Tuesday 5 February 2013

Plymouth From Above - Aerial Surreal

Just before the closure of Plymouth Airport in 2011, we took the opportunity to grab a bird's eye view of Plymouth & the surrounding areas & view the many sites we have been documenting from the air. Something we had been wanting to do for a long while is see the forts & defensive structures from the air, to study how the landscapes have changed over time. We even managed to document some of the surrounding military & industrial landscapes including the former RAF Harrowbeer WWII airfield at Yelverton, & the vast moonscape looking China Clay pits of Lee Moor. Bring back Plymouth Airport, that's what I say!

Welcome to Plymouth!

Marsh Mills - atop the hill foliage conceals Efford & Laira Forts
Laira Bridge

Oreston & Radford Lake

Pre-flight I had mapped out a list of fortifications I wanted to capture from above, but it was only evident when we were a few hundred feet up that the task was going to be a tad difficult than planned. After all, this was my first experience of aerial photography, combine that with reading a map & a list from was worth the wait that's for sure. As soon as we reached the view of Staddon Heights, I could finally see the levels of fortifications that protected the the Eastern approaches of Plymouth Sound. Flying over the Breakwater we headed over to Mount Edgcumbe, into Cornish airspace to seek out the Palmerston Forts that protected the Western flanks.....we weren't to be disappointed.

Staddon Fort & Golf Club

Staddon Heights Defences & Bovisand
Flying over the Breakwater looking over Drake's Island, The Hoe & beyond

Fort Picklecombe - now a private estate stunningly converetd

The only downside to the flight was the low mist that you can clearly see in some of the photos, hence the low visibility in the coastal images. Flying over the Tamar Bridges was a great highlight, as was over our house (had to get a photo, you know the drill!) & seeing the way areas of Plymouth have developed comparing with our maps of 1890.

 The Tamar Bridge & Brunel's masterpiece - The Royal Albert bridge

A misty day over the Tamar

Agaton Fort nestled among the housing at Ernesettle

Crownhill Fort & a view toward the now closed Plymouth Airport

The huge clay pits of Lee Moor look amazing on the ground but above adds a totally different dimension, giving a true sense of scale. The bright blue pits of blue water surrounding the white clay look breathtaking, a man-made lunar landscape set amid stunning natural landscapes. It truly does make for phenonemenal viewing & it's right on our doorstep!

The stunning variations of landscape at Lee Moor

The Dewerstone

After flying over the Dewerstone, we headed directly for the former WWII airfield RAF Harrowbeer at Yelverton. I have documented RAF bases all over the UK but this was a first for seeing it as a fighter pilot would. I've walked the airfield many a time & always try pop in for a nice brew at Knightstone Tea Rooms where there is a fantastic archive on display.

Looking across Yelverton & the former RAF Harrowbeer airfield

Fighter pens at RAF Harrowbeer

The Rock & a WWII fighter pen

Then back to Plymouth & a sound landing to head off documenting another site on land this time. I for one, do hope that the Viable group can bring the airport back to life as I think there would be many Plymothians wanting to take the views in for themselves! What do you think?

Bring back Plymouth Airport!


  1. Superb shots and yes bring back Plymouth Airport.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, although it was little hazy on the day. Bring it back indeed!