Tag Archives: places to visit in Bedfordshire

Murder Mystery Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire no4 ~ The Shuttleworth Collection, Biggleswade

MNATTour4ShuttleworthAs we explore Bedfordshire together as part of my murder mystery virtual tour we will pause a while at The Shuttleworth Collection, a place that influenced my second novel ‘Ancasta – Guide me Swiftly Home’ and also features in my third novel ‘Murder, now and then.’ The museum is a comprehensive collection of aircraft including a few of the oldest airworthy crafts of their type. My interest has always been to imagine the places where these planes were built and the people who crafted them, as well as the live of those who originally flew them.

Diana with the Avro504K

Diana with the Avro504K

For example, on one visit an engineer pointed out the unique stitching on the wings of the Edwardian aircraft, often carried out by women during WW1.

I have spent many happy hours researching at the Shuttleworth archives under the guidance of John and Jim and I am indebted to their support. Research for an author can be a lonely business, but it is wonderful when people take a genuine interest and give of their time to ensure that the facts gleaned and expanded upon in a novel are authentic.

Shuttleworth is unique in that almost all the aircraft on display are airworthy. There are also exaples of ‘work in progress’ which you can visit in Hanger 1 including the long awaited Spitfire and the De Havilland Comet DH88 which has flown for the first time again since restoration this year and an excellent site it was too.

Here is an account I wrote back in 2012 of an airshow I enjoyed when the Blackburn Monoplane gave her centenary flight from Shuttleworth:

“Last Sunday (7th October 2012) there was a buzz at the Shuttleworth Air Day. Attendance to the show was high, the mood buoyant and we milled around with anticipation as we waited for the display to start.  I did a double take when several pipers, resplendent in their kilts, walked towards us but no, we were still in the heart of Bedfordshire and the Bedford Pipers were to perform for us. The sun shone and folks smiled.

The focus of the day was a Fast Jet Reunion and those watching were certainly not disappointed as the Folland Red Gnats did acrobats in the sky (Hey, I know where they were probably made…. we saw one outside Follands in Hamble near Southampton!) There were others including the Vampire Trainer (Can anyone tell me why it’s called a Vampire?)  and the Hawker Hunter. (1955) As well as the Jets there was the Hawker Demon, 1933, and the Hawker Hind, 1934. (My elderly 103 yr old friend Norman worked at Hawkers back in the 30’s so I felt a connection)

Then we arrived at the part of the show which truly interested me, the World War One planes. I have read about Tommy Sopwith and what a character he was, and then there was the SE5a which features in my novel ‘Ancasta.’ The sun was sinking fast but it was a still evening and so we were filled with hope that the old Edwardians would be able to fly. Our wait was rewarded with the Bristol Boxkite, (although I believe this is a replica) also featured in my novel and the Avro Triplane. I never tire of watching these priceless machines take to the skies.

The Blackburn Monoplane 1912 to 2012

The Blackburn Monoplane 1912 to 2012

For me though, the climax of the day was watching the Blackburn Type D Monoplane, (Impressed… I copied this carefully from the programme) the oldest British plane which can still fly, take off on its 100th birthday. It first flew in December 1912 and Richard Shuttleworth found it in a barn of hay in 1937, before he bought it and had it restored. Thus, on Sunday The Shuttleworth Collection yet again treated us to a precious celebration of history come to life before our eyes!

As we were walking back through the remaining cars to go home I remarked on a lovely e type Jaguar.

‘That’s scary,’ my husband said. ‘You are recognising cars now.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Do you know there are three things you’ve taught me since we’ve been together?’

‘What are those?’ he asked, puffing up proudly in a way only men can.

‘Cars, aeroplanes and how to swear!’ I replied.

Nevertheless it was another memorable flying day at Shuttleworth and as the announcer exclaimed at one point over the loud speaker,

‘We have to thank the RSPB for this unscheduled part of the show,’ as a flock of ducks flew in V formation overhead! “

Shuttleworth plays only a small part in ‘Murder, now and then’ but the museum is certainly a gem in the heart of Bedfordshire and watching an airshow for me is akin to discovering an antique diamond!

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Filed under Ancasta, Bedfordshire, Early Flight, Murder Now and Then, Research, The Shuttleworth Collection, Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire

Mid Bedfordshire Murder Mystery Virtual Tour no3 ~ Haynes & Old Warden

This tour is by car, although there are many places en-route where you could follow numerous footpaths through the Mid Bedfordshire Countryside. We will begin at the crossroads at Silver End Haynes and take the route to Northwood End, passing the community centre on your left and The Greyhound Pub on your right.

Mid Bedfordshire Villages around Old Walden ~ Google Maps

Mid Bedfordshire Villages around Old Walden ~ Google Maps

At the junction on the A600, where cyclists park to test their skills in the wooded trails opposite, you drive straight on. This is a difficult junction so take care. Ahead the lane winds towards the village of Old Warden. Continue slowly, taking the corners carefully as you pass the disused railway bridges and then converted station house before the village sign comes into view.

Old Warden is a quintessentially English village with its thatched houses and cottage gardens, unspoilt by the passing of time. If the time is right the The Hare and Hounds is a pub and restaurant well worth visiting, whether it is to have a Hare and Hounds, Old Wardencoffee or cold drink in their well laid out gardens or a light or more substantial lunch. In the photo the Mk2, which features in ‘Murder, now and then’, has decided to do just that.

At the end of the village you will pass the gated entrance to Shuttleworth College and The Shuttleworth Collection, although the entrance to the aviation museum is a mile further along the road. The lane continues with two sharp right angled bends where, on a Sunday, you might be charmed by the site of cricketers at play, completing the perfect English village appeal. There is a track opposite on your left up to the church, where you could pause and take a circular walk through surrounding countryside and village – there’s a handy map in the church car-park, which you can use at a discretionary charge.

Back on the lane, as you leave the village, you can enjoy the best views of Shuttleworth College, a Jacobean style Victorian building with a tall tower and imposing chimneys. The entrance to the aviation museum, which will have a post of its own on my tour, is further down the hill, but if you take the next turn on the left your route will continue through arguably some of the best preserved villages of Mid Bedfordshire. First there’s Ickwell Green famed for its gatherings on May Day with Maypole and Morris Dancers. Next is Northill and if you take a left turn here it will wind its way to Cople, another charming village. Turning left again towards Cardington along the Cople Road you can continue until you are suddenly in awe of the Shortstown Hangers in front of you. (You will have seen these at a distance in my last post) I do not believe that anyone could be unmoved by the sight of these vast structures, which speak of aviation vision in times gone by and of the R101 airship, when so many lives were lost. (Shortstown will also feature in an individual post at a later date.)

Continuing along this lane you might spot the entrance to Warden Abbey Vinyard, a local community winery now run by volunteers – its sparkling wine chosen by the Queen Mother I believe! Rumour has it that this year’s harvest has been so good that there might be a 2014 sparkling. I do hope so!

This lane runs parallel to the A600, but it is a much more pleasant route for an afternoon’s ramble amd it will lead you back to the Old Warden Road. A right turn will take you to the crossroads on the A600 and Haynes, the start of this circular tour.

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Filed under Bedfordshire, Murder Now and Then, Virtual Tour of Bedfordshire