Some exciting news to begin this month’s post: I passed my helicopter skills test!!!!! (Do you think that’s enough exclamation marks?!) As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been training for just over a year, and it was the best feeling ever to get through the demanding final test and qualify as a helicopter pilot. Here I am pictured with lovely examiner Richard after my test.
I’m just waiting for my licence to come back from the CAA so I can start using it! I’ve not done a proper heli training post since my first solo in August, so I’ll write a separate post soon with lots more about the hard work I’ve been doing since then, for those of you who are interested. In the meantime, I’ve already started the ground school for my type rating conversion course to the R44 (pictured in the photo below – the more powerful four-seat version of the helicopter I’ve been training on), so I’m looking forward to starting the flight training for that.
I’ve done quite a bit of helicopter and fixed wing flying this month, but a highlight (apart from my skills test pass, obviously!) was going on a wonderful trip down to the Dorset coast with my Heli Air friends. We flew in two helicopters to Knoll House Hotel in Studland Bay.
The hotel was once a favourite haunt of Enid Blyton, who apparently stayed there several times a year and took inspiration from the area for writing The Famous Five (much-loved books of my childhood).
Also on a flying note, there was an airshow near us this month, and I managed to drive out and park in a layby (don’t judge me) to catch some of the displays. I saw a Spitfire…
…but most memorably, I got up early to see the mass ascent of hot air balloons, which was breathtaking. There’s something so surreal and whimsical about balloons (hence why I have one in the artwork for this blog!).
After a generally poor winter weather-wise, it’s been great to enjoy a couple of heatwaves this month, which has meant lots more time in the garden than is usual for May. The barbecue has been getting lots of action, and the wisteria has been simply divine. I’ve spotted lots of wonderful wisteria out and about, too, with Charlbury sporting some of the best.
My sister Helen and I had a wonderful walk from Charlbury out to the little church at Shorthampton, which was a favourite walk of mine when I lived in Charlbury.
We had a little mini picnic in the graveyard, which is the most tranquil spot you could imagine, and then we looked in on the fantastic medieval frescoes in the church, which also has delightful original box pews.
On the way home I stopped by Broadway Tower to watch the sunset.
On the subject of the Cotswolds, we had a day out that featured lunch at Hook Norton Brewery. They’ve got a lovely new restaurant there, which I’d definitely recommend checking out if you’re in the area.
The brewery still has its own shire horses, who I was delighted to meet.
We also went to Bourton-on-the-Water, which is picturesque but a little too touristy for me.
A good place to escape the crowds, it turns out, is Birdland, where you’ll find a wonderful array of birds, the highlight of which has to be two species of penguin…
…and two species of flamingo, the pinker of which is pictured here.
I’ll see if I can find time to write a proper post about Birdland sometime soon – it really was delightful.
I’ve been down to Oxford a couple of times this month, firstly for dinner with Helen and her boyfriend at a new Hamptons-inspired restaurant called Victor’s at the Westgate Centre. It was great, because you order small plates of different things to share, so we got to have sushi, pizza, macaroni cheese and all sorts! There’s a great view of Oxford’s dreaming spires from the new Westgate Centre, and I can’t believe what an improvement it is on the concrete monstrosity that was there before.
Helen and I also spent an idyllic afternoon down by the river watching Summer Eights, an Oxford University inter-college rowing competition. We ate ice cream, drank Pimm’s and generally had a thoroughly Oxfordy time of it.
As a nice end to the month, Helen and I went horse riding – an hour-long hack through the Cotswolds countryside. My horse was called Bob and he was very well-behaved, thankfully!
Needless to say, I’m aching after that, as I’d not ridden since the Mendip Hills trek two years ago! I’ll have to try to go more often, if I can find enough hours in the day…