Shoreham Airport – now rebranded Brighton City Airport – is one of my top free recommends. Twenty minutes’ or so drive up the A27, it’s a super easy jaunt, and one that’s great if you want to just blow away the cobwebs for an hour, rather than have a whole day’s activity. This past weekend, when there was but two hours of dryness and a peep of blue sky on Saturday afternoon, the kids and I jumped in the car and headed over, because my older son is learning about airplanes at school this term.
And the main attraction at the airport is obviously planes. Lots and lots of small planes. So while we were there there was a lot of chat about which looked the most like Dusty/Ripslinger/Bulldog et al from Planes, and which was each person’s favourite. We watched several take off and land, as well as – thrillingly – a helicopter. We also had a long chat about the neon wind socks, and looked at the fire trucks.
Other than looking at planes, there isn’t much else to do here, other than the museum, which was closed. But the beauty of it is that it’s free and the area you watch from is fenced in, so if you’re on your own with two kids as I was, it’s really easy. In any case I like the simplicity of just going to watch planes do what planes do. And my two were in an overexcited tizzy the whole time we were there, crashing into the house afterwards and yelping over each other to my husband about all they’d seen.
Last time we went to Shoreham Airport it was in much better shape than it is now. The whole building is covered in scaffolding (although that won’t bother your kids!) and it looks so sad and tired. I really hope the plan is for it to be restored to its former glory because there are lots of original features, such as the Whispering Gallery upstairs and the beautiful window above the main door.
But I can find nothing about its restoration on the website, and the Visitor Centre and museum (housed in a portakabin, which I assume is a temporary arrangement) were closed at 2pm on a Saturday when we arrived (in conflict with the website, which says it’s open until three). This seems bonkers, but I gather they’re desperate for volunteers so all is of course forgiven. (N.B. There is a Facebook page, but not being a Facebook user I haven’t seen whether there’s info about the restoration there).
The Hummingbird Restaurant is a new fixture since we last went (probably about three years ago) and is OK. We didn’t eat anything, we just had a cup of tea and some hot chocolates. The cakes looks consumable, but I would recommend taking snacks and sandwiches if you’re going to go, just to save money. Otherwise use the airport as a stop-off on the way to Arundel – which is how we usually do it – and eat there before or after a visit to the castle and its amazing formal gardens and grounds – always a treat in spring and autumn.
Oh one more thing: it’s usually much cooler here than in Lewes. It’s seriously exposed and often very windy. Pop vests on them, and the most wind-proof clothes you have or you won’t be able to hear the sound of the propellers for the whinging. Also, when you leave, drive in the opposite direction to the main road to have a quick look from the car at the fighter jet outside the pilot’s shop at the end of the road. It’s cool.
The site being used as an air strip dates back to 1910; the Art Deco, Grade II listed airport building that we see today was opened in 1936. In between it was used as a First World War pilot training ground for the Royal Flying Corps, many of whom flew straight from here to the Western Front, where they only survived a few days. (There’s a touching memorial to all those who have given their lives in past conflicts in the car park immediately in front of the airport building, marked out by the propeller of an original B26, which has been restored to pristine condition).
After 1925, when Cecil Pashley landed here, it became a site for air shows and flying meets, before being taken over by the Royal Air Force during the World War II, where it came under fire and part of its main hangar was blown off. Shoreham Airport’s recovery was slow, but in 1971 it became the municipal airport of Brighton, Hove and Worthing, as it still is today.
More detailed history here.
Drive: 25 mins
Train: Change in Brighton and go Shoreham-by-Sea. It’s a taxi ride from there
Address: Cecil Pashley Way, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5FF
Tel no.: 01273 467 373
Tours: Take one hour and need to be pre-booked on 01273 441 061. They cost £4.50 (adult), £2.50 (child)
Air tours: brightonscenic.co.uk
Air show: 22/23 August 2015; shorehamairshow.co.uk
Disclosure: No compensation, financial or otherwise, was offered or accepted for the writing of this post.
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