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.
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.
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!
Banksy is an artist with international recognition, but it all started in Bristol and there are a few of his works around the center of the city. I have always liked his work and so was quite interested to see an original. Down in the harbour is his version of Girl With the Pearl Earring – with a fire alarm box being the earring. It is on the side of a building and there is a fence restricting access so it is reasonably well protected. The fence is a small obstacle to getting a photo of it but not a huge one. Photographing an artwork seems a little redundant!
The area of Bristol known as Clifton sits on the top of the hill overlooking the Avon. To get from the water to Clifton is quite a climb. These days you would drive up there but, in the days, when vessels would be bringing passengers in by boat along the river, an alternative was required. The Clifton Rocks Railway was the solution. This was a funicular railway that ran in a tunnel from alongside the river up to near the suspension bridge.
Built in the 1890s, it operated until the 1930s when the decline in passenger numbers meant it was no longer viable. The tunnels were used as office space during the Second World War with the BBC being one of the tenants and they continued to use the space into the 1960s. There is now an effort to restore aspects of the tunnels although the railway will never operate again given the usage the tunnels have had since service ended. The station at the bottom is still visible but is now alongside a busy roadway so might easily be missed as you drive past.
I posted about Cabot Tower in a previous post about our Bristol visit. When there is a high point to try, it is likely I will head up there. Nancy is less enthusiastic about this sort of thing than me so I left her below and headed up. There is a narrow stone spiral staircase to get to the upper levels and I was rather glad that it wasn’t a busy day because the stairs would not be ideal to pass on. It would work but it was better to not have to!
The view from the top was great. You are already high when up on the hill but the extra 30m gives you a great view of the city in all directions. You can see the various buildings within the city center, you have a great view over the harbour area, and you can see the stadium further out as well as the Ashton estate. The stadium is Ashton Gate which is the home of Bristol City football club but from my perspective is more importantly the home ground for Bristol Bears rugby team. Since Nancy was waiting below, I didn’t hang around too long up the tower but I did take in the views. Shame it wasn’t a slightly nicer day but at least we got down and back to the car before the rain started.
I previously posted some shots of Brandon Park in Bristol. At the top of the hill in the park is Cabot Tower. Cabot was an explorer of Italian heritage and is tied to the exploration of Canada. His voyage set forth from Bristol – hence the association. It is on the high point of the park, but it adds some height to the views of the surrounding city. That will be the subject of another post. For now, I shall focus on the views of the tower itself.
The grounds surrounding the tower are ornamental and provide a nice setting for the tower. It is a cool stone structure and provides a focal point for the park. It is about 30m tall, which gives you an enhanced vantage point to view the surroundings. It was recently restored after having suffered some degradation and hopefully will be in good shape for a while before requiring any further work.