At Old Sarum, in Hangar 1 just along from the airfield cafe, is a door to a world of legend and history. Entry is £8.50 for adults (sorry, I can’t remember what the childrens entry fee is) and as you walk down the corridor from the shop and reception desk, it’s all very unassuming. You walk into the hangar and find faded and ancient museum exhibits – a dented wing tip of a WW2 plane, a mannekin in a glass case sporting a WW2 flying suit, old photos but as you politely stop to look, and the children are wondering what on earth they are doing here and about to ask if they can go back to the shop to ‘get a plane’, the smell of oil, of grease hits you and you turn to see the hulking bodies of planes, all sorts of planes, fat, thin, young, old; all lovingly restored (or in the process of being so) and ready for young eyes and old hearts to touch, explore and witness for themselves the glory days of aviation. If you’re really lucky one of the founder members of the collection will be there to share their considerable knowledge and expertise and guide you through and answer questions, whilst over the radio the cackle of the live broadcast from the airfields control tower offers an authentic backdrop.
We took my nine yr old, my cousin and her son who is five, and spent a happy hour climbing in and out of the pilot seats, reading the warning signs, admiring the designs and capabilities of each exhibit. Our five yr old guest was taught a valuable life-skill (how to get down a small ladder ie. backwards) and when our guide fished out a shiny pilots helmet with visors and microphone his young eyes gleamed and he beamed from ear to ear, Mr. B. was quite envious but managed to sneak a go himself whilst sat in a Hawk a bit later on! Most horrifying were the missiles (without the evil bits) most wondrous was the rebuilt bi-plane, the first to be flown with it’s beautiful wooden propellor – I’d say the museum is a boys dream but my daughter, my cousin and I all enjoyed it too. The collection consists of test planes preserved at nearby Boscombe Down and covers a wide range of aviation history. As we left, a micro-lite landed ahead of us and an older plane was wheeled out from it’s hangar to be made ready for flying. We went to the airfield cafe and enjoyed tea and biscuits outside so we could watch modern day planes landing and taking off in the autumn grey. It was frankly wonderful.