Tag Archives: Wiltshire

Caen Hill Locks

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.

Avro 707

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.

Drone Control Meatbox

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.

Boscombe Down Aviation Collection

Middle Wallop was my first aviation museum of our vacation but there was a second.  I didn’t have a lot of time but, with a small gap in the schedule and a very accommodating wife, we headed to Old Sarum, home of the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.  For those not familiar with UK military aviation, Boscombe Down is the center of military test in the UK and has a variety of unusual aircraft that are used for test duties and test pilot training.

The weather was dismal but the vintage hangars meant I could stay dry (although there were a couple of exhibits outside including a Hunter and the nose of a Comet).  The collection is full of interesting items.  There are whole airframes and cockpit sections from others.  The cockpits are all accessible and, if I had been there longer, I would probably have got in to some of them.  However, time was tight and hopping in wasn’t that important to me.  There were a variety of Canberra front fuselages and a Sea Vixen.  Some of the exhibits are special enough to justify their own posts so those will come in due course.  The stories of restoration of the airframes were pretty interesting too and a lot of good work had been done to preserve them.  (As an aside, the one thing I was a little disappointed in was the painting of the aircraft.  The colors and markings seemed inaccurate which seemed at odds with the great efforts made in to earth respects.)

A Sea Harrier was on display as was a Jaguar.  One of the highlights for me was Hawk XX154.  This is the first Hawk built and one that had a full career in test duties ending up at Boscombe.  It was moved to Old Sarum by the RAF with a Chinook lifting it across as a training exercise.  It is displayed in its final gloss black finish but I will always think of it in red and white.  There is also a front fuselage from one of the ETPS Hawks that was written off in an accident.

So much variety of exhibits and definitely a top place to visit if you like military aviation.  The nice thing is that the airframes are unusual in their configuration and history.  They tend not to be regular squadron jets so give extra to learn about.  I would love to go back again some time.

Start Of Fall Colors At Stourhead

A previous vacation to the UK had included a visit to Stourhead and, we liked it so much, we decided to go back on the latest trip.  We went with a load of the family for lunch and then a walk around the grounds.  The weather was lovely and there was a hint of the onset of fall in the foliage.  The place is just gorgeous and wandering through the grounds on a sunny day with your family is hard to beat.

Stourhead

C59F1685.jpgOne thing that there is no shortage of in the UK is impressive country houses. As a result of the financial circumstances of many of the old families that owned these places, a lot have ended up in the hands of the National Trust. One of the most attractive estates is Stourhead in Wiltshire. This was not originally on our schedule during our UK trip but we had a change of heart regarding our original plan for the day and decided to head to Stourhead instead. We are still members of the National Trust so this was a freebie for us (if you excluded the amount spent over the years on membership!).

C59F1741-HDR.jpgWhen we visit these estates, our focus is usually on the grounds rather than the houses themselves. While I am interested in the external views of the house, the interiors are often a bit repetitive and something I will only bother with if I have plenty of time and there is something special about the insides. Normally, I am far happier walking around the grounds. In Stourhead’s case, the grounds are quite stunning. There are many buildings scattered around the estate, there are lakes, bridges, temples and a village within the estate including estate cottages and a pub. I imagine you could avoid ever having the leave if you were so inclined!

C59F1847.jpgVisiting these places in September is a good idea. The weather is still pretty nice but the holidays are over and so the number of people attending has significantly dropped. I think it is fair to say we were amongst the youngest people there! If we lived closer, I would certainly enjoy visiting Stourhead at various different times of year. I imagine the fall colors will be impressive and winter would be very nice to see.