It was four weeks since we came home from our French trip and we were getting itchy feet again. A good number of chores and jobs that needed doing at home had been done after ignoring the garden and house for much of the summer. The weather forecast looked reasonable, depending on which forecast you looked at. I chose the one that looked best and we decided that a ‘last hoorah’ was needed before the winter really set in.
So, where to go? Anywhere that required walking was out because of Kate’s dodgy hip so somewhere where we could sit and look at a view or something going on was required. The selection process took around three nanoseconds………..it had to be Lincolnshire.
So what is so special about that flat uninteresting county? Answer, air bases and some great campsites.
Our favorite air base for watching the aircraft movements is RAF Coningsby which always has lots of action plus a decent viewing area near the end of the runway where we can easily park the motorhome. Coningsby is home to several squadrons of Eurofighter Typhoon jets as well as the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who have a visitor centre there. Also nearby is one of our favorite places to camp in the UK, Oaklea at Woodhall Spa. (GPS N53º09.137” W0º11.031” www.oaklea.co.uk )
Oaklea is a Caravan Club CL (Certified Location) which means that they are Certified to take a maximum of five caravans or motorhomes occupied by club members. In this case they also have an ‘adults only’ rule. It is situated in extensive woodland just outside Woodhall Spa, a pleasant leafy little town with strong connections to Bomber Command and particularly WW11 and the Dam Busters.
Oaklea owners, Piotr and Pamela, have spent many years tending their wonderful garden which is a large lawned clearing in the woods planted with specimen trees and shrubs which give colour and interest all through the year. The pitching area is on grass or hardstanding with electric and water bollards, at the end of the drive several hundred yards from the lane and overlooking the garden and woodland.
Peace and quiet reign here, unless the jets are landing or taking off at Coningsby of course, but even that is for just a short time during the day. Weekends tend to be peaceful as there is a international agreement that enemy’s of the state will only attack during office hours so that the RAF can have weekends off. Having said that, the BBMF will often be seen and heard in the area at weekends as the WW2 aircraft and their volunteer crews take over from the Typhoons the role of defending the realm.
It was misty when we set out from home on Wednesday morning but the sun broke through at times and we had an uneventful drive through Norfolk and into the Fens between Kings Lynn and Boston. Good wide flat roads on which one can keep up a decent average speed despite the HGV’s and frequent roundabouts. We drove straight to the viewing area at Coningsby where there were a few other cars and a couple of van drivers who had stopped for their lunch break. There is usually a burger van there in the summer months which is always popular and Adrian, the owner, is a great source of information about what is flying and when from the base. Typhoons were returning from their morning sorties when we arrived and they were soon launching again for a second training flight.
By late afternoon they were all back and we carried on to Oakleas, arriving just as it was starting to get dark. We pitched up on the hard standing, filled the water tank, hooked up the electricity and settled down for the evening. We had the whole site to ourselves with just the owls for company.
Thursday and Friday were spent in much the same way. Drove to the viewing area and watched the comings and goings while listening to the radio chatter on the scanner. Lots of action on both days with up to seventeen Typhoons launching and recovering on two lots of sorties plus a pair of Tornados that made several flights. Even the BBMF put in a brief appearance with a Chipmunk trundling around the taxiways, presumably on an engine test.
There were two minor emergencies declared, one when a Typhoon landed early and was met on the pan by the fire and medical team. We never heard what the problem was but all seemed OK after some checks by the fire crew. The second time the ‘crash‘ team were called was when an aircraft tug towed a Typhoon off the side of the pan and on to grass and mud where it bogged down and had to be rescued. I reckon the tug driver got a major ‘rollocking‘ for that one.
In addition to the base aircraft there were some visitors landing or passing through with touch and go’s or low approaches. A pair of USAF F-15‘s landed late one day with two more doing a low approach the following day. A couple of Tutor aircraft from Cranwell, two French Air Force Alpha Jets and a Sentinel surveillance aircraft also carried out low approaches. There was something going on constantly.
A lazy day for us on Saturday with no flying so we stayed at Oaklea and thoroughly chilled out. The weather was slowly clearing and by evening the sky was clear and it looked like being a cold and frosty night. Sure enough we woke to a hard frost, clear blue sky and a lovely day. Despite the cold we were snug and warm as we packed up to leave for home.
We spent ages chatting to Piotr & Pamela before we left so it was turned mid-day before we hit the road for a pleasant drive home in the sunshine.
It seems likely that this will have been our last trip for this year but we can’t complain as we have spent 110 nights in the motorhome in 2012. That is a record for us and one that we might try and beat in 2013.