Report: A visit to the Shuttleworth Collection Sept 15

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The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden has been on our bucket list for some time and today we popped in just for a few hours to get a feel of the place. After we had been there about an hour my WIFE said we have got to come back here tomorrow for the whole day, that is how impressive we found it. If your wife is not that interested in things mechanical then the Swiss Garden looked absolutely beautiful and we will certainly be visiting that as well. Important things first, there is a large café, with views across the airfield and some lounge type seats, which sells a range of different foods at reasonable prices. We can recommend the pasty. The first place to visit is the workshop. In here are a number of ‘planes in various stages of repair, maintenance or rebuild. Several engineers were at work. Then, moving back through the gift shop there are six walk through hangers in which the collections of aeroplanes, vehicles, motorcycles, carriages and other artefacts are well displayed. This is ideal for a wet day as you only have to go outside to reach the workshop a few yards away. Photographers be warned that there is a lot of sodium lighting in use throughout all areas and it is wise to fiddle with your colour temperature BEFORE you take the pictures if you have that facility available, do not forget your white or grey card! The lighting is mixed in the same location so further PS may be necessary. If you have a very powerful flash gun this will also help. There are many photographs on the walls relating to the first world war and most have full captions. So far we have only had a look at the workshop and some of hanger one, it is going to take us many visits to see the collection in the sort of detail we like. If you intend to visit more than once you should consider joining the Shuttleworth Veteran Aeroplane Society, SVAS, whose website is http://www.svasweb.org/what.php This allows unlimited free entry to the collections but not the Swiss Garden. You get reduced rates for airshows and some other benefits and, of course, you are supporting the collections. £25 well spent. I will post a few images of the sort of thing you can expect to find but it is no substitute for visiting this site. Well I know that not many on here are interested in Spitfires so I will start here to get it over with quick. You can get close and personal with an LF Mk Vc AR501 G-AWII, which is being rebuilt. The Merlin is out and I have not seen this much detail before and it is well worth a visit just for this alone, if you’re interested in Spitfires that is! The workshop, hanger to front workshop behind, access to the workshop is through the entrance/gift shop. https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5622/21289773079_c4378db37f_b.jpg In the corner of the workshop you will find AR501. https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5641/20855688703_740d9a3c9f_b.jpg https://farm1.staticflickr.com/619/21485432891_13f524e81e_b.jpg You will recall those large handle bar moustaches so favoured by RAF officer pilots, well in hanger one you will find a very rare Tautness Meter to ensure all taches meet regs. https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5730/21485305271_52931ffec2_b.jpg Now stand by to be amazed working, not actually working working, scale models of radial aero engines. https://farm1.staticflickr.com/748/21288915238_54c211ddfb_b.jpg I want one of these!!! https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5634/21465633632_160bc16a64_b.jpg Old Warden is, of course, fairly near DX so it is easy to visit both on the same trip, not day unless you are the just walk through type.
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Profile picture for user charliehunt

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Thanks for that palate wetter, Paul. I used to be a regular visitor during my 35 odd years living nearby but I guess much has changed in the last 12/13 years since we left. I must try to pay a visit next year.

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Paul, I'm glad you enjoyed your first visit to Shuttleworth. I have been going regularly for 40 years now and never tire of the place. However, to see what Shuttleworth is really all about you need to go on a flying day.
Profile picture for user svas_volunteer

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Glad you and your wife enjoyed your visit yesterday, if you do go back today myself and some of the other volunteers will be taking some more of the agricultural exhibits up to the steam fayre so if you see a guy in dark overalls playing with tractors come and say hi and I'll try and answer any questions you may have. Steve Panter
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OK thanks Steve, will do. Hopefully the weather will be a little kinder today.!! We are on our way. Thanks Charlie. Sometimes it is best not to go back to places in your past. \in this case, however, you will not be disappointed. Indeed Sidslip. We have been trapped in N Wales for thirty years and this year we are like naughty children in a sweet shop. As you say the living, breathing machine is so different from the static display. We have seen static Doves which usually look a little forlorn but at Coventry she looks so beautiful working hard to help towards her keep. Yes an Old Warden air show is now on our list for next year.
Profile picture for user paul1867

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Just a couple of corrections for yesterday's post. The Tautness Meter was actually for measuring that RAF pilots had the necessary stiff upper lip. The scale model radial engines do work, but are on static display. Now I wonder?
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Presumably you showed them a WAAF clutching two mugs of NAAFI tea before measuring the stiffness of their upper lip? :dev2: Old Warden is a magic oasis, you will not regret anything about going to an airshow. Well, except living in Bethesda for thirty years - please tell me it's improved since I used to cycle there from Bangor twenty plus years ago? Adrian

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Trapped in North Wales for thirty years ? Was it like 'The Prisoner' ?
Profile picture for user svas_volunteer

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Was good to briefly meet you earlier, I hope both yourself and your wife had a good time and enjoyed the collection today and we will see you again. Steve
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adrian Regretably not still very grey and dreary. John Yes, I was No 1.
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Thanks Steve we both had a very relaxing day but still haven't got past hanger 2. It was a very busy day for you all today and we very much appreciated the chat with yourself, Rollie (not sure about the spelling) and your other colleagues. We hope to be able to get back again on Monday but then we have to move on but we will be coming to airshows next year. Paul
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On the subject of Shuttleworth, has the Sopwith Camel flown yet?
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Ok Paul we'll probably be bringing most of the gear back from the steam fayre so may see you again. Southern air sadly the camel is still having problems with the engine bedding in but on the plus side the triplane has all it's port wings back on. Steve
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adrian Regretably not still very grey and dreary.
Dear gods, for what little it is worth you have my sympathy! (the Ogwen valley must look even better when you are driving away from the place) Adrian
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The valley is very beautiful of course and we can look out across the valley at, well the quarry, and the odd C130 or Hawk flying past below us. Although the A5 is a beautiful drive the A55 is now dual carriage all the way from Holyhead to the M56 so it is quicker that way. Bangor has a Tescos and B & Q now so slowly crawling into the 20th century. (Yes I Know, it's a joke). Mind you we do have fibre broadband so considering we started with a line of site link to the local school about 20 something years ago at a really naughty price things are not all bad, well actually....... Should never have come north of the Thames knew it was a mistake.:D Oh and they have got a bit of the old Penrhyn Quarry railway going sans steam engine, but they have had an ex quarry loco visit for a steam day, all very good, but it should have been saved back in the 60s.
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Our second visit today with much better weather and for one reason or another still got no further than hanger 2. The atmosphere is so relaxing and today peaceful and quiet; you can sit out on the patio watching the GA arrivals and departures over a nice cup of tea. The Bedfordshire Steam and Country Fayre is being held in Old Warden park this Friday to Sunday adjacent to the airfield so if you were not able to get tickets for DX then this could be a very pleasant alternative. Today we were early enough to have lunch with a selection of in-house cooked meals all at a good price. We had the Turkey, stuffing and leek pie which was excellent. We had an interesting chat with a few of the staff/volunteers who were very busy preparing agricultural equipment and tractors to take over to the show. We noticed that both the Collection and the Swiss Garden had won an excellence award this year from Tripadviser. Had another great day only spoilt on getting back and hearing the news about MOSI. Getting the hot bulb tractor going I believe it is 1935 single cylinder 9lt. Could sit and listen to it just barely ticking over all day. Please note there is an aeroplane in the picture! https://farm1.staticflickr.com/708/21506543561_b6fba55bd5_b.jpg This was made by the company that paid for the collection. Zoom in and look at the cast lettering. [url=https://flic.kr/p/yLrhTk]https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5624/21506277001_3ef0077a8d_b.jpg The speedometer was an optional extra. The main gear is fitted to the spokes!!! Hope they had plenty of time on their hands. https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5677/21309853040_9702aaa3d1_b.jpg Ah a gear change on a bike I can actually understand. https://farm1.staticflickr.com/709/21506308351_9932c4a165_b.jpg Just look at those fantastic sliding doors, oh and Steve trying to get out of the picture for some reason.:D https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5671/21471637446_7a77bbeee0_b.jpg Apparently they have some 'planes here as well so we thought we ought to go and find them so back to hanger 1 and on to hanger 2. https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5732/21309963758_f53b613748_b.jpg https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5720/21309995318_6b83a44aab_b.jpg https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5669/21310168098_fd016a281d_b.jpg https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5718/21487058932_73c6b8d52b_b.jpg https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5665/21486933422_7a69a29bf2_b.jpg The place is full of little gems like this https://farm1.staticflickr.com/706/21310296218_7315d24204_b.jpg https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5828/20876939773_66d5258782_b.jpg Not quite sure how this got in!! https://farm1.staticflickr.com/606/21486957532_f1d612302f_b.jpg This is just a flavour to hopefully wet your appetite but you do need to come and taste them for yourself. I have not been into WW1 aviation but how can you fail to just love these. There are still four more hangers to go full of 'planes and many other interesting engineering artefacts, photographs models and more. DX for the next three days but we hope to get back to OW on Monday.
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In the Good Lord's Book The Man injuncts via Matthew : "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.." And so I traveled as a pilgrim from the antipodes to the green fields of Shuttleworth during it's last flying day and I was both fed and invited in - I want to thank the incredible community of volunteers and Trust staff who keep this phenomenon going. Some impressions : I expected roped off enclosures, irritated instructions to 'keep away from the aircraft' and pressing my nose against glass to try and glimpse some fusty jewel. I came too early, thinking that after an hour or so I would be impatiently through exhibits and then waiting for the flying display. Instead I found the SVAS offering a flightline inspection for the price of a gourmet hotdog, like an indulgent Caliph offering the keys to his harem. I couldn't believe this. This was not possible. It was anti my unconciously burnished image of the joy killing, finger wagging museum prison warder that seems to grow like mould in some places, suffocating them. I couldn't put my money into the hands of SVAS fast enough - worried that it was all a dream and at any moment someone would arrive to announce the idea was over. The sun was out. That's it ! Sunstroke ! The English had gone mad ! I stumbled dumbstruck into the flight line. A convivial SVAS volunteer accompanied a motley group of us into a Bristol M1, Hawker Hind, Mew Gull dreamscape. I have been conditioned, now that I reflect upon it, by some paranoid antipodean custodians of our universal heritage : I take it for granted that people like me, who adore historical aviation, must be carrying screw drivers to rip into the wings of priceless artifacts. Surely the SVAS man must be carrying a taser in case I started to rip the control column out of something ! I need to alert him to the odious danger posed by members of the public. I asked him if, in the history of this folly of letting folk amongst aircraft there had been any damage. 'No, we try to encourage people to get close." I looked carefully at him for some sign of Gestapo cruelty, some game meant for me to relax my guard, become actually happy next to a rare, priceless aircraft, before a sparking cattle prod was rammed into my spine. But only beads of perspiration formed upon his brow, surely the sign of sun induced pychosis. So I pushed it. "Is it OK for me to place my nostrils here?" indicating a proximity to an aircraft that in other places would land me a decade in Gitmo. "Go for it". I was into those aeroplanes like a dog that meets another dog on the pavement! It was the most extraordinary introduction to the Collection that I now understand is driven by an extraordinary culture of access. I resolved two things : (a) I filled a bottle with water from the place, that as I go around the world I will quietly add to the water supply of any place that thinks a museum is a prison. (b) faced with a choice of leaving my money, if any, to grasping relations or a poodle called Mitzy, I now have a third option, which is a bit for the Shuttleworth Trust, and if they'll take Mitzy, the whole bloody lot! One of the reasons I came to Shuttleworth was to see the 1934 Comet Racer, in the air. I have stood many a time on the finishing line at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne, and it was the closing of the circle to see Grosvenor House, an extraordinary survivor, not a stuffed animal in a case, but a still snarling tree cat. It was a half day before the flying display was to begin, and I was not ready for this tree cat to pounce on my shoulders and sink its spine chilling fangs into my neck. First came the sound. What was a Mosquito doing flying here? was the first dumb linking of neurons in my skull. I looked up. There it was. Red. It sounded like a Mosquito. Not like KA114 in New Zealand that caused the springs and wax to spurt out from the ears, but it sounded like a Mosquito! And there it was practicing, all for me, in an empty carpark. It was a sublime moment, the best closing of the circle I could have wished for. Thank you. Again the confused thought : surely this was against the law, this thing flying. But now I figure this is the act of maturity, a people in a comfortable relationship with their history, something that stretched back and recognised that loss is regrettable, but normal. In fact the whole Trust had its genesis in the loss of a beautiful son and the celebration of what gave him joy. So fly on Grosvenor House, and thank you. I really loved my day at Shuttleworth and ran out of time to see it all. I came in at 9am and left at 9pm, and left like a kid let loose on a strawberry farm, stuffed with berries and covered in juice, looking regretfully back to rows of uneaten fruit as the gate was shut on me. Veni, vidi. Vici, by you, Shuttleworth, old girl.