There was a time many years ago that I could set my watch by the RAF. 14:55 hrs every weekday, the RAF at Cottesmore* didn’t fly on weekends nor bank holidays, three tornadoes would come shouting up the Mease valley towards the base some 10/15 minutes flying time away.
The USAF were also flying around. This was the 1980’s, height of the cold war and all that. Back then it was A10’s out of Upper Hayford I believe but they too would be putting on their magnificent acrobatics. Anyone who has seen A10s slowly swooping through the countryside will know it is magical – the long slow loops round and around. I was once walking through the countryside towards the east of the county and I swear these two pilots were flying around and around me through the fields.
Then came Glasnost and suddenly the wall was gone and it was the end of history. It wasn’t, of course, but in the heady Clinton days who knew?
So what has all this ancient history got to do with taking photographs of birds in my garden this morning? Well it struck me the flights are back. It no longer is the RAF from Cottesmore nor the A10s from Upper Hayford but rather F15/16 flying back from Wales after honing their skills. You can always tell when they’re flying over – they go the wrong way and make such a racket about it. Where I live the predominant flight path is NW/SE but the Americans are usually East/West that is if it isn’t the spy planes out of Fairford which, in that case, is SW/NE. The F15/16 don’t fly as low as the Tornadoes but they seem to be louder. Perhaps I have got used to the quieter modern commercial aircraft engines , I don’t know. What I do know the USAF out of Lakenheath (or is it Mildenhall?) also like to be home for for afternoon tea as they fly back around about the same time as the RAF all those years ago.
It is amazing what you notices whilst sitting on a bench in your garden watching birds flutter about.
- I know technically it wasn’t the RAF but rather the instructors and students from the joint training base teaching pilots to fly the Tornado but I have been on the base and it was an RAF base.