Old Sarum

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January 24, 2009

After one false start which resulted in a postponement due to lingering fog, Saturday the 24th January was the first in the planned busy schedule of North Weald Flying Group fly outs for 2009.
The destination was Old Sarum (EGLS), a 800m grass strip 2 miles NNE of Salisbury in Wiltshire which nestles nicely inside the Boscombe Down MATZ. Just to make it a little more interesting for our newer members, it also presents a slight challenge in terms of navigation and radio work. Cross the Wycombe ATZ, avoid the two prohibited areas at Aldermaston and Burghfield, and then negotiate the Middle Wallop and Boscombe Down MATZ before arriving at Old Sarum.

 

With VBs crews delaying everyone’s departure from North Weald due to a late arrival from High Cross – after taking an age to fit a new radio and de-ice the early morning thick frost – it was all hands to the aircraft for an 11.15 departure. Amazingly the TAFs were good, the sky cloud-free, and overall visibility after several days of poor weather was excellent.

After a slight delay due to a large Alsatian being chased off the side of the runway by the airfield pick up, or in Greg’s tones over the radio ‘interloping mutt’ we were able to line up for a departure on R20. Routing was to be the well trodden route out to the west through the London/Luton gap to BNN, then cross Wycombe Air Park to Greenham Common just east of Newbury and then south to Stockbridge through the MATZ and approach Old Sarum from the southern VRP at Alderbury. The circuits at Old Sarum vary depending on whether the Boscombe MATZ is active.

Routing out west was very pleasant with the air super smooth and only the slightest hint of haze in the air, although in the Chiltern Area some small pockets of mist lingered in the valleys to give a picturesque wintry landscape. Farnborough North which was very busy given the break in the weather, gave their usual excellent service with a seamless handover to Farnborough West after crossing an equally busy Wycombe Tower.

Passing to the east of Newbury, what is left of Greenham Common airfield is visible from some distance. The huge main runway has been completely dug up as have most of the taxiways although the old airfield layout is very easy to see. What is clearly visible and very much intact are the bunkers where US nuclear armed cruise missiles were based in the early 80s. These sparked huge controversy and of course the setting up of so called ‘peace camps’ occupied by hordes of the great unwashed around the perimeter fence. Having been down there a few times during this period representing the forces of oppression, I could add a few more comments but will resist the temptation to court further controversy and stick to the script……….

The relatively flat countryside of Berkshire quickly gave way to the pretty rolling hills and valleys of Wiltshire. Boscombe Zone was silent and navigating around inside the southern side of the MATZ was easy with very identifiable features, including rivers and a large radio telescope. Old Sarum, Britain’s second oldest airfield, is visible from a long way off with its long low line of listed WW1 hangers, it sits on a hill to the north of Salisbury’s magnificent cathedral which has the tallest spire in the UK at 404ft and dates back to 1220.

Joining from the south gave great views of the Cathedral and the ruins of Old Sarum Fort, this has a fascinating history dating back to Iron Age man and is only just beyond the 06 threshold. It was then overhead and into the downwind leg for a very calm final onto R24.

Lunch was taken in the very busy cafe with a general group chin wag before the group photo. The food was good although the choice quite limited, but excellent value for money. Return to North Weald in similar conditions apart from the appearance of a few light fluffy cumulus and some of the group taking a detour via Stonehenge. None of our group had visited this airfield before, but Old Sarum is a delightful airfield in lovely countryside with plenty of local sites within very easy reach, and is certainly well worth a visit.

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Contact us

North Weald Flying Group operate out of the Squadron at North Weald Airfield.

The airfield is 10 miles south of Stansted and can be seen from the M11. Follow signs from the A414 and on entrance to the field, follow the perimeter track all the way around the field until you arrive at the distinctive Squadron building.

email: paul.bazire54@gmail.com
phone: 01992522090