Stunning images of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire from the sky
PUBLISHED: 12:49 25 July 2014 | UPDATED: 13:37 25 July 2014
© John Henshall / Alamy
Every picture tells a story, and these aerial photographs of our towns provide an insight into how, as well as where, we live
SEEING BERKSHIRE FROM THE SKY
Float away in a balloon
The most leisurely way to see Berkshire from the skies is in a hot air balloon, gliding gently above the hills and valleys on a summer morning or evening.
Adventure Balloons, for instance, fly from Prospect Park and Kings Meadow in Reading, allowing you to see landmarks in the town centre or sights from above the Thames and taking in Wokingham, Streatley and Goring. The site and route chosen all depends on the wind direction on the day, but you can be sure of an experience to treasure. Expect to pay £105 to £145 depending on time of day for a champagne flight. See www.adventureballoons.co.uk.
Take to the skies over Woolhampton with Hot Air Balloon Flights and head towards the Berkshire Downs, taking in the Kennet and Avon Canal and Douai Abbey to spot along the way. You’ll pay from £99 to £189 per person, depending on the chosen package. See hotairballoonflights.com
Floating over Henley provides lots to see. Balloon company Altitude sets off from Henley Leisure Centre or nearby Swiss Farm. The summer price is £135 per person when two or more book, see www.altitudeballoons.co.uk.
Virgin Experience Days over Newbury and the surrounding countryside can include a bird’s eye view of the River Kennet and Greenham Common. Prices range from £99 to £189, see hotairballoonflights.com.
When booking with any of the above or other companies make sure you can comply with any age, weight and height restrictions as we don’t want anyone to discover one or two of their party cannot fly.
Head up in a helicopter
For an exciting ride and superb views it’s hard to beat a helicopter trip. Our first pick is the Highclere Castle Helicopter Tour for £149 which takes off from the Reading area, follows the the Kennet and Avon Canal, and then heads for the skies above the 1,000 acres of parkland at Highclere, now made famous by the Downton Abbey series. The tour lasts around 30 minutes and on the way home you should spot Highclere Stud and Grotto Copse.
See www.intotheblue.co.uk, treatme.co.uk, www.buyagift.co.uk, or www.experiencemad.co.uk.
A very good choice is the eight mile helicopter pleasure flight, currently £118 for two, which goes to Mapledurham House and includes entry to the historic house and a cream tea. For this one see www.redletterdays.co.uk.
Thrills all the way
As a way to find out if you’d like to learn to fly, or simply to enjoy the thrill, a short trial lesson or experience with the West London Aero Club at White Waltham Airfield is an excellent choice.
For the most daring there’s an option to take an aerobatic flight experience with star pilot Alan Cassidy in a Pitts Special. You decide how wild or otherwise you would like this aerial ‘rollercoaster’ to be. It’s £168-£228 depending on time spent in the air.
You might like to try a flight in a vintage 1933 de Havilland Tiger Moth complete with Irvin flying jacket, helmet and goggles. A 30 minute flight is £220.
Other experiences include flying in a Piper Supercub PA18 where you get a chance to take the controls (£90 to £295), or a trial lesson in a four-seater Piper Warrior (£105-£350). There’s even an American SNJ-5 Harvard, the aircraft used during the Second World War to train pilots who would go on to fly Spitfires and Hurricanes. A trial lesson is £325. See www.wlac.co.uk.
Further west, Brimpton Airfield near Aldermaston also offers lessons, courtesy of pilot Steve Pike. See www.lightsportflying.co.uk.
SEEING BUCKINGHAMSHIRE FROM THE SKY
When Simon Abbott became a qualified pilot he was so keen to improve his skill level he embarked upon a basic aerobatic course at RAF Halton Flying Club thereby fuelling a passion he now shares via Experience Flights. “I do loops, rolls, stall turns and air show manoeuvres,” Simon explains. He also tailors trips to people’s limitations. “Each flight lasts 20 minutes and costs from £150, depending on the plane. I’m available at any time and day to suit customers.” What better opportunity to view the county from a myriad of altitudes and angles?
Simon Abbott, tel: 07767 776074.
Hang gliding & Paragliding
The first step – or perhaps leap – here is to train with an instructor registered with the BHPA (British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association), see www.bhpa.co.uk. After that the sky’s the limit and you might like to join up with the Dunstable Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club – the people you see floating loftily over the Dunstable Downs, Holmbeck Farm, a privately owned airfield between Wing disused aerodrome and Leighton Buzzard, and of course the Dunstable Downs.
The Dunstable Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club do provide coaching for newly qualified pilots, including weekends away and flying holidays abroad, see dunstablehpc.co.uk.
You won’t be landing in Buckinghamshire, but head over the border to Brackley in Northants and UK Skydiving Adventures can fulfil your dreams with a tandem jump (strapped to a highly qualified instructor).
You can do this without previous experience, jumping from perhaps 12,000 feet and travelling at 120mph before the parachute opens to glide you back down to earth. Expect to pay around £250 for this initial experience – it’s up to you as to whether this becomes a regular event! It’s possible to do an Accelerated Free Fall Skydiving Course for £1,400. See www.ukskydivingadventures.com.
Aboard an elegant glider a passenger can sit back and marvel at aspects of Buckinghamshire only usually witnessed by our feathered friends as the pilot uses thermal currents to meander across the county. Flights cost £100 with Red Letter Days and are available throughout the year, depending on the weather. From Marlow the glider is towed by a light aircraft up to 2,000 feet before being released. These aircraft are dual controlled and, at the pilot’s discretion, passengers may experience the chance to take over the controls for a while. Advance booking is essential but flights are available seven days a week.
At Booker Gliding Club, based at Wycombe Air Park, you can start with a trial lesson flight taking you up to 2,000 feet for marvellous views of the nearby countryside. It costs from £85 and with deals for additional flights and trial membership this could be your ‘take to the skies’ route.
For a holiday with a difference, why not book for a five-day course with 14 flights included? This costs £645 per person and the next courses run from July 7 to 11 and August 4 to 8. If you are won over by gliding and want to be a regular solo flier, expect to pay just over £2,000 for a course which will take you all the way to the skies and includes a year’s membership.
Fancy being a high flier, piloting a helicopter, light aircraft or microlight? Specialists are based at Wycombe Air Park offering all the necessary training. Booker Aviation, for instance, have a fleet of Cessnas and Diamond DA42 Twinstars. Trial and gift flights of around 30 minutes start at £99 (£140 for 45 minutes) and the instructors aim to see you safely take the controls during the trip. It’s a great way to discover if this is the hobby for you.
Microlight training is provided there by the Light Sport Flying Club, who have a handy ‘pay as you go’ approach. Trial instruction flights start from £75 – just how far you go through the process to qualified flying will be up to you.
A gift experience helicopter flight trial costs £195 with www.heliair.com.
Hot air balloons
Since the first hot air balloon flight over 200 years ago, these fascinating vessels continue to capture our imagination. Adventure Balloons take off from The Black Horse at the north end of Great Missenden with pilots sharing an abundance of local knowledge with passengers. The village is also home to the Roald Dahl Museum so why not include in your trip this colourful and interactive celebration of the author’s life and work?
Black Horse, Aylesbury Road, Great Missenden HP16 9AX, tel: 01494 862538 www.blackhorsegreatmissenden.com.
The Roald Dahl Museum, High Street, Great Missenden HP16 0AL, tel: 01494 892192 www.roalddahl.com.