This may well be the last of the Farewell Tour instalments: it is the last so-far advertised flight and I tend to not be able to suddenly up and go: most of the routes tend to be an hour’s drive or more from Nottingham which also curtails events. That Farewell Tour weekend, though, those of us in Nottingham were lucky enough to be able to see XH558 on both days, with a little planning.
Saturday I decided I would go to Derby: I reckoned it would be easy enough to get to Rolls-Royce and, with the exceptional Red Arrow bus service from Trent Barton, I wouldn’t need to drive. Matt even came with me. We went into Nottingham to do some bits, got some fancy burgers from the food market then got the bus to Derby.
The weather wasn’t amazing: cloudy, cool, a stiff breeze occasionally, but the cloud was high and it was dry. We eventually found our way to the business park Rolls-Royce occupies (despite Derby’s best attempts to confuse us with signs), passing the usual people sat on vans, standing with cameras, parked on roadsides. We walked all the way to Rolls-Royce but it wasn’t a good viewpoint so we walked back to outside the Volkswagen garage and waited. I said to Matt “I don’t need to tell you to look for a big smoky trail by now, do I.”
“You mean like that one?”
We have the best comedy timing…!
It was short, but low, slow and fairly noisy. We discovered later she’d missed East Midlands Airport but she’d still come in at the right time and the right direction.
Sunday I decided to try Waddington (The Sentry Post Cafe/WAVE) and Newark Air Museum. Newark had put out loads of publicity out to expect loads of traffic, as there was an Autojumble at the adjacent Showground, and that they’d had no official contact from the Vulcan people so weren’t able to open the Southfield site for parking.
I left later than intended: I was waiting for route time updates to text my Mum the time for North Weald in case they wanted to go. I got into the wrong lane in Lincoln so tried to go through the Hykehams but got horribly lost. I missed XH558 at Waddington, but I also knew from Twitter contact that it was ‘stupidly busy’ (thanks, Avro Vulcan XM575!). I saw her on her way south, thankfully there was no traffic around me and a good pull-up place immediately obvious, so I pulled up and captured this awful shot:
Thankfully, the memory of her flying in the beautiful Lincolnshire sunshine as seen through the windscreen of my car is much clearer!
I got to the mostly-empty WAVE in time to queue for the loo (which is one reason why I didn’t head back to Newark straight away) and get some food (the second reason: support your local aircraft viewing area, especially when there aren’t any aircraft to view because the runway’s being resurfaced!). I chatted to some people. The sun was in an awful position for pictures of XM607, so I didn’t bother trying. I then took a stunning drive across country to Newark Air Museum, after posting on Twitter saying I was going there or Collingham: on the way (oh, the joys of a smartwatch!) I got a reply saying Newark Air Museum recommended itself! That to me meant they had space to park.
When I arrived at the Air Museum, from the east on Drove Lane, they were directing us on to part of the Showground. I spoke to a gentleman I thought I recognised (turns out it was Nigel Bean, NAM groundsman and Tweeter) who said many more volunteers had been able to turn up than expected and the Showground had kindly opened this little part of their site for them to use.
I walked the long walk (it wasn’t that far: you could walk further at Duxford!) and paid my entry fee, unlike many others who just sat in their cars! I also gave my change to the pot as Gift Aid was off (to avoid even worse queues). I had just over an hour to wander about before the Vulcan was due, and as I’ve been twice I know what I’m looking at these days.
It was warm: I was wearing leggings under my grey shorts (some of you may now realise who I was) and was proudly showing off my ‘Farewell My Friend’ tshirt (though mine is a kids’ one so cheaper!). It was a beautiful day. I grabbed a hot chocolate and a slice of cake from the cafe (dropping £1 of my change into the Project Panini box) and then the tannoy announced Vulcan was running 15mins ahead of schedule. Cue mass movement across the site! I set myself up ‘leewards’ of XM594 and waited. A paraglider and some buzzards made useful targeting opportunities until She arrived.
And did she: the massed crowds pointing heralded her arrival as the Smoky Moth glided across the Lincolnshire/Nottinghamshire countryside and overhead of sunny Winthorpe. A sudden accelerating roar as she passed ‘594 sped her into a circuit, and she circled the airfield three times before meeting with a photoship for some evening sunshine shots over north-ish Nottinghamshire.
I didn’t cry: I did have a lump in my throat as she came into view, but until Friday 30th October it’s all still yet to come…