Bodmin Moor animals & air force ghosts
After leaving Lizard Point I pointed the car back to Boscastle, via Bodmin Moor.
We made a point of including three moors on our travels. Our arrival in Boscastle had taken us through Exmoor and in a couple of days we would see Dartmoor. Today we took the opportunity to drive through Bodmin Moor since it was sort of on the way, but would return when we had more time to stop.
But the drive-through was more of a drive-stop-drive-stop-drive-stop because of what we found.
Upon entering or leaving the moor you drive across a cattle stop, as we call them in NZ, or cattle grid in the local terminology. Within these boundaries the livestock just seem to roam across the big expanse of marshy moor landscape, including the road. A lower speed limit applies but I guess the occasional animal may get clobbered.
I had pulled off to one side for photos when we started to look beyond the wandering livestock and notice the ruins of buildings ahead. After pondering this some, dad said it looked like a WW2 era air force base.
Suddenly this place had become really interesting: cute moor animals and a disused military base. Something for everyone!
Later that evening I did a quick bit of research and was able to confirm that it had indeed been an air base: RAF Davidstow Moor. And dad was right – it opened in Oct 1942 and closed at the end of 1945. It was exposed to extreme weather which hampered reliability (driving through you get an inkling of how miserable it must have been in winter) and while really busy at times it wasn’t used consistently during coastal defence operations.
The runways are now very run down but one is apparently still in use by light aircraft.
This place had already registered pretty strongly on my Hmmm-This-is-Quite-an-Interesting-Place radar, and then I discovered it was also used as a motor racing circuit. Wow. What’s more, three Formula One (albeit non-championship) races were hosted there. This was in the 1950s, a few years after the air base ceased operating, and it went by the name of Davidstow Circuit.
This is a 1951 photo of the air base. The racing circuit opened in 1952 using the runway and perimeter roads at the top of the picture. Almost 3km long most of which was straight lines – it would’ve been fast.
The next day we returned to find the museum that we had seen a sign for. I’m not generally a museum person but sometimes there are exceptions and the Cornwall at War Museum was one. Covering the Davidstow Airfield as well as other bases and military operations in Cornwall, it was an excellent example of what local enthusiasts can achieve with a lot of hard work and dedication.
We were the only visitors. Mum had a sleep in the car while dad and I paid the modest entry fee and went exploring.
I didn’t see the ‘no photography’ signs for the indoor exhibits until we were nearly finished. Oops.
There was plenty to look at outside, including original buildings from the airbase. During summer they offer guided tours of the airfield which is something I would have loved to do.
This was a great example of the unexpected highlights that can pop up while travelling.