Sunday, 22 April 2018

RFC Tydd St Mary's

There are very few simulated first World War aircraft for the X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator.  Even fewer first World War airfield simulations.  Having a Sopwith Camel model, I thought it would be a good idea to try and fly it from a vintage airfield.
 My first attempt was to create RFC Tydd St Mary's airfield in the Lincolnshire Fens.  This was a small airfield used for Home Defence and it was classified as a Class 1 Night Landing Field.  It was established in 1916 as a grass field with 2 Twin Hangars.  The landing lights were a set of caged paraffin burners that could be laid along the sides of the active runway.  B flight of 51 HD Squadron from Marham moved in with 8 FE2b aircraft, 7 officers, 5 NCO's and 40 other ranks to defend against the threat of zeppelin attacks.
 In 1918, B flight were joined by the 92 USAAC transit unit for landing ground training prior to moving US pilots to the battle front in France.  They arrived with DH6 aircraft and a few Avro and BE fighters.  5 Bessonneau Hangars were erected on site.  These were French designed wooden framed and canvass covered structures that were erected like tents.  At this time 51 squadron received a flight of Avro 504K trainers fitted with machine guns for night flying use.  The Airfield was disbanded in 1919, though the last hanger was demolished in 2009.  The airfield became the Grange Wind farm in 2012, with 4 wind turbines.
 As part of the model, Tydd St Marys was created to be seen from the air, including the unusual church, which is a composite of stone and brick build over several hundred years of refurbishment.
For those who have X-Plane 11, the airfield is available at my X-Plane pages as a downloadable free zip file at

The problem with WW1 aircraft simulations is the difficult ground handling.  Early aircraft had no steering or brakes, so turning on the ground needed men at each wingtip to pull the aircraft around.  This is not practical on the simulator, so it is best to start with the aircraft at the end of a runway.

It is not easy to land on an airfield at night when the runway is only lit by paraffin lamps.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring weather, at last

 Now that the weather is starting to warm up, the garden is returning to its greener state.  The pond is showing signs of life as the newts emerge.  We have only seen one frog this year and there is no spawn in the pond, This is the first time in over 20 years that the frogs have not spawned here.
 The Rhubarb is starting to become suitable for picking and we have had our first taste of this fine vegetable.
 The Ransoms (wild garlic) are in full leaf at the side of the shed.  It will not be long before they are in flower.
Today, I started to reorganise the greenhouse.  Seed tomatoes are big enough to re-pot, so I have constructed a frame and planted some of them out.  Courgettes and beans are also coming on.  Now I need to turn my attention to the raised beds and other seedling crops, ready for the warmer weather.  Next job will be to plant out the potatoes.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

William Billinge

Yesterday we met family and friends at Longnor for coffee.  Afterwards we ventured to the churchyard to see the grave of William Billings.
 This was intended as a day to see the splendid scenery of the landscape, but mist and fog was the order of the day.  The gravestone is off to the right from the path to the church.
In memory of William Billinge who
was born in a cornfield, at Fawfieldhead, in
this parish, in the year 1679. At the age of
23 years he enlisted into His Majesty's Service
under Sir George Rooke, and was at the taking
of the fortress of Gibraltar, in 1794.  He after
-wards served under the Duke of Marlborough at
the ever memorable Battle of Ramillies. 
fought on the 23rd. of May 1706 where he
was wounded by a musket shot in the thigh.
He afterwards returned to his native country and
with manly courage defended his Sovereign's
rights at the Rebellion in 1715 and 1745.  He
died within the space of 150 yards of where
he was born and was interred here the 30th. of
January 1792 aged 112 years -
Billeted by death I quartered here remain,
When the trumpet sounds I'll rise and march again

The stone is not the original.  This is noted on the reverse;

This Stone
was placed here by public
subscription in 1903. And is
a facsimile of the original
Stone which was removed at
the same time being in
process of decay.

Rev. A. E. Brown, Vicar.

It is unsure if he was the oldest man in England at the time of his death, but he certainly had a memorable life.  This stone needs to be taken in context as there were no military pensions at the time and soldiers were generally stood down after battles, needing to find work in order to afford to live.

Records from Williams time are sparse, but some evidence of his life does remain.


Corners of my mind

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Today in the garden

After morning coffee I looked out and saw a redwing fly into the garden.  This was an unusual event, so I reached from my camera and went to the bedroom window to see what I could spot.
 The redwing was grubbing about in the undergrowth for some time.  Sparrows, robins and a wren showed some interest in this activity.
 This is robin one leg.  He/She is always around the garden near the feeders.
 One of the dog foxes could be seen scratting in the woodland at the back of the garden.
 This squirrel in the Tulip Tree was having a mid morning wash.
 Vixen sunning on the lawn.
Wren grubbing along the garden wall.
Plenty to see in just a few minutes.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Daughter of Mrs Fox

 At about 4pm today, a fox appeared in our garden.  This vixen was clearly lactating and had probably not long since had cubs.  She was insistent and not frightened, so she had been here before.
 I took some food out and she ate freely with me just a few meters away.  She was a young fox and had many of the characteristics of Mrs Fox from last year - but thicker fur and shorter legs, just like the female cub who was accompanied into the garden with her family.
The snow is lingering in the shade of the tall hedges whilst the rest of the garden is clear.  Outside temperature is close to freezing.  The forecast is poor for the coming night.
 This fox is fit and well, and settled in the safe haven of our garden.  Both Rosie and I felt that she recognised us from last year.
Just time for a clean up before returning to the den.  Foxes don't mess about when they have cubs to feed.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Accidental visit to the Steam Gala

Today we visited Consal Forge Nature Reserve to walk and photograph birds.  Little did we know about the Churnet Valley Railway Winter Steam Gala, which was in full swing.  Car parks were full and railway enthusiasts with cameras were everywhere.

Two USA Transport Corps S160 locomotives were operating today.  No 5197 and No 6046, each with a number of carriages which seemed to be full of passengers.  It is unusual to see both of these locos out at the same time.

The GWR 42XX No 4277 "Hercules" which was on loan from the Dartmouth Steam Railway is on its last run today.  It is going back tomorrow for a refit and boiler check.
To see three separate trains on this line in half an hour is unusual and such a joy.  We did manage to see a few birds.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Swanning around

It is always an easy option to walk around Trentham Lake.  Yesterday we went to the gardens to collect a newspaper and some milk, and to get some fresh air.  Over the last few years, swans (which were seldom seen on the lake) have been increasing in numbers.  There must have been 100 mute swans on the lake this week.
Formation flying for the joy of it.  These are heavy birds and need a long stretch of water on which to get airborne.  The splashing on the water surface and whistling of their wings can be heard across the lake.
Building nests, so egg laying is not far off.
And generally showing territorial behaviour to other swans on the lake.
There has been a pair of Australian Black Swans on Trentham lake for about 3 years now.  The pair seem to be treated like any other swans on the water.  They seem to respond to the mute swans with the same behaviour patterns, though their breeding season is out of sync.