Almost two years ago to the day, we were cyclo-touring through the UK and were headed towards York. It was mid afternoon as we approached the city from the south-east. About 8 kilometres from our destination, we unexpectedly came across Elvington Airfield.
Elvington was a Halifax bomber base in the second World War, and boasts one of the longest runways (3km) in Britain! It is now a private airfield and hosts many air displays as well as other intriguing sporting and community activities, including land yachting, motor cycle racing and car racing.
There was a (ground based) air display in progress on the day we discovered the airfield. Spitfires and other war machines were beautifully displayed for an appreciative audience. However, as we had arrived fairly late in the day and were rather weary, we decided not to stay too long. Instead, we confined our viewing to a quick look at the displays from a distance.
But one thing we did get to do before we left, was to ride around sections of the main runway which were open to public access. Up the far end, a land yachting regatta was in its final stages (which I found intriguing – I thought people only ‘sailed’ land yachts in places like central Australia where the rivers seldom have water in them!).
It was incredibly windy and this was another reason we did not dally! The wind might have been good for the yachts, but it made cycling challenging work!
On our way back down the long runway, we deviated to have a look at a few older planes that were parked away from the rest – well to one side. It seemed that in all the activity of the main show, they had been forgotten (I am sure this was not the case, but it just seemed like it!).
I am not an expert on planes, but one rather strange looking bomber particularly attracted our attention. So we parked the bikes and went to have a closer look. Lusty Lindy was certainly an imposing lady, but I must confess, I am in awe of the people who flew in her. She seemed formiddable, yet somehow rather fragile (maybe due to her small size?) and I thought it must have taken a lot of courage to trust one’s life to the likes of this machine!
The wind got a bit stronger while we were looking at the plane and when the bikes both blew over, we decided it was time to move on. But not before we got some photos to remember the day we rode up and down a runway and parked the bikes under the wings of a Victor bomber plane!
As a post script to this story, we later emailed our route for the day back to friends at home (with no explanatory details!) and they were astounded and somewhat concerned when they loaded the files onto Google Earth to find that we had been cycling on a runway!
I have checked the details for Lusty Lindy. she is a Handley Page Victor K2 XL231 – these bombers succeeded the Halifaxes in the Royal Airforce. Victors were used until 1993 and Lusty Lindy is one of only a handful left. She is now permanently grounded at Elvington. (All these details and more excellent photos can be found on the SmugMug website).
(Follow this link for details on the overall UK tour route).