Sunday lunch on Fathers Day was enjoyed at the New Inn, Long Buckby, before heading off up Watford Locks and transiting Crick tunnel the following day. We stopped just beyond bridge 20 on the Leicester Line G.U. a usual spot for us, close to Yelvertoft Marina. On Thursday 23/6 we headed off towards the unofficial winding hole a mile ahead by bridge 24. It is very much silted up now and we only just made the turn. Had we been unsuccessful the next winding hole would have added three hours to our journey.
Once in the marina we had a few boat type chores to do over the next couple of days, before heading off for the weekend to visit family.
Now for the best bit. On Tuesday 28/6 it was our Pearl Wedding Anniversary. We set off from our hotel close to Brands Hatch heading for Biggin Hill airfield. The former RAF station was one of the main airfields defending London during the war and is now privately operated. We travelled the perimeter road to a hanger at the far end of the airfield which is filled with a selection of aircraft from both the RAF and Luftwaffe. After checking in we attended a safety briefing, which basically amounted to, these are the risks, as if they were going to stop me, then it was off to be kitted out with flight suit and gloves.
The next thirty minutes words can't really describe so I will let the photos do it.
The Spitfire in question is MJ627. Built at Castle Bromwich in 1943, she entered service with the Royal Canadian Air Force. MJ627s first operational sortie was from an advanced landing ground in Belgium. After only two days of service MJ627 destroyed a Messerschmitt Me 109 over Arnhem being flown by Pilot Officer Sidney Bregman.
The aircraft commander for my flight was Don Sigournay, a former Royal Navy pilot who flew Sea Harriers. Being the first flight of the day, on start up the engine stalled, belching smoke from its twelve exhaust ports. Second time round, no such problem. We taxied towards the runway and then waited whilst the Rolls Royce Merlin engine warmed to operating temperature. As we moved onto the runway final readings of the gauges were made before the throttle was opened and in no time at all we were airborne. The Spitfire begins to fly at about 85 knots. Climbing away from Biggin Hill we made a quick turn left, taking us away from the controlled airspace of Gatwick airport. On reaching our cruising altitude the engine was throttled back, and wings levelled as we flew south east over the Kent countryside. What occurred next I had not been expecting. I had thought I was going to be simply a passenger, up there for a ride. Now I was being offered the controls. At the instruction of Don I now flew the Spitfire, banking left and right over Kent with London in the distance. For the next 15 minutes I was in seventh heaven. The initial emotional feelings of being in such an iconic aircraft now gave way to sheer fun. All to soon control was back with Don, however there was to be one final treat. The Spitfire was put into a shallow dive allowing the airspeed to increase. As we pulled out of the dive you could feel the G force pressing you back into the seat. Then the aircraft rolled to the left, performing a victory roll. Well you simply can't fly in a Spitfire and not do that, can you. We then headed back to Biggin Hill for a perfect landing.
Today we departed Yelvertoft Marina on our main summer cruise. We have no plan as such other than attending Glascote Basin towards the end of July for a Hudson boat owners gathering at the new Norton Canes base. We passed through Crick tunnel then took a mooring just north of the locks.
Totals 13/6 to 23/6 20 Miles 21 Locks 2 Tunnels
Totals today 4 Miles 1 Tunnel
Running totals 165 Miles 112 Locks 10 Tunnels