One of the items I had put on my list of things to do while in the UK was a visit to Caen Hill Locks. Located just outside the town of Devizes in Wiltshire, this is part of the Kennet and Avon Canal and it is a sequence of locks to get over the hill into the town. When you think when this was constructed and that it was all done by hand, you find it all the more impressive. From the bottom of the hill to the café at the top (where we stopped for lunch), there are 29 locks. Getting through will take a boat a fair amount of time.
Alongside each lock is a large basin. These are blocked off from the boats so I assume their purpose is to provide water capacity to prevent the traffic through the locks causing the water levels to fall too much. There were signs indicating some limitations on lock usage as a result of water shortages. The locks themselves are pretty small and the narrow boats fitted in snugly. Everything is manually operated with the boat owners operating the gates and the valves to release the water.
Walking to the bottom of the hill provided a great view back up at the alignment of the locks. From the bottom, the canal continues across the plain to the west and off towards Bristol. On the day we were there, a few boats were making their way through. Their crews were having a relaxed time and beer seemed to be prevalent! It was interesting to think back to the times when the canals were the motorways of UK commerce and these locks would probably have been quite congested with freight traffic.
Lufthansa was a launch customer for the A320neo and took delivery of some of the earliest airframes. They now have an extensive fleet of the jets and they seem to be flying in to Heathrow very frequently. I ended up shooting a bunch of their jets in my brief excursion. I am not a big fan of their newest livery but, while it looks dull on the bigger jets, I actually feel like it suits the A320 a little better.
A couple of years ago, I was taking a road trip across the Cascades and I came upon a large dish alongside the road. It was a surprise and ended up being a blog post. I guess it is a little less spontaneous to search out a dish but, while I was over at Middle Wallop, meeting up with my friend Paul, I knew I was near the old airfield at Chilbolton. This had been an RAF base and then was used for test flying by Supermarine and Folland. What I didn’t know until I looked it up was that the airfield was taken over for use as a radio telescope after it closed to flight operations. I decided to swing by and see the dish. As I came over the hill, I could see it in the valley but the road was narrow and there was nowhere to stop. I got to the gate and a big sign advertised that random visitors were not welcome so I had to make do with a shot from the gate.
A short distance from Winchester is the little town of Alresford. I had flown over it as a youngster but had never actually visited and, when our friends suggested it as a good place to meet up while we were visiting, we went with their suggestion. The center of the town is quite picturesque but some of the older parts of the town are just too like a postcard to be credible. The oldest buildings include some down by the river where the old mill was. As you walked along the path by the water, it was hard to believe that some of these buildings hadn’t been created by a set designer for a period drama. This was a theme for our whole visit with so many villages with postcard-like houses.
The development of the Vulcan required a lot of concept testing before the full size jets were built. Avro built a series of smaller scale delta winged jets to work out some of the issues under the name Avro 707. One of these lives at Old Sarum in the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection. It is painted a bright orange color and, while tucked in a dark hangar, it still looks striking. It would be great to get some elevation to show off the delta planform of the jet but still happy to have managed to see it. I was rather close to it so needed to shoot a variety of shots to stitch together afterwards which only worked so well.
I was ready to leave Middle Wallop when a look at ADSB told me that a Gazelle was operating in the vicinity. The Gazelles are becoming a rarity these days so this seemed worth waiting for. After a while, it vanished from ADSB and I was beginning to think it had landed elsewhere. Fortunately, it popped up again, very close this time. I was coming straight for me. Unfortunately, it turned south and skirted around the airfield. I could just see it in the distance.
Then it climbed up to the east before turning and conducting an autorotation to the field. It landed away from me and beyond a ridge so out of sight. I moved back to the balcony to see if I could see anything and was rewarded with it taxiing across the field in the distance. It wasn’t long before it was behind the fencing heading to its ramp. Still, while not a close encounter, it might be the last time I see one in UK service.
When you look at something like a ferry that can hold 180 cars and a thousand passengers, you don’t immediately think of agility and maneuverability. However, the Wightlink ferries that run between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight have surprising capabilities. The entry to Portsmouth Harbour is followed by a rapid change of direction to get to the terminal at Gunwharf. From the Spinnaker Tower, you get a great view of how rapidly the ferry can be thrown around. The St Clare is a bi-directional ship so it doesn’t back in like Victoria of Wight. Instead, it looks like it is doing a handbrake turn. The wake ends up almost combing out of the side of the boat!
When Llanbedr was the home for a bunch of drones, it also had some old airframes used to support the drone operations. The Sea Vixen was one of the more famous jets saved from that program but the Boscombe collection has a drone support Meteor. The red and yellow paint scheme is not subtle but it looks good, particularly in the dark hangar at Old Sarum where the collection lives. I can’t claim to love the Meatbox but I do find it an interesting jet and seeing one in such good condition is a treat.
While walking along the Thames, there were plenty of aircraft overhead making their approach to Heathrow. I wasn’t too focused on them and was instead photographing the scenes along the river. I did look up as one jet came over and it looked like it was in a livery I didn’t recognize so I grabbed a shot with the 24-105 fitted. Turns out this was a Rwanda Air A330. That is something I don’t see every day. I wish I had been using the longer lens but this will have to do.
One of the nice aspects of mirrorless cameras is using the tilting screen to see the shot while holding the camera away from you. I took advantage of this when I was near a swan at Mottisfont. We were walking alongside the water and the swan was swimming towards us. I wanted to get a close shot from low down but swans are not always the most friendly beasts. Getting myself down there didn’t seem like a good plan. Holding the camera out while looking at the screen seemed a better idea and the swan, while not totally enthusiastic, was less annoyed that way.