Monday, October 17, 2011

Heroes at Highclere

 After dinner on Saturday, Tet asked if I had plans for Sunday, yes the usual, quilting. Would I like to go out....Hmm.....He had just found out the Vulcan was due to fly over Highclere castle on Sunday. Well I've been trying to catch the Vulcan flying since she got back in the air so it was something of a no brainer. We were going.

Highclere Castle is near Newbury, surprisingly close to where I broke down on Thursday, maybe the van was just trying to get to the front of the queue. Not that there was a queue to get in. It was a very busy event but the marshals got people in and parked very smoothly. Sadly when we arrived there were no tickets left to actually go around the castle, but there was plenty going on to keep us busy.

The event was instigated by Lady Carnarvon, who's home it is. In 1915, the 5th Countess Carnarvon converted the castle into 'Highclere Home Hospital' so Heroes at Highclere aimed to raise money for military medical causes. It looked like it was pretty successful given the number of visitors.

While we had gone to see the famous vehicles there were apparently a lot of famous people there. Downton Abbey was filmed at the castle and the cast and crew were there to help with the fund raising. I have to admit I only found that out from the internet after we got home. I kept seeing things about Downton Abbey but I had no idea why the building might have two names. Oh well I guess I wasn't the target audience for that part of the day.

I did like the helicopters. We didn't queue to go in them (just on the ground, no flights) but we did get to wander around them and peer in. By then end of the day only the Chinook still had a queue, so I did get to hear what the crew were saying about their aircraft. We also left late enough that we saw the Apache leaving. I don't think it's the most attractive beast on the ground, but it does a good line in purposeful once it is airborne.

As you can see in the background of the lynx there was a fairground there. In fact there was everything you would expect from a summer fete. With the weather playing along it really did feel like an old fashioned summer. It makes sense too, as a lot of the silly attractions you find at fetes are very good at raising money. The fairground rides were all donating their profits to Horses Help Heroes, which surprised me as I would have expected those at least to be running for profit.

 Around the grounds there were a lot of historic displays. Tents and equipment from many different eras of warfare. Being a sad textile geek I did have to spend a lot of time looking at the clothes and tents, but then what else would you expect?

 For me the stars of the show were the air displays. The Spitfire arrived later than the commentator expected. He had been listening to the radio so had a good idea where it was, until it was within about 5 minutes of the show ground, then it went quiet. They paused and asked people to listen for the engines. Nothing. A bit more chatting then they offered a free meal to the first person to spot her. A young lady got the prize a couple of minutes later. It was well worth the wait. The Spitfire stayed and played a lot longer than was planned. It was a lovely day, why wouldn't hang about as long as you could when you have a toy like that to play with?

 I had to wait until 3.15 for the Vulcan to come over. I was getting a shade excited by then. Again she was a bit later than expected and the commentator again said to listen for her. The club members felt you would see the clouds of smoke first. Actually they were both wrong, she came in very quietly and from the direction where she was hidden by trees for the longest. Suddenly there she was. You wouldn't think something that loud (and relatively large) could sneak up on you but she can. In fact she was very quiet through most of her display, only getting loud in the turns furthest away from the castle. I did wonder if health and safety had anything to do with it, but then I am quite cynical.

After a couple of passes she headed off, returning about 30 minutes later. Again confusing the commentators who were sure she would approach from a different direction this time. She didn't. It was the same sneak approach as the first time. Well why not it worked so well. On her second visit she stayed longer and gave people plenty of time to get photos.

 As ever the Vulcan is in need of funds to keep flying. If you would like to help you can donate on her website.

The show was officially closed by the Blades display team. We saw them at Santa Pod earlier this year and I really enjoyed them. Though they aren't ideal for Santa Pod as they actually take the rules about flying over crowds seriously. Highclere Castle was a much better venue for them and the acres of lawn to lie on and watch didn't hurt either.

It was a fairly early end to a day out so I even made it home in time to get some quilting done. Not bad for the spur of the moment really.


Trudi said...

What a fab day! I have memories of being snuck up on by the Vulcan from my childhood :) And after more than 20 years in the RAF, it's great to see the momentum for fund raising continues at all levels. Did you get to visit BBMF when you were up in Lincolnshire?

Mary said...

Sure wish I could see Highclere, it looks magnificent!