Lake Windermere - a weekend away!

Ian Homer reports on a special weekend by Lake Windermere.

XH558 over Lake Windermere                          Mini Village set up on 'The Glebe'            Pictures courtesy of Neil Bury and the author

Regular visitors to the Vulcan Village will probably realise we do have Laura Withers (wife of Martin) popping in from time to time, to see how the volunteers are and generally help out wherever possible. It’s a very busy environment and just making a tea or coffee for us is a great boost to the team. Recently, Laura got the selling bug and helped out at RIAT when things got a little crazy! She really enjoyed the day and an open offer was made to get her more actively involved as she desired.

Fast forward a few days, and the announcement of a Windermere display  - with only 4 days to organise our ground presence!

We had to assemble a small team fast, so I quickly pulled together about six regular people, then thought of Laura and her friend Kathy to keep her company. Martin of course, would be far too busy elsewhere. After a series of texts, we were on and rooms secured for the team at greatly reduced rates courtesy of THE HYDRO HOTEL in Windermere, whose owner Ken was a significant sponsor of the event two years ago, and a big fan of Vulcan. To hear he would be hosting the pilot’s wife was an additional honour.

It then got better for Ken, as the whole crew had earmarked Sunday as a weather or technical reserve, so, with an improving forecast, Martin said he would gladly travel to join Laura and the rest of us providing Saturday went according to plan.

“Ken, can I alter the room arrangements please to cater for myself, the pilot?” said Martin, while Ken composed himself and rapidly thought if he could quickly accommodate such a last minute request.

So, Friday afternoon came. Off set the advanced party consisting of myself and my wife Debbie, together with Bob and Isabel Jackson, who between us, arrived around 5.30pm to set up the two gazebo’s and branding - ready to stock merchandise in advance of the show opening at 10am the following day. Laura and Kathy joined us around about 9pm as we settled down in a local Italian Restaurant for our evening meal.

For once at an air show - a lie in till 7.00am was possible and a chance for breakfast - never heard of at any other air show to date. This would leave us enough time to arrive on site just after 8am to place out all the stock before the gates opened to the public.

Laura and Kathy joined us not long after and had an exciting day mixing with the public and doing an excellent job in becoming the latest recruits to the Vulcan Village ‘family’.

With long hours and sheer hard work, the teams have to have good humour and the banter was certainly flowing all day with the high expectations of an incredible display in idyllic weather and scenery. No one was disappointed, when Martin, Bill and Barry brought XH558 down over the headland and as low as possible over the water. Just WOW!

Thankfully the plan was still in place, so, after landing back at Doncaster, Martin hastened a wash and change before making the two and a quarter hour journey back to the very Lake he had flown over just a few hours earlier.

Well, needless to say, Laura was upgraded to a Balcony Suite with her Pilot, before joining the rest of us around 9pm for our evening meal. This time, the advanced party’s job was finding a table for eight at the last minute, as Richard Clarke had also joined us during the day.

Revived somewhat after a hearty meal and liquid refreshment, we made a short walk to catch some air by the water’s edge before we climbed the steep hill back to the hotel and a reasonably early night for everyone.

Sunday’s weather was even better, with it being over 20 degrees by 10am, when along came Kathy, accompanied by Laura and Martin, following on close by her side and sporting his full flying suit.

With no Vulcan display today, what better than to have the pilot from yesterday on our stand signing autographs and meeting Vulcan fans and the public alike. The megaphone was used to huge effect to draw in the people as they passed by and the trade in signed photographs and postcards certainly increased the takings significantly. Martin is always pleased to meet and greet people and we lost count of the inflatable Vulcan’s he signed for the youngsters.

The Red Arrows were to be the finale on Sunday at 5pm and again, did not disappoint. I would have to say the scenery and layout of the hills added drama to their display, and even Sean Maffatt, the official commentator for the weekend and well known to all Vulcan fans as ‘our’ commentator, remarked he thought it the best Red Arrows Display he had seen. A worthy comment, as the man said himself, “I’ve seen them quite a few times!”

After the close of flying, we had our normal rush of people to the stand, so it was at least 6.15pm before we could start to break things down. Our new helpers stayed all day and helped pack away everything with us, making it so much easier for everyone. Martin took responsibility for the flag poles and front branding, while Laura and Kathy expertly folded the gazebo walls back into their corresponding holdalls. We were all able to leave just after 7.30pm when the whole pitch was finally cleared.

We all now faced a good 3 hours of travelling, with a meal break thrown in part way as a breather, when our texts finally indicated everyone arrived back home just before 11pm.

I would like to thank of course, the whole team who worked the weekend as they are unfaltering in their desire to support XH558, but of course, also make a special mention of our new recruits to the volunteer ground team; Laura, Martin and Kathy, for all the effort they put in to help us in what after all, was a very demanding few days. It just shows how this aircraft we all love so much, touches everyone’s hearts and makes people want to come together for the common good.

Let’s do it all again - very soon!