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Spirit of Brooklands

Loch Ness Wellington, to bootDave Eade takes a nostalgic trip to Surrey.

The title conjures up the magic of the British Motor Racing scene of the twenties and thirties - often forgotten, however, is the large amount of aviation heritage around Brooklands. It was this that attracted yours truly to call in on a showery March Saturday, when the volunteer on the gate assured us that, as far as they were concerned, this was the first day of Summer! Between the showers however, a feast is in store for the visitor.

Outside, pride of place goes to Vickers airframes that were produced at Brooklands – or Weybridge as the company preferred their plant to be called. Civil VC10 – the VIP version equipped for a Middle-Eastern royal family – dominates a small outside static. Still as elegant as ever, especially in this colour scheme, this airframe is accompanied by the Vanguard, Varsity (WF372) and a Danish Hunter (E-421).

Supermarine 535 (WT859)As the observer moves towards the indoor exhibitions he will pass an ex-BAF Viscount accompanied by the cockpit of another example, a mock-up TSR-2 cockpit and the cockpit of the prototype Supermarine 535 (WT859).

If Brooklands has a jewel, it is surely to be found in the main hangar exhibition. The steady rebuild of Wellington N2980, coded R, dominates the floor with most of the skeletal geodetic construction still to be seen. A public dais allows an overhead view, although the fullness of the exhibition prevents this being a good photo point. Discovered in Loch Ness and recovered in 1985, this is the sort of restoration that is rarely seen outside the Duxfords of this world but should be truly admired. If it never gets any further than its current state it has been a wonderful achievement.

The second gem for yours truly, is XJ571 – the Sea Vixen FAW2 in immaculate colour scheme, but sadly lacking breathing space. Originally to be found in a private collection at Southampton Airport, this example rivals that of the FAA museum at Yeovilton for the Concours d’Elegance of Sea Vixens. Beside it, and dwarfing it, it the mighty pressure test tank designed and built for Barnes Wallis. It provides a home for the front fuselage of a Valiant K1 (XD816) and is surrounded by engines and cut-aways important to our aviation history.

VanguardReplica Sopwith Camel and Viking under restoration are to be seen beside the beautiful twin seat Harrier G-VTOL, so often the display mount of John Farley in those long off Farnborough days.

Take a sojourn around the non-aviation exhibits if you have any sense – you will regret it if you do not. The displays of the mighty "Formula One" equivalents of the early twentieth century are absolutely without flaw. Also there are the Napier-Railton, holder of the Brooklands lap record of 143.44 mph, a Malcolm Campbell exhibition and a Raleigh cycle collection – all worthy in their own right. The Clubhouse has been renovated to its original 1907 décor and a guided tour with one of the volunteers is almost compulsory as one will probably attach himself to you with gusto and take you on a time warp that is – the "Spirit of Brooklands".

Take Junction 10 off the M25 to the A3. Leave at the A245 and follow the museum signs.


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