UK Tour: Small Museums and Small Airfields

After seeing Just Jane at East Kirkby and the three Avro bombers in formation at RAF Marham in Norfolk mid-week, our next couple of days were relatively low key as we first took a break and then repositioned from Norfolk back to Bedfordshire ready for our next airshow.

Norwich Aviation Museum: Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.

Norwich Aviation Museum: Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star.

On Friday (22nd) we had a couple of hours wandering around the City of Norwich Aviation Museum which is located just to the north of the main airport at Norwich. It’s a small museum and all the aircraft exhibits are (once again) outside in the weather, but there were a few types there that we hadn’t had the chance to see before: Hawker Hunter, Sepecat Jaguar, Lockheed T-33 ‘Shooting Star’ and Hawker Siddeley Nimrod amongst others, along with the apparent favourites of many UK museums, the Meteor and Vulcan. The museum also has a significant amount of display information and artifacts inside which are related to the operations of 100 Group squadrons who flew from a variety of local bases during WW2 and into the post war era. This includes a great little display on the electronic warfare operations conducted from the base during the war.

Norwich Aviation Museum: Nimrod

Norwich Aviation Museum: Nimrod

Again, it’s a worthwhile little museum to stop in at—entry is cheap at less than five pounds, and for a couple of pounds extra you can have a guided tour of the Vulcan and/or Nimrod.

 

Norwich Aviation Museum: Red Arrows Arrive

Norwich Aviation Museum: Red Arrows Arrive

An unexpected bonus of our trip to the Museum was that shortly before we left the RAF’s ‘Red Arrows’ display team arrived overhead and landed at the airport just next door. We had a good view of all this activity and it was a nice way to finish the visit.

StowMaries_01The following day (Saturday 23rd) we needed to head south through Norfolk, on our way back to Bedfordshire to be able to attend the airshow at Little Gransden the following day. On our way we made a short detour toward the coast to go and find the Stow Maries Aerodrome. This is the only World War One-era aerodrome left in Britain that has any of the original buildings remaining. As we’ve done previously we didn’t check the website before we went there, and so when we arrived (on Saturday) we found that the opening days were only Thursday, Friday and Sunday. However we’d come this far so decided just to call in quickly to see what the place was actually like and what’s there.

Again it was a bit of a surprise—we knew there were quite a few buildings from the Aerodrome’s WW1 history still in existence, but we didn’t realise quite how many are still there. While quite a few of these buildings are currently not open for public access (due to safety concerns), the whole area never-the-less gives one a real sense of history. The airfield itself was only used during the First World War and was closed shortly thereafter. It was not re-opened as a base during the Second World War as the relatively wet airfield conditions were not suitable for the newer, heavier fighter aircraft in use by then. This means that the original WW1 architecture and history has never been adulterated by subsequent events, again giving the place a real sense of history.

StowMaries Pano2014-08-23 10.48.44

Latrines (toilets), a Mess Hall (cafe), a small museum and a couple of other buildings are open to the public on the days the facility is open, and again, if you’re in the general area, it’s well worth a look—just make sure you check the website for opening days and times before you start your journey. Many thanks to Russell and the crew at Stow Maries who opened up the facility for us anyway, and who were quite happy to talk about the aerodrome and old aeroplanes for an hour or so.

Once we’d finished at the aerodrome, it was back in the car for an uneventful trip to Ampthill in Bedfordshire, ready for the airshow the following day. Hoping that the wind will drop and that we’ll have a great day for filming….

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One thought on “UK Tour: Small Museums and Small Airfields

  1. Tim Brown

    Nice story of your travels… perhaps one day you’ll be able to pay as a visit at Lark Hill – not only an RFC airfield… but it was used by the Air Battalion Royal Engineers 1911-12, and home of the EH accredited ‘oldest aviation buildings still standing in their original location’… in the form of five British & Colonial Aeroplane sheds the first of which were erected in June 1910.

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