I was driving around the airport killing some time. It looks to be in great condition. I don’t know how well it is handling the corrosion risk that damp UK airfields offer but I hope it lasts a long time. There are a few of these around but not many.
The conference center in Pittsburgh was my destination for a rail conference in June. I was there for several days but it was only on the last day that I managed to get some time to head up to the roof area of the center. It had some interesting gardens with views across the roof structure and some art installations. It also had a great view across the river. The top wasn’t the only interesting spot. There was a route under the center too which I found on my first day there when I was struggling with how to actually get into the place. It was not very intuitive which, given the nature of the place, seems rather odd. I saw a few people riding bikes through this lower level, but I never went down there.
In February, we headed to the UK for a family wedding that we had really been looking forward to. The overnight flight to Heathrow got us across the Atlantic. When we landed, we headed for Terminal 5 to unload. However, our gate was not yet clear. We had made good time across the water, so we were a little early and the late departures of BA were not designed to accommodate that! Instead, we started doing laps of the concourses while they waited for us to have a gate open. We ended up parking on a taxiway for a while and then doing another half lap. While this was not ideal, I did end up taking a few photos of the BA jets around the airport.
I have posted a few shots of preserved aircraft at Kemble, but Cotswold Airport is the end of the line for a lot of planes in a far less graceful way. It is the base for disassembly of airframes that have reached the end of their operational lives. A jet doesn’t have to be that old to have greater value in its parts than as an operational aircraft. If a major check is coming up and it isn’t worth that much post check, it might be worth it to the owner to have it broken down for spares. As airframes get older, this decision is more obvious.
Kemble is the location where a lot of this happens. From the airfield or from the road that passes by, you can see a line up of aircraft that are unlikely to ever fly again. They will be progressively stripped of their most valuable parts. They may hang around like this for a long time with bits being gradually taken off as they are demanded by other operators. Eventually, there will be little left of value and the scrap metal will become the most valuable thing that they have to offer. Then they will be cut up. It is a safe process for an aviation enthusiast but a normal part of the life cycle of an aircraft. If you are in the area, head by to see what is there.
Plenty of the houses in Longparish are thatched. One of them has a roof line that drops very low to the ground on one side of the house with the door and windows on the other side. That must be the side that gets more light. The back side of the house seems to be very shaded with the result that there is a lot of growth on the roof. It was covered in various lichens/mosses. I wonder whether they degrade the thatch or actually provide an additional layer of insulation.
Despite it having been built at the end of the 90s when I was still living in the UK and working in London, I have had surprisingly few times when I have seen the O2 Arena (or the Millennium Dome as it was known back then). I didn’t head out to Docklands very often and one of my few close encounters with it was on a party on a boat that went down the Thames but, since that was a work thing, I was more engaged in conversation than looking outside. I have seen it from planes approaching Heathrow occasionally but that is about it.
When I made me trek out to the east end of London and walked along the river back to Greenwich, I came right up to the arena. From the riverside, you actually don’t have a good opportunity to see it clearly because you are too close to it. It was possible to see some of the supporting cables but, since it is right up against the river, you lack an overall view. However, I was taking the cable car across the river to get to ExCel and the elevated view this gives provided me with a far better look at the structure.
Looking through the windows of the gondola is not ideal for getting pictures and I was struggling to avoid reflections and not always succeeding. Despite that, it was the best angle I was going to get so I took a bunch of shots. The closest locations still had the dome obscured by the new buildings that have gone up in front of it but, as I got further across the river, the dome came more fully into view.
As you walk along the banks of the Avon heading towards the gorge, you are outside the locks that keep the water level up in the docks and in the tidal area. This used to be a popular location for boat to unload passengers and there are a number a jetties that have been built there. However, the traffic for these locations dried up a long time ago and they have fallen into disrepair over the years. The larger timber members are more resilient so you end up with these skeletal structures that are gradually collapsing. I wonder how many more years they shall survive or whether they will be deemed too dangerous and taken down before they can collapse.
When I was first into aviation, the Phantom was everywhere. It was operated by numerous air forces and the RAF had tons of them (including some that had cascaded from the Royal Navy). At all of my early air shows, there would be Phantoms on static and part of the flying display. While they had started their RAF career in the strike and ground attack role, by this time they were purely used for air defense.
With the end of the Cold War, the RAF reduced in size and the Phantoms were withdrawn from service far faster than had originally been anticipated. It wasn’t long before they were all gone. A bunch ended up in museums and the rest were cut up. As I was exploring Kemble’s airfield – Cotswold Airport to give it its proper name – I was surprised to come across a bunch of bits of Phantoms alongside the road. A pair of fuselages including one of a Boscombe test jet that I had a kit of as a kid, some wings, fins and tail planes. It was all just sitting there so I grabbed a few shots. I have heard since that the airport was pressuring the owners to cover it all properly and I think it all went under cover shortly after I was there. A lucky break for me, I guess.
Walk right to the end of the village of Longparish and you come to St Nicolas Church. You know you are going to find a church because the clue is in the name of the village and, besides, what village in the UK doesn’t have an old church in it? As you drive in to the village from the south, the church is the first thing you see and it looks pretty quintessentially English. Near the end of our stay, we did walk down to have a look inside. The churchyard was not too large and there is a newer graveyard across the road. Inside, it is a simple but pleasant little church. No idea how popular it is but it seemed in good shape. I did take a stroll down the lane to get a shot of it from the south, only to discover that the house in front of it tends to be more intrusive in the shot than appeared to be the case when driving along the road.
When you look around harbors, you will often come across some unusual boats that have found a second life. Just the other day, I saw a trimaran that had been modified with a new cabin which looked very out of keeping with the rest of the hull! Walking around the docks in Bristol, I was surprised to see a variety of boats that had clearly started life somewhere different.
One of them bore all the hallmarks of an Amsterdam tour boat. I don’t know whether the boats there still look like this, but they certainly did in years gone by. Plenty of window space for the tourists to get a good look at the city as they went along the canals. Another one fits into the category of what I remember things looking like but no idea whether they still do! That was an ex-Hoseasons boat from the Norfolk Broads. I remember having a boat just like this one for a vacation there when I was a teenager.
The type of boat that regularly finds a second life is a lifeboat. The ex-RNLI boats are popular, presumably because they are built very tough so will provide years of service and it probably doesn’t hurt that they are seaworthy in the worst of conditions. Modifying them to live on might change some of their characteristics but I suspect they are still better than average. There were a couple of these in the docks too. Keep your eyes peeled when walking amongst boats and see if you can spot anything unusual. When I was a small boy, Bembridge Harbour had a houseboat that was a converted Motor Torpedo Boat from the Second World War!