Flew into Old Warden on Friday 4 September 2020 from Blackpool, prompted partly by having always wanting to visit, but also by having just read Mike Brookes’ recent book, ‘Flying Past’, covering lots of his flying experience but in particular, including his time flying some of the Shuttleworth Collection aircraft. (I have all five of his aviation memoire books – well worth a read, they are an excellent insight into post-war RAF and test flying.) What I cannot understand is why this airfield isn’t mentioned more often on here!
So here’s the thing: I love old country houses and their gardens, old-fashioned museums and grass airfields and Old Warden has the lot. With Covid-19 restrictions, I had to book a slot in advance, (easily done on-line); and wear a face-mask indoors. The restaurant, house and visitor’s centre were closed due to the restrictions, but the gardens and museum were open together with a snack bar inside a huge marque, serving lovely sandwiches and some of the nicest coffee I have ever had at an airfield - plus I could sit in the glorious gardens whilst eating the sandwich.
Fuel was a snip at only £1.60/litre at the self-service pumps, again really easy to use, even for me. The landing and entrance fee was only £10, which covered the aircraft, and entrance to the gardens and museum for all occupants. On the basis that entry by car or foot is £15 per person, this must be the only place I have visited that gives a discount for arriving by air. What is more, the whole site is dog-friendly, (although our greyhounds had a better offer that day and I travelled on my own.)
I took an hour long walk around the gardens before spending three hours looking at the aircraft, cars, motorbikes and pushbikes at the museum – I could have easily spent twice as long. I sat with my final cup of coffee looking at the radio-controlled gliders doing aerobatics whilst sat in the sun with the smell of newly mown grass in the air. Does life get any better?
I was smitten by this airfield: the easy going atmosphere; the amazing museum, (including the oldest flying aircraft - and aero engine - in the world, the 1909 Bleriot XI); the glorious gardens; and the friendliness of every member of staff. This is now my top airfield destination, and I just cannot wait to get back, perhaps to one of the evening flying events when life gets back to normal.
If you haven’t already been, I think you will be charmed. (If you have any soul at all!)