Tag Archives: landing strip

Mr and Mrs B do Bolthead

23 Sep

In the little aeroplane!

Boatbird not looking great in this shot but she was concentrating ever so hard, trying to compose the perfect pic in a bucking bronco – some turbulence you understand – and at the same time maintaining a modicum of sanity and dignity. Whereas Mr. B is merely flying the plane so completely relaxed (when he isn’t sleeping) with nothing better to do than to pose for the camera.

We’d wanted to do this trip for ages and finally got the three day weather window we needed last weekend. In case you’ve never heard of Bolthead (I hadn’t) it is close to Salcombe, which is in Devon, meaning 2-3 hours in the air. The longest trip I’d ever attempted in the S10. It took us 3 hours to get there with a strongish headwind, cruising at 100/110mph and not including a fuel, comfort, coffee and bacon sarni stop at Dunkerswell. But more like 2 and a half on the way back.

Cute little office isn’t it?

The S10 is a homebuild, small but perfectly formed (if you can take the bungy straps, holes in the floor and total lack of sophistication) and surprisingly comfortable once installed (the getting in is a whole other story). But it performs superbly and, well, let’s just say you really know you are flying.

We set off around 9am on the Sunday with John’s GPS on the blink (literally) but he does a sterling job with map and dodgy compass. The city shows up quite soon after leaving Hunsdon (the local airfield here) and a bit further on we pick up the Thames. It’s quite something to fly the river we cruised Hobo on last year, spotting places where we moored, bridges we went under and other well known landmarks.

At Reading we follow the Kennet and Avon, seeing many longboats. We are yet to cruise this one…

We fly over Wiltshire and its numerous white horses – one of which I just about captured (if you look jolly hard) see bottom left corner. You may have to click on the pic and enlarge – working on the aerial photography, it can only get better.

We see the Somerset Levels, Glastonbury Tor, some stunning skyscapes and England’s pretty patchwork spreads beneath us. It is truly fabulous.

This is how the coast looked as we scour the landscape in search of the landing strip approach Bolthead.

The next shot shows the farm where we are staying and (we think) our tent, which, by arrangement, is ready pitched for us. How cool is that! A couple of fields up and to the left a bit is the actual strip; only a short walk away. Couldn’t be better.

Again, clicking and enlarging may help. Sorry about the glare; it’s a difficult plane for photography but, like I said, we are working on it.

John flies an inspection pass over the strip, as is good practice in places new, circles round, down..down.. then throws the first attempt away so round we go again and down.. down..down..nearly there..

Then.. Bugger! The plane tips violently on the diagonal, my head hits the canopy then the engine roars as John applies power to take us back up and round again.

What the hell happened there?

The airman’s bible, Pooley’s guide, warns of vicious turbulence here but it had all seemed so perfect before the picture went so suddenly and horribly wrong – just goes to show what a dasterdly downdraft can do – with all the potential of a nasty incident.

I’m scared now and pray to a god I don’t believe in as we descend for attempt number three.

John is a good pilot though and gently puts us down (third time lucky) with no drama and I’m counting my blessings as we taxi to the parking place.

And here she is, safely tucked up, tied down, no damage done.

We do the short walk to the farm, John scaling and me crawling wormlike under a wire fence along the way, to be greeted by the owners who turn out to be South African. Small world.

It is indeed our tent and I reckon it would sleep between 8 and 12 people, depending on how friendly they were, and comes complete with LED lantern, camp beds, sleeping bags, blankets and pillows.

All this AND dinner, breakfast and unlimited tea/coffee for £35 per person per night, which we thought a good deal.

Trying to pack all this into the S10, as well as ourselves and luggage, would be difficult given the weight restriction for safety, not to mention the sheer bulk. We’ve not really done weekends away in the aeroplane and see this as a bit of an experiment or training exercise even. So far so good.

Over the weekend we walk into town both via the wooded lane, which runs through pretty woodland chock full of what looks like giant rhubarb..

beautiful blue hydrangea..

and swathes of wild pink cyclamen..

and coastwise…

with some brilliant views of both sea…

and estuary…


We pass this (cowshed?) that we rather fancy as a seaside home..

and some neat stone walling..

and the beach at South Sands…

from where you catch the tractor…

that takes you out to the ferry to Salcombe…

and catches you on the way back…

Clever. Very clever.

It’s a boatie sort of place…

one way or another…

In fact the Ferry Inn barman’s T-shirt said it all: This is a drinking town with a sailing problem.

And lunch there was pretty good too.

Of course every silver lining has a cloud; this one being that the walk home is pretty much all uphill. I hate uphills. And this one was very steep.

We caught a shower too and, neither of us having very appropriate footwear (trainery type), meant wet feet. It was hot and sunny when we set out and yes, I know, shoes (the right ones for the occasion) have never been my strong suit.

There’s tea and cake back at the farm but nowhere to get warm. The eating shed is just that – open-fronted too.

Given this place is in the heart of serious walking country, a wood burner (or bloody great bonfire) wouldn’t go a miss. Even with all the proper gear, I’m sure those dedicated ramblers would appreciate a snug place to warm up in as they top up on tea and cake. They must get cold and damp too.

The showers (wet rooms) on the other hand are brilliant. Endless piping hot water and not a coin meter in sight. Loos are modern and spotless – in fact the whole place looks brand new and no expense spared. It has National Trust money in there somewhere – so that could explain a lot.

Once dinner (delicious) is devoured we are off to our beds (2 camp beds so can’t even cuddle up to get warm) before our feet become permanent blocks of ice.

Whilst we take responsibility for maybe not having our stall set out (remember this is a training exercise to be learned from so next time we’ll definitely be packing the bedsocks and thermals) and realise the best of our summer (???) has gone now, I can’t help but think this place would be more suited to the South African climate.

That said we think it’s a good place and had a fabulous time there. We will go back on our way to Cornwall – if this year has any decent flying weather left – when we plan to fly in to Lands End!

We hit some weather on the way home (bit bumpy up there) and had to do a bit of cunning diverting to miss the worst of it so we were pleased to get back to Hobo and roast ourselves in front of a roaring fire. With our toes now positively glowing with warmth, we agree it has been a fabulous trip – cold, scary landings, uphill route marches and iffy GPS now consigned to history. All part of the adventure.

Marks out of ten for Bolthead? Why ten of course!

Jolly Boating Weather

26 May

That’ll be why I am at the treehouse then and not at the boat…

The Law of Sod dictates that any decent boating weather going is also good farming weather. As someone in this alliance of ours needs to earn money (and it isn’t me just now) farming has to take priority over the fun things – boating and even flying. We will get to take Hobo out but no doubt when the weather isn’t fit for much else – you can still boat in the rain and cold and wind even though you probably don’t want to. It does mean that you get the river to yourself though so that is a bit of a bonus. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.

The treehouse is where the John resides when he is not on the boat. It is at the farm on the Fens where he works (delightfully and accurately known as Nettle Bank) and, whilst it might not be the lovingly crafted from wood, romantic maze wedged among the branches of a magic tree with lookouts, secret escape runs, rope swings and fairy lights that you might have (and I once did) imagine, it is at treetop height and does have some lovely views. Fen skies in particular (you’ve seen those before so I will try to show you something different this time) and countryside in general. No, it is a portakabin on stilts – sorry if this shatters any illusions.

John is in fact playing tractor tractor right now, making the soil ready for planting, which is set to start on Monday (late this year). So if I want to see John I come to the treehouse. It’s no hardship though, I like it here and it has become another home from home – much like the bus in SA. It can be very peaceful here too (when the yard isn’t full of slaves during the potato harvest and the peacocks aren’t being overly vocal) so condusive to writing, reading or doing nothing…three of my favourite things. It’s also a damned good place to walk or take the air, provided the ‘Fen Blow’ is switched off and you have packed suitable outdoor wear. I’ve finally got it right this weekend with wellies, arctic fleece, woolly socks and anorak when all I really need is shorts and flip-flops…hey-ho.

There are sofas – two of them – so a real treat for me. I do love a good lounge on the couch but not enough to crowd out Hobo by installing one there. 

Multi-aspect windows are great for gazing out of but play havoc with computer screens – as yet no blinds/curtains but John is threatening to make shutters. (He has coped for a decade without them so I am not holding my breath). 

Heating by halogen/convection is fine now that the boss has his own windfarm and encourages the use of electricity and much less dramatic than the flame-throwing space heater that was the order of the day on my first visit.

Tom, Dick and Harry – phase 1 of the windfarm

Kitchen facility is minimal with kettle, microwave, toaster, slow cooker and electric frying pan. The lack of a conventional oven and hob is fine by me – no hot stove for me to slave over. The bathroom has all the usual facilities – H/C, shower, loo – no bath though. Well…nothing is perfect. The bedroom is just that – room for a bed and not much else so we fight for floor space on which to neatly hang our clothes. There is, however, both curtain and blind that helps to stop the rising sun from being too much of a nuisance in the morning.

Being a lazy cow Not wishing to upset the natural and unique charm of the treehouse, I do try to leave it be and not engage in  domestic interference or inflict too much order hereabouts. John has his own system and far be it from me to upset the chaos rhythym and feng shui that he has created. It does get the better of me sometimes though and I find myself tidying or cleaning but it doesn’t last for long.  Usually just as long as it takes to scour the inside of  a mug that has seen many brews and not a lot of washing up inbetween. Or scrape a path through the mud on the kitchen floor. Nothing too strenous you understand.

There’s decking (cleverly crafted from potato boxes) at the top of the stairs that serves as a dumping ground for John’s treasures verandah. This is due for a little re-modelling imminently as the staircase is about to be moved (to give slightly more private access away from the middle of the busy, muddy yard) and existing boxes now rotten as a pear and an accident waiting to happen fail to meet strict health and safety standards in force at Nettle Bank. Yeah right..

To be fair, the treehouse doubles as the farm office so sees its fair share of muddy boots and, with farming starting painfully early and continuing till darkness and beyond, I completely see that anything more than a shower/something to eat/bed after a day’s work is simply too much to ask. Of a man.

Downstairs is a fully kitted out workshop (where John makes things and can amuse himself for hours), jetwash (well there was before the pikeys paid a visit), endless supply of calor gas, diesel and wood in exchange for reasonable money or (in desperate times) my labour. And all the potatoes you can eat, the occasional cauli and coming soon – peas. Not to mention a runway, now properly grassed (needs mowing and rolling) just the ticket for John to make his escape…

Walk this way…

…to the landing strip

John’s boss, recently seen on BBC’s ‘Question Time’ and not one to be messed with,

is very accomodating of John’s love of flying and has made a super job of the new runway. He’s a pussycat really…….

Mostly, this year is all about wheat and the spuds are being kept to a minimum.And the aforementioned peas.I’m thinking we need a tractor pic so here is John in the distance, spreading the fertilizer..and again close up..Now you know what it means if John is back in the yard……..Yep, it’s time for lunch. Hooray!!