Living in the Midlands, about as far away from the sea as it’s possible to get, it seems scarcely possible that a view like this can be reached in little more than an hour. But thanks to our dear Wilhelm, we flew what would have been at least a four-hour journey by car in just an hour and twenty minutes yesterday, on what was the longest day of the year. We’d both flown there before, but this was our first time there together, and we chose the perfect day for it, as you’ll find out…
We didn’t even need to get up early. We had a lie-in and croissants for breakfast and got to the airfield at about 10.45am to get airborne by 11am. As it was such a hot day, I decided to fly in a dress again and picked this appropriately aviation-themed one. Don’t you just love it?!
As you can see, I followed where we were on the map as I need the practice for my PPL navigation test. Here’s a pic I took as we were leaving our home airfield. The cumulus cloud was already bubbling up, indicating the presence of lots of thermals, which made our journey rather bouncy at times!
Our route took us almost due south, and straight through the Brize Norton zone. They were the only people we had to talk to though, as we managed to fly under or around most of the airspace. We went directly over Newbury racecourse and then out to Portsmouth. HMS Victory is down there somewhere – we did spot her on the way back!
The Solent looked absolutely glorious in the blazing sunshine, and the cumulus cloud immediately disappeared as we went out across the water, making for much calmer conditions. From the air you can see the entire Isle of Wight, surrounded by beautiful turquoise water.
Here’s me as we crossed the Solent.
The Isle of Wight, with Cowes just in front of the wingtip.
Can you spot the airfield? It’s quite difficult for the untrained eye to spot airfields but you soon get used to it. There are two airfields on the Isle of Wight: Bembridge and Sandown. We went into Sandown, a grass strip.
Now you should be able to see it! The view coming down was amazing, as you could see the sea until virtually on the ground. It reminded me of coming into Rome Fiumicino, which has a similar seaside situation.
Here we are all parked up! It doesn’t look it here, as we’re facing away from the control tower, but the airfield was really busy, with lots of people having flown across to take advantage of the amazing weather.
After paying our £10 landing fee up in the control tower, we walked down into Sandown. It doesn’t look far from the air, but took about forty minutes, with a stop at Co-Op for some Coke. On the way, we passed this beautiful old thatched pub, which had the date 1654 on it:
The last leg of the walk took us along a clifftop path, where we took this photo with Sandown Pier in the background, and the photo right at the start of this post.
I was quite pleased with this shot with the lovely pink flowers in the foreground:
Here’s the view once we walked down the steep path down from the clifftop to the seafront.
We walked along the seafront and found a restaurant just across the road from the beach, where we had fish and chips for lunch.
The best thing was that as we were having lunch, we had a tremendous view of hundreds of yachts starting to round the point. These were taking part in the Round the Island Yacht Race, which fortuitously happened to be taking place that day (we hadn’t planned to go especially for it or anything!). It’s one of the biggest yacht races in the world, and the biggest participation sporting event in the UK after the London Marathon and Great North and South Runs. More and more kept coming, and we couldn’t believe how well we’d timed it. After lunch we went for a walk along the beach, and you can see the yachts on the horizon in this picture Lee took of me on the beach:
They looked a lot closer than that in real life though!
The sand was absolutely baking hot and almost too painful to walk on barefoot, so we went onto the pier not long afterwards. Here’s the view looking back to Sandown:
In common with all English seaside resorts, the pier has one of those awful amusement arcades. We wasted a few 2ps on those dreadful machines, and only won back about 4p, but when my back was turned I caught Lee exchanging a whole £1 for 2ps, so here he is looking guilty!!
Having exhausted the remaining 2ps we went back out into the sun and had ice creams. I managed to melt mine all over my hands, dress and shoes, but here they are before it got messy!
After that we began the walk back to the airfield. Along the clifftop path we had the most astonishing view of all the yachts, of which there were now hundreds. We only had our iPhone cameras with us unfortunately, as we left the big camera in the plane. This is a very poor zoomed in version which in no way does justice to this impressive sight:
They were all the way along the horizon, as far as the eye could see in both directions. I’ve never seen anything like it!
We got back to the airfield sometime after 4pm.
Here we are all strapped in and ready to go!
Before flying home, we decided to fly around the island to see the yacht race from the air, and the Needles. Even the big camera doesn’t do justice to how amazing it was, but you can get an impression here at least.
Here’s a close-up which is a bit more like what we could see.
A final view of Sandown:
This picture gives you a sense of how you can see the whole island from the air:
Even more yachts!
Here’s Cowes, with the mainland in the distance:
Here’s the yacht race rounding the corner past Ryde:
The flight home was a bit bouncy again, as it was still thermic, so we shared the flying as we were both knackered after all that walking! Here’s our GPS trace showing our flights there and back on one map:
Finally, a close-up of our flight around the island, which took about twenty minutes. You can see us come in in the morning, land straight in at Sandown, then later on take off from Sandown, circle around the yacht race at Ventnor, then fly out and around the Needles before heading back over Cowes and across the Solent.
It was a great little day trip and we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather and seeing the yacht race. I even managed not to get the slightest bit sunburnt despite being in the sun all day. Because you cross water to get there, it almost feels like going abroad – except for the very British vibe! I only wish that Wilhelm had four seats so that we could take people down there with us, although I suspect that those not accustomed to the bumpiness of flying through thermals might feel a bit queasy on the way down. We got home in plenty of time for an evening barbecue and a look through all the photos of a memorable day, tired but refreshed from a change of scene and a mega-mini-holiday.