With a different hat on, I fly light aircraft, but even when committing aviation I’ll take any opportunity I can to fly over a castle. An aerial view gives a completely different perspective, and from the sky you can truly appreciate the impact these medieval masterpieces would have had on the people living anywhere near them. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy them, and you get to beat up some clouds too!
I thought it would be fun to fly over a castle and then follow it up with a ground visit at the weekend ꟷ which is exactly what I’ll be doing for the final leg of my Big Castle Wander this summer ꟷ and today just such an opportunity arose. So with decent weather forecast I headed to Enstone airfield and my trusty steed, G-AZLN, otherwise known as Aslan.
Goodrich Castle is one of my very favourites. It’s special, and from the air it’s not hard to see why. For a start, it occupies a commanding position high up over a strategic crossing point in the River Wye. It’s not huge, but it packs a punch nevertheless. Constructed mostly from deep red sandstone, its glowing russet hues within the splendour of the Wye Valley make a view that’s hard to beat. It dominates everything around, as it has done in one form or another since 11th Century, along with its string of notable owners.
It’s a challenge to photograph a castle from the air, but I enjoy having a go. Unlike many people, I don’t mind bits of wing or nose cowling creeping into some of my aerial shots as I think it adds to the picture’s story. So my erstwhile flying partner, Gareth, took the controls while I took up my camera, and I’m pretty happy with the results. Mind you, when your subject is as striking as Goodrich, it would be more of a challenge to get it wrong!
From a couple of thousand feet up, you can admire Goodrich’s beauty and appreciate its one-time power, but for a real sense of the castle itself and the prominent people who owned it, you need to get back on terra firma. So, as we turned to fly back to the airfield, I bid a fond farewell to Goodrich and felt glad that our parting will only be for a matter of days.
On the way home we enjoyed a bit of cloud busting as we danced around some less earthly castles in the air. And when I’m doing that, I can’t help thinking of one of my favourite poems:
by John Gillespie Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, ꟷ and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of ꟷ Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark or even eagle flew ꟷ
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.