As former Royal Air Force stations go, Bicester takes the biscuit.
Walking around the old technical site feels much the same as walking around any other station, from Kemble’s south side, to RAF Scampton and even areas of larger stations like Brize Norton. Old red brick buildings, more used to housing parachute packing, armouries or surface finishing facilities, are still standing proud although with not a broken window in sight; a feat that the 21st Century Royal Air Force can’t claim!
The quaint treelined avenues are still in abundance, from a time when planners’ primary concern was one of neatness and order rather than budget constraints. This mix of timeless, anonymous buildings, almost hiding from view from one another as they shelter under the many trunks and branches, offers a real feeling of exploration and excitement. It really was fun! As you turn a corner you might see a Triumph sat quietly on the grass or a GT40 outside a workshop.
Each building now has a new lease of life as a car workshop, showroom or storage facility. This injection of petrol power into the former RAF Bicester site has helped keep the natural, charming feel of an RAF station but provided it with new opportunities and saved it from the likes of hungry property developers or the always-mundane industrial estate. If only more ex-Ministry of Defence sites could move into the future with such style.
The Flywheel event held on 23-24 June was thoroughly enjoyable, offering a great mix of vehicles around the site from tanks and aircraft to motorbikes and all manner of vintage and classic cars.
Entry was simple thanks to some back road navigating that took us off the main route and popped us out at the gate. Inside a lengthy queue awaited us at the entrance gate once parked but this was over within 10 minutes. Inside the provisions were as expected with cash, food, drink and toilets all up to scratch, (working for one of the UK’s biggest outdoor events means I look at this kind of thing).
The aviation element was perfect for the event – kicked off by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, Spitfire Mk.19 and Hurricane. Also on the cards were the Tiger Nine team, Bremont Great War Display Team, Lauren Richardson’s Pitts Special and P-51 Mustang Miss Helen. The Mustang went tech duel to a fuel issue and so the beastly Pitts Model 12 was going to stand in for it. Anybody who is familiar with Shuttleworth will appreciate and understand what goes on at Bicester.
Back to the cars, I was amazed by how many gems were hidden around the Bicester Heritage site. I found this lovely Jag parked next to a Ford Fiesta – both almost matching red, enough for me to nearly miss the Jag entirely. Squatting awkwardly on a fence got the Fiesta out of view enough to get the shot below.
Overall the event was very enjoyable and struck a chord with me due mainly to the wonderful way in which Bicester Heritage is presented. Thanks to @sams.instagrms and the Motorsport Collective for the day. Now for some final photos…