As the Princess and the Duchess passed gracefully by, sunlight reflecting from their perfectly preserved bodies, they flattened the grass beneath their vast weight and belched dark smoke from their tall stacks. Their compound engines hissed and putted as steam escaped through various valves. Other engines followed them around the show ground, the engineers and drivers working at the wheels and levers, smiles beaming from the faces of their passengers. The air was filled with of a heady mixture of oil, coal dust and steam while the easily recognisable sound of traditional fairground music provided the soundtrack.
We’d joined the Wildcamping forum for their annual camp at the Ram public house in Brandon, timed to coincide with the Weeting steam rally and country fayre. The rally attracts many steam powered vehicles, but also other vintage vehicles, tractors and military vehicles. We spent the day watching various demonstrations from the age of steam, the engines being put to an array of uses, including stone breaking, forestry work and ploughing. More steam engines ran generators which powered the fairground rides, while a steam powered bus ferried visitors around the large site. At the edge of the event a couple of Shire horses looked on at the technology that replaced them.
The noise is fantastic as one by one they take to the sky. Eleven of them in total, different marks, different colour schemes. Some are Merlin powered, some Griffon. A couple of them have the squared off wing tips for better maneuverability. But all unmistakably Spitfires. What a sight, what a sound and what a start to the annual Flying Legends show at Duxford.
Traffic getting into the show can be quite heavy, so we’d camped nearby to ease the journey. Chatting to the guy camped across from us in his van it turned out he and his teenage son were going as well. A real airplane nut, he made the journey down from Scotland every year for the show. He spoke of the time he got to fly a Mustang and you could still see the joy and excitement in his face as he recalled the experience. As van owners tend to do we checked out each others’ vans and while we were impressed with his electric blinds, we quite easily convinced his son that their van needed a poptop roof.
Featuring predominately 1940’s era piston engined fighters, with a few bombers thrown in for good measure, the show was a feast for the ears as well as the eyes.
The show finales with a mass flypast of the show aircraft, the huge crowd treated wave after wave of historic machines. They don’t make them like that anymore…