“Happy Christmas!” is what we said to the boys’ four grandparents as we stood queuing to get in to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford on the late May bank holiday last weekend. A day out at Duxford with the boys, the toddler among them being very into planes, was our Christmas present to all of them. We never know what to get them, so these days this kind of present is one of the easiest to do because we know everyone will enjoy it.
We just needed to find a day when all of use were free and the grandparents were available to come to Cambridge, and we’re glad that we waited until now because the weather was amazing – beautiful blue skies, even if there was quite a blustery wind that was particularly acute on the big open airfield that is Duxford Air Museum.
The fairly substantial queue to enter moved very quickly, so we were soon in and faced with the tough decision of what to look at first – there was so much to choose from, with several hangars full of planes and other exhibitions and war-time memorabilia as well as static planes outside and of course plenty of planes taking off and landing on the runway. As it was such a nice day and Andrew was very excitable seeing all the planes outside, we decided to walk outside with the runway on our left. Of course Andrew ran rather than walked, but he had four grandparents happy to chase after him and keep an eye on him.
One of the first planes we came across positioned on the ‘parking’ strip parallel to the runway, was being prepared for taking off later. It was a plane that had been used in the second World War, and the sign in front of it explained that it would be taking off in about half an hour with several other little planes (Spitfires and Mustangs) to do a fly by over Duxford and continue over other parts of Cambridgeshire before coming back and landing at Duxford. We knew that this would be spectacular and a real treat for Andrew, and we weren’t disappointed when the display happened.
Further along the airfield were some old planes that were set up to allow visitors to look inside. Unfortunately only one of these was open due to a lack of volunteers to man them, but Andrew (and we) were fascinated by the interior, especially the cockpit where the ‘driver’ sits. It was a Monarch passenger plane from the 1960s. I had to laugh at the baby crib hanging from the overhead storage above the seats – don’t think health and safety would allow that these days!
Near the end of the airfield, once we’d walked most of it’s length outside, we entered an indoor display of American fighter planes including a B-52 bomber. There was a ramp that went up and down around the edge of the hangar, which Andrew used for a game of ‘make the grandparent chase me’ – it wasn’t very busy. This ramp with a see-through barrier was perfect for allowing little people (and big people) to get very close up to the top of the planes and see inside the cockpits from the outside, as well as seeing the planes from underneath by walking on the ground floor. In fact I would say that the set up of the museum in general is fantastic – you can get so close to the planes, walk right underneath them and almost (but of course not) touch them, and for many of them you get higher up views or even interior views.
Then it was time for a lovely picnic lunch. We sat on one of the many picnic benches that are there and had brilliant views of the planes that were taking off and landing – most were little bi-planes that were flying around locally, some with visitors that had paid to have a short flight in one, and we also saw the planes lands that had taken part in the fly-by. All this while we were eating our sandwiches was pretty impressive.
After lunch we headed back along the airfield and stopped to look at a few planes on the way. Of course we couldn’t miss one of Andrew’s favourite planes – the playground in the shape of a plane – this had to be the icing on the cake for him! He loved climbing in and out and running through it, and sitting on the plane shaped bouncers.
We were aware that he was getting tired, so suggested that we saw one last building with planes in before heading home. I really wanted to see it because that building housed a real Concorde plane and I felt like that was a bit of aviation history that I can personally remember. After I’d translated for a group of French school pupils who were visiting and trying to fill in activity sheets with facts about Concorde, we all took a look inside it – a very long narrow metal tube really, but fascinating nonetheless.
That concluded our plane-filled day out and we all went home tired but happy, especially our little plane spotter!
Thanks to Grandad for the photos of the fly by and to Granny for a couple of photos on the playground
Linking up with #CountryKids over at Coombe Mill’s blog