Thursday, 29 August 2013

#19 Thurleigh Loop

11.74 Miles
69 Metres

A new walk, finally!  I've been trying to push up the mileage a bit recently, in some ways to make up for a lack of hills and ascent.  Admittedly this walk was flatter than I had thought, with 69 metres of total ascent.  The plan was simple, park on the airfield (I work there) and walk round the outer perimeter.  There is a bridleway that covers pretty much the whole distance of 9 miles, but by parking the car within the perimeter I added close to 3 miles to the total distance.

The old control tower
The path on the whole was wide and well kept.  A few areas of brambles to watch out for but generally good.  All those brambles meant there is a good mile of blackberries round the route, unfortunately they are about a week or two off ripening.  I might come back and walk and feast.  There were a lot of them, and with the path so quiet I could get a good crumbles worth!

The airfield itself is now a business park, race track, scrapped car storage yard and a small runway.  During the 50's and 60's this place was at the cutting edge of technology, many things pioneered here are still in use today including the Instrument Landing System.  With only Heathrow and Gatwick having longer runways it's perhaps a sad sight to see the place used as a giant car park.
Fields and fence
At the north east end of the runway the old decaying buildings of the V-Force dispersal site can be seen clearly.  During the cold war at times of tension Vulcan bombers were sent from their bases all round the country to prevent them being hit in a pre-emptive strike.  Thurleigh was one of these dispersal sites and would of received 4 fully armed nuclear bombers.
Old V-Bomber building

The north section of the perimeter is dominated by a large grass bank, built as a sound screen to deflect the noise from the racetrack.  The racetrack is a sign in some ways that we might not all be quite as in it together during this recession!  It provides corporate racing away days as well as driving experiences and it's fair to say it's not at the bottom end of the circuit world.  You won't see too much change from £900 for a day out.
Old WWII era wooden tower

It was a fairly warm day and I have to confess I was feeling it a little towards the end.  It didn't help that I passed within 100m of my car with 3 miles to go (and no I wasn't going to jump the 8 foot fence!).  A nice walk with a few features to interest the plane spotter in me and made a nice change to the usual wheat and rape-seed fields.  Admittedly they were to my right with a fence to the left!
Old warnings
Nature taking back over a road
Hello, this is Bedford calling...

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