Thursday, 20 June 2013

SHUTTLEWORTH COLLECTION Flying Day- 16-6-13 - A Travel Guide

To me, this really is the King of Airshows. The Shuttleworth Collection is located  at Old Warden Aerodrome, a small grass field where the oldest airworthy airplanes in the world reside. Setting foot here is like walking into  a Time Machine.

This is among what lives there:


The Bleriot XI is now 104 years old!

This eclectic collection of vintage cars (and two-wheelers) and even more vintage airframes was started by Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth, descendant of a wealthy family which made its fortune making traction engines. He won the first British Grand Prix at Donnington, but was killed in a training flight while night-flying in a RAF Fairey Battle in 1940. The Shuttleworths are still a powerful family, being owners of extensive lands around the airfield.

Talking to one of the attendees, Old Warden Aerodrome had a bad run last year.  (as did many British airshows, on account of inclement weather). There were, as usual, around 12 airshows there during the summer. The first and third shows were rained out, and the second was marred by a fatal crash in a small dH43 Hummingbird in winds that were just too strong for its tiny engine to generate airspeed and lift.

This brings home just how fragile these old aircraft are, and the bravery needed in the old days just to take off, let alone to fight in one.

The weather was none too promising, either.

This was the forecast since 7 days prior- it was supposed to rain the whole day on Sunday, from 1000 until midnight. Which, I knew would have disrupted the whole display. Plus, it was forecast to be pretty cold, too. 13 degrees Centigrade. In the middle of the English summer. Not good.

But forecasts change. The Weather Forecast on Saturday night suddenly improved to this:

Well, clouds were a whole better proposition than rainfall.

So, a last minute decision was made to set out.


The nearest train station to the aerodrome is 3 miles distant at Biggleswade, which is a suburban stop on the line between King's Cross and Peterborough.

King's Cross, with the neighbouring St Pancras Station, is in the midst of redevelopment. The grime has been cleaned off, and a huge roof has been built to create an internal space from what was an open air concourse. The  platforms are also now shielded from the elements. The historic facade and clock tower have been preserved.

One ascends from the Kings Cross Tube Station through widened passages; the ticket office is quite large and efficient.

The departure board

The waiting area has been covered up by a massive new roof

View from the second level balcony (which mainly contains F and B outlets):

Going towards the refurbished platforms

Taking the train

Pulling out of Kings Cross

We elected to board the 0923 train to Biggleswade, which was delayed until 0930. Well 7 minutes is OK for a Sunday.

The ride was comfortable, though the skies were still completely overcast.

We arrived at Biggleswade station at 1010.

View from the cross-platform bridge

The way out

The railway station booking office- locked on a Sunday.

Biggleswade railway station

The station itself, like at Cosford the weekend before, is not manned on Sundays. It consists of a rather large terminal building, with parking outside.

We took a taxi to the airfield, cost 10 pounds. The journey took us through a rather pleasant nondescript town, then through small country lanes and a succession of roundabouts to the airfield. It is farther than it looks. It is definitely not walking distance!

Biggleswade town

Biggleswade town

The Shuttleworth Collection's main entrance

We arrived, and got tickets at the gate. The skies were still overcast, but a little sunshine was poking out of the heavens.

The first building that beckons you- the Museum shop

The main building with the Museum Shop and Restaurant, and Hangars 1-8. Looking southwards.

The architecture brings back memory of aviation as it was. Hangar 3 and the Restaurant are seen.

Al fresco dining at the Restaurant.
The Restaurant serves hearty British fare of the sort necessary for one to withstand the elements outside:

A lot of the flying can be seen while eating- albeit a bit far

Peacocks roam

View northwards from Hangar 8

Site Map Click to enlarge)

Aerial photograph of Old Warden Aerodrome (Click to enlarge)
The view is rotated about 110 degrees antclockwise as compared with the map above.

If you are driving, the parking is ample.

There are even places to park your RV.


This was quite easy- the organisers had laid on a bus  to the railway station leaving at 1730. The bus was pretty empty- most of the airshow attendees drove.

The main air display had terminated by 1700. I would have liked to stay longer- they were debating whether the wind was low enough to let The Edwardians (the oldest planes in the collection) to take to the air. These need essentially windless conditions. Sadly, I never got to discover if they managed to creep aloft.

The railway station was bathed in this amazing evening light.

The railway station was deserted of staff; even the waiting rooms were locked. The train back to King's Cross arrived on time at 1819; there were trains at this time every hour.

Typical English countryside en route

The Emirates Stadiun is another landmark we passed by

We reached King's Cross uneventfully at 1900, and returned to the hotel by Tube.

Train pulling into King's Cross

Back to the Kings Cross platforms, and out.

This was certainly a much easier journey from London than travelling to Cosford the previous weekend! This was really the final place we visited  in the UK- our flight home was the day after.

No comments:

Post a Comment