Flying across the Wiltshire landscape

I’ve been doing tonnes of flying recently as I make a final concerted effort to get my pilot’s licence. The result is that flying has temporarily ceased being fun, so I had a day off from training today and we went for a jolly instead. We settled on Old Sarum (an airfield near Salisbury), by virtue of the fact that there was a free landing voucher in this month’s issue of Pilot magazine, and also that we could meet up with my parents there and deliver their wedding invitation by hand (par avion!). Unfortunately, we spent all morning fretting about whether the weather would be good enough, and consequently forgot the landing voucher!

You can see from this photo of our own airfield why we were concerned. It had been foggy all morning and was almost lifted by the time we got there, but not quite. With the sun blazing down, it soon lifted, and it wasn’t too alarming on the climb out. We’d seen on the forecast that everywhere else was ‘CAVOK’ (ceiling and visibility ok – in other words, blue sky!), so we knew it was a highly localised cloud bank.

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As you can see, it was blue sky (if a little hazy) by the time we flew past Moreton-in-Marsh.

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I always get very excited and get the camera out whenever I spot ridge and furrow from the air. In the winter sun it’s particularly pronounced, and I love these reminders of history dotted about the landscape. There’s loads of it round here.

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I love the snaking river in this photo. You can also see RAF Fairford on the right, above the water.

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This is the fantastic hill fort (Old Sarum) seen when you descend into Old Sarum airfield. Luckily Lee was flying, so I could get a photo!

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This is the view of Salisbury on the way in. It looked better in real life!

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Final approach into Old Sarum.

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We parked Wilhelm up next to a Yak and my parents came out to greet us.

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We had to pay our landing fee (can’t believe we forgot the voucher!) at the cafe, where we all sat down and we had some lunch. (Photo taken by Ma)

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After lunch we had a little look around. There is a museum there – the Boscombe Down Aviation Collection, I think it was called – though we didn’t have time to go in. There was the severed head of what we think was a Constellation (on the left) and a Hawker Hunter, which had its lights working but nothing else. We were admiring the big old RAF hangars, with the brick structures either side for the doors.

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Here’s us on our way back out to Wilhelm (photo taken by Pa)!

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The views from Old Sarum are lovely – a typical Wiltshire landscape.

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Ma and Pa admiring Wilhelm!

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Here we are strapping in ready to fly home (next three taken by Pa).

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And on the climb out, with a Cessna crossing in front of us.

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This is the view of Boscombe Down you get when you’re climbing out of Old Sarum; it looks a lot bigger in real life. Luckily it wasn’t active today! I thought back to the day when, as a teenager, I had my first flight in a light aircraft from Boscombe Down, when a neighbour of ours took Pa and me up in his 172. I never thought I’d ever be flying in the same area in my own aircraft!

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This field was interesting, as you can see the shadows of former field boundaries. There was a lot of smoke in the distance, though I’m not sure what it was from.

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We spotted this hill fort not far out of Old Sarum, but we’re not sure what it’s called. We were amazed by the prehistoric landscape of Salisbury Plain viewed from the air, as there’s nothing like this back where we fly normally.

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More prehistory visible on the top of the Westbury White Horse, which was also buzzing with paraglider activity. It was amazing to fly over, as I used to walk there with my family when I was little.

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The Kennet and Avon Canal (I think), snaking through the landscape near Melksham.

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This is the development of posh lakeside houses near Cirencester.

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Chedworth disused airfield. If only we could bring it back to life and have it for our own airfield!  IMG_1089

This was near Stow-on-the-Wold I think – more ridge and furrow as well as other interesting earthworks.

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The sun was starting to go down by the time we landed, so we timed our flight perfectly. This was the sunset over Stratford-upon-Avon on the drive home.

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Finally, our GPS traces for the day. As you can see, we went through the military airspace on the way down, talking to Brize and tuning into Salisbury Plain operations for information about transiting through the danger area. The airspace around there is a bit of a nightmare, so I was glad of Lee’s radio skills to get us through! I probably wouldn’t attempt it on my own. On the way home we went a different route, and you can see we went off course to look at different things!

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A close-up of our circuit and landing at Old Sarum, then climbing out and heading west around the danger zone and past the Westbury White Horse.

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It’s been a lovely day, and I definitely needed a fun flight to remind myself why I’m going to the trouble of getting a pilot’s licence!

2 Comments on Flying across the Wiltshire landscape

  1. Mona
    February 17, 2015 at 3:36 am (5 years ago)

    Oh how I love to fly, at least on commercial airlines. I’ve only been in a small aircraft once and that was fun too. But how exhilarating to learn to fly!! I can’t even bring myself to try driving a car, I’m terribly frightened, no matter how much anyone tries to reassure me. I’ve always longed to live somewhere with a light rail or underground train system as a result!

    • Rachel McCombie
      February 17, 2015 at 11:28 am (5 years ago)

      Aww, I can sort of understand your fear of driving – there are so many other drivers in close proximity and all it takes is one of them not to look or get distracted. Flight training is a whole lot more rigorous than learning to drive, which is reassuring even though it’s rather an arduous process before you get your licence!