We are at Cobnor, lovely, lovely Cobnor. Shorts and tee shirt are the order of the day, bacon and tomatoes are sizzling away on the griddle of our gas BBQ and the only sound, apart from the clucking of Mike’s hens in their run under the apple trees, is a Harvard two seat trainer, out of Goodwood Aerodrome, that is circling high in the sky. Oh, and what a sky. Deep blue and not a cloud in sight in any direction.
Dunsfold Wings & Wheels.
We left home last Friday, heading down the A12 and over the Dartford Crossing and into the usual heavy traffic on the south section of the M25. The congestion was much worse because it was the start of the August Bank Holiday weekend and we were on our way to Dunsfold in Surrey for the annual Wings & Wheels event.
We arrived on the airfield with plenty of time in hand as the contractors had only just started to erect the marquee for the Vulcan Village. Shackers, who was Event Manager, was supervising and soon the other volunteers turned up to help get the VV dressed out and stocked up.
Despite the delay in starting the set up things were soon coming together as everyone got stuck in, including some of our club members who had offered extra help. Regulars at Dunsfold are Phil and his delightful children, Dan and Becky, who also pitched in and were a great help. Becky spent most of the weekend helping out, much to the delight of both customers and volunteers who loved her charming character and winning smile.
By seven all was complete and we were ready for the public the following morning. We were staying on the airfield for the weekend and the Motorhome was set up behind the Village with the awning and chairs out to provide a quiet shelter for the volunteers to take a break.
Show day, Saturday 24th August.
The weather forecast had not been encouraging for Saturday and, true to form the British weather, after weeks of sun, decided to act up. Drizzle, low cloud and poor visibility are not what are required for an airshow but that is exactly what we were blessed with that morning. Being optimists by nature we thought it might clear and later in the morning one or two pilots braved the clag to do their best with a ‘flat’ display. The display of the day was undoubtably the Chinook. The ‘Flying Shed’ as it was described by one of the commentators gave a terrific display in poor conditions which was much appreciated by those hardy souls that had turned up.
The usual crowds did not materialise, advance ticket holders are able to chose which of the two days they attend and the forecast for Sunday looked much better. The Vulcan Village was very quiet with the corresponding effect on our takings. The big question for us was ‘would our Vulcan make it and if she got there could she display’?
Vulcan was due to display at Dawlish in Devon as well as Dunsfold and Car Fest South in Hampshire and so had a long and expensive flight in prospect. The weather in Doncaster was a little better than the South East but not a lot, so there was much speculation on the web about her flying. Eventually we heard that they had ‘crewed in’ and were soon to depart but then the weather closed in again and they had to hold. The crew stayed on board and with clearer weather the ‘engines started’ message arrived followed soon by ‘taxi’ and ‘take off’. I followed her progress via a phone app as she crossed the country and arrived over Exeter to hold for her display slot at Dawlish. From there she transited along the south coast, over Chichester and arrived to hold over Midhurst, just a hop, skip and a jump from us at Dunsfold.
On the ground at Dunsfold the weather was now even worse. Steady light rain and the visibility was awful. Nothing was flying, even the smaller and slower aircraft, so what chance was there for a huge and powerful aircraft like a Vulcan. Reluctantly the star of the show had to turn for home and head back north to Doncaster.
The few staunch members of the public who had held on in hope of seeing their favourite now headed home and we soon shut up shop for the day. A disappointing day all round particularly when we had had such a lovely spell of weather over the last few weeks.
Show day 2, Sunday 25th August.
Oh heck! We awake to more of the same – drizzle, damp, low cloud and poor visibility. The forecast though is more positive and locals are saying that the clag should clear by 10am.
At least the numbers coming through the gate are well up on yesterday as the sky continues to brighten and there is even a hint of sun.
The show got under way with parades of old military vehicles followed by cars, ancient and modern, being thrashed up the runway by their proud owners. By the time the flying display was due to start the weather was clearing nicely and the sun was shining.
The Vulcan Village was much busier and at last we were taking some money to help keep the ‘old girl’ flying. The flying display seemed to be running to schedule and we received updates from Doncaster that everything seemed fine at that end.
Vulcan took off on time and had two other displays to visit as well as ours. Little Gransden in Cambridgeshire, Car Fest South in Hampshire, both in aid of Children in Need. A phone call from Bob & Isi, who were working at Car Fest, told us that the aircraft had completed her display there and was on her way to us. We cleared the VV and closed up to join our club members in their enclosure and begin the ritual searching of the sky for that little smoky dot in the distance. Kate was the first to spot her circling in the distance waiting for the BBMF to complete and clear. Soon she was passing behind the show ground, creeping (not that one can accuse a Vulcan of creeping anywhere) round to make her entrance from the right and fly down the runway. Martin was flying and as usual gave a smooth and elegant display. (I have to say smooth and elegant as in a previous blog that was published in the Club magazine I described his display as ‘staid’. He has never forgiven me)
Vulcan display over, the VV was extra busy, as it always is, and it was all hands to the pump for a while. As the crowds drifted home we closed up and as I did the accounts the others had to do a stock count before loading the van. The flag poles and banners were stripped down and loaded and all the remaining stock was to be taken on to Bournemouth a few days later. The poor takings on Saturday meant we were well down on the previous year but the end result was very commendable we thought and we all gave ourselves a virtual pat on the back.
We said our goodbyes and everyone headed off home, apart from us as we were staying on the airfield for the night.
Next weekend it would be Shoreham Airshow and we will do it all again!
Bank Holiday Monday.
Now the show is over and everything is being dismantled it is a glorious morning. I think they call it ‘Sods Law’. We have a leisurely breakfast and then drive off the airfield and head south towards Chichester and our ‘secret’ hideaway for the next few days. It is a lovely drive through the Surrey countryside and then over the South Downs, past Goodwood and into the usual queues on the A29 round Chichester. We make a pitstop for supplies and then go the last few miles to Cobnor. The Cobnor Estate is situated on a peninsular of land sticking out into the middle of Chichester Harbour and so has water on three sides. Some of the small paddocks behind the house have been turned into camping fields that are hired out to clubs and societies, usually sailing clubs, during the summer. One paddock is a Caravan Club CL which we have been coming to for 14 or 15 years.
There are precious few facilities here, just a tap for water and a ‘wet pit’ in the woods to empty the loo. No electric hook-up, no toilets or showers but also no noise from traffic just the occasional ‘putter, putter’ of a boat engine or the ‘tumper, tumper, tumper’ of Mike’s ancient tractor. Peace and tranquility reign here and, in this ever changing world, nothing seems to change from year to year at Cobnor.
We have four days at Cobnor, four days spent sitting in the sun with the occasional walk to the slipway to watch the boats or through the woods to Cobnor Point to enjoy the view across the harbour to the Isle of Wight.
The BBQ is put to full use cooking supper and some breakfasts. Our friends John & Moira, who introduced us to Cobnor, are coming to visit and have lunch on Thursday; there will be much catching up to do.
Friday 30th August.
We reluctantly leave the calm of Cobnor and make our way along the south coast to Shoreham-on-Sea to set up for the RAFA Airshow. The traffic is horrendous along the A27 and it takes us much longer than anticipated. When we arrive on the airfield Sean and Shackers have made a start at erecting the gazebos. John and Cliff soon arrive having also been held up. By 5pm we are done and everything is ready for trading the next morning. As usual we have parked the motorhome behind the stand and made a cosy staff area under the awning.