We take a look at what the UK’s route out of lockdown looks like for private pilots…
Now that the UK vaccination programme is gathering pace it seems likely that most of the helicopter fraternity will have had their jabs by the end of June. Matt Hancock and co have published the roadmap out of lockdown and it looks as if we can think about our own flight from lockdown in three phases. Phase 1, at or around the 12th April we will be able to step outside our doors, dust off the rotors and fly for lunch at any one of the many Helipaddy recommended lunch spots. However, we will have to stick to our own household and confine ourselves to waving at our socially distanced friends sitting at adjacent tables.
You can find these and thousands more places to visit using the Helipaddy mobile app – with a brand new version launching in May 2021.It is worth remembering that for all of us who have been grounded for the past six months, you need to have performed three takeoffs within the past 90 days before you can take passengers. So a check flight with an instructor should be on your to do list.
Phase 1, flying to lunch – after 12th AprilThe ideal flight time for lunch is probably around 1 hour. A thirty minute flight often feels a bit short, especially if this is the first outing after a long winter. Helipaddy has a number of great locations for you to consider: The Ferry Inn Stone in Oxney: The Ferry Inn dates from the 17th century and used to be the home of the ferry between the mainland and the isle of Oxney. They aim to open from the 12th April and being only a couple of miles from the coast you should get some great views across the Channel as you fly in. The menus are designed by the head chef, Jamie Olive (sic), and take full advantage of local ingredients with vegan and vegetarian options. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Great place to visit and great food. Watch the power lines but there is a large field you can use for approach. Love this place.” Suffolk Food hall: The Suffolk food hall has a great setting on the banks of the River Orwell that runs from the huge container port in Felixstowe to the town of Ipswich. The landing site is on flat fields just to the South of the Orwell Bridge and when you PPR they will let you know which of the fields is free of cows. Inside the large converted barn complex you will find an extensive deli, artisan bakery, butcher and garden centre. Stock up your fridge, have coffee and a sandwich in the cafe or enjoy a full meal in the restaurant looking down over the river. There is plenty of seating outside for expeditions prior to full opening in May. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Huge flat landing space. Rural setting easy to find as it is right by the Orwell bridge. Good outing for rookies like me. Restaurant and farm shop.” Helipaddy moderator adds: “No fixed date of reopening but the shop is open right now and landings welcome. No noise sensitivities but PPR in advance via the Helipaddy PPR button so they can be prepared” Chewton Glen: Chewton Glen is a privately owned classic English country hotel on the fringes of the New Forest. The landing site is a large field with an easily visible mown circle, whilst landing is free for users of the restaurant (£150 for others). Please use the noise abatement route provided by the hotel when you book. The staff are very keen to collect you from the helipad but that would seem to waste the opportunity for a beautiful walk. The Kitchen restaurant will be available for al fresco dining from the 12th April and the main dining room will be opening on 17th May. At the moment reservations will be limited to a total of 6 people and only 2 households. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Easy landing site with 2 circles cut in the grass when we went. Slight confusion about PPR – they seem to be in a bit of a muddle with paperwork. Fabulous food as you mighty expect.” Helipaddy moderator adds: “On 12 April the tree houses are open for self catering. May 17th – Everything else reopens. Use provided route when landing – surrounded by houses. Mention Helipaddy and no landing fee for restaurant and overnight guests, £150 for other users. Take care to avoid the wired fence. Further information in Helipaddy. The White Horse Pub near Chichester: The White Horse is a popular Helipaddy destination with plenty of members describing it as very welcoming with great food and easy to land. The pub itself is just on the edge of the South Downs so plenty of opportunities to walk off the much praised lobster. The pub is hoping to open for outside dining as soon as conditions allow. During Goodwood they have extended opening hours. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Fantastic stay. Well thought out, excellently presented menu with locally sourced produce, effortless customer service and comfortable rooms. Would highly recommend.” Helipaddy moderators add: “Helicopter friendly and voluntary donation to the AAA which we urge pilots to make. Approach and landing are fairly easy if there aren’t cars parked on the grass.” Sir Charles Napier: The Charles Napier is a country restaurant with excellent food not far from London in the Chilterns. It is expecting to reopen in April to eat outside on the terrace. Raymond Blanc has described it as his favorite Sunday lunch spot. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Lovely restaurant. Excellent food. Quite slow for food to come out, but very nice. Reasonably tight landing with trees surrounding the LZ.” Helipaddy moderator adds: “No fee but PPR well in advance” Gunton Arms: The Gunton Arms is a country house hotel and pub situated in the middle of a deer park near Cromer in Norfolk. The pub reflects the owner’s passion for art and inside there are works by Tracey Emin, Damian Hurst and Paula Rego whilst the collection continues outside with sculptures by Anthony Caro and Dan Graham. They serve their own Venison, beef & seafood, whilst the mussels and crab are all caught by local fisherman. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Visited today with the family and what a wonderful quirky pub and restaurant. Spent a few hours on the beach and then returned for a fab lunch. The fresh crab and the steak from the elk fire were particularly good. Land right outside the front door in the deer park. Will definitely return soon!”
Phase 2, staying overnight – after 17th MayA helitrip away with friends will always be a highlight of the heli-calendar and hopefully as the days get longer there will be opportunities to stay in some wonderful places around the UK. Not only are the locations special, but the scenery en-route is part of the adventure. Tresco: The approach to Tresco is always a thrill. About 10 minutes after you leave Lands End, you begin to see the archipelago that is the Isles of Scilly spread out before you. If the weather is good, the crystal blue water reefs and the white sand beaches make you feel like you have flown to another world. It really could be the Bahamas. Tresco itself is a privately owned island with self catering accommodation in a variety of cottages dotted around the island. Once you have landed and been shown your accommodation, your first stop has to be the cycle hire shop. Bicycles are the only vehicles allowed on the island and cycling back from supper in the dark past moonlit deserted beaches is a very special experience. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Mention Helipaddy and get free landing. One of my favourite places to visit in Helipaddy. Helipad run by Dave Page.” Thyme: Thyme is a great destination, located in the Cotswold village of Southrop it describes itself as a village within a village and offers superb dining, a spa, a shop with a brilliantly curated selection of food, fashion and garden ware and cookery classes, a friendly welcome and an easy landing site. You can stay in beautiful individually decorated rooms and they are expecting to open in line with the government directives in April. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Easy landing and plenty of room” Helipaddy moderators add: “Opening the Ox Barn for lunch on 12th April alongside self-catered accommodation. Full hotel will open 19th May. PPR well in advance as they like to have a week’s notice. Mention Helipaddy and no landing fee if eating or staying. Haven Hall: Haven Hall is located on the Isle of Wight, meaning any trip there will incorporate great views of both the south coast and the island itself. The hotel is situated right on the edge of the cliffs with a great view over Shanklin bay. Built in 1908 it has recently received a 4-year multi million pound makeover. The landing site is on the main lawn in front of the house. The approach should be from the sea. The hotel will erect a windsock when they know your arrival time. Helipaddy pilot comment: “This is a magical place to visit by helicopter. David (owner) is extremely accommodating and very ‘pro-helicopters’. The landing site is very nice, forming the main hotel lawn perched conveniently on the top of the beach cliff, with plenty of room for all practical light helicopters offering easy approaches and departures.” The Highlands & Islands The Highlands and Islands require a very special mention – to fly in Scotland should be on every pilots bucket list. If flying north, Helipaddy highly recommends taking advantage of the refuelling available at Kirkbride as both the service and the charges contrast very sharply with that provided by Prestwick. Helipaddy moderator adds: “At the time of writing, the opening of holiday accommodation like hotels and self-catering venues in Scotland is scheduled for 26th April – subject to ongoing reviews.” Knockinaam Lodge: This is a popular Helipaddy site, both as a lunch stop on the way to the western isles and a place to stay the night. The Lodge is located at the end of the Stranraer peninsular and has gardens that slope down to the sea. It is set within a steep and narrow valley and there are wires to be aware of – it is a technical landing. The hotel is lovely, the staff are well used to welcoming helicopters, the restaurant is excellent and there is a great array of malts in the bar. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Always extremely helpful and produced a good lunch for 10 of us in 5 helis (probably room for 7 if well parked). Approach can be difficult if wind is gusting or blowing from the sea. ” Kilcamb Lodge: When Helipaddy selects a trip destination there are three things we look for; friendly staff, great location & good food – all of which Kilcamb lodge delivers on. The approach is straightforward and you would normally fly up the loch Sunart and make a shallow approach over the fields. The Lodge is set in 22 acres of meadow right on the edge of the water. You land on the meadow in front of the main building. It can be a bit boggy so you might need wellies to do your A-check the next morning. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Dynamic rollover a risk on the wetter patches. There is a compromise between smooth downwind air from the lake or bumpy lee air from the hills. Food here is excellent.” The Torridon: The Torridon is as its name suggests located on the edge of loch Torridon and views from the hotel rooms look out over the loch to the mountains beyond. Historically the hotel is famous for having been owned by the husband of Ada Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician who worked with Charles Babbage on his difference machine, probably the very first computer. The house is a classic gothic scottish manse unmistakable in the distance as you approach the landing site situated on the grass between the lodge and the loch. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Pretty fabulous location at the end of Loch Torridon. Space for around 3/4 helis fairly tightly parked on the front lawn.”
Plan your overnight stay using the Helipaddy web or mobile app.
Phase 3, Flying abroad – earliest 17th May or after 21st June with other households (dependant upon our European friends)There are plenty of great places to land just across the Channel in France, some only 40 minutes from London as well as Sweden and even Corsica. But hopefully we will get a bit of flying in France this Summer. There are so many places to chose from, so here are a few of our favourites: Chateau de Cocove: Château de Cocove is located in the rolling hills between Calais and Saint Omer just on the edge of the Marais d’Opale national park which comprises an amalgamation of protected coastal regions and inland marshes. Built in the 18th century the hotel has 5 hectares of wooded grounds and unlike many hotels in France is open all year long. The proprietor who is a keen pilot himself, is happy to welcome helicopters on the lawn in front of the hotel. There are some high trees but the owner is happy for pilots to use any approach they feel happy with and there is no strictly defined landing area. Helipaddy pilot comment: “This is a great place to have lunch or dinner. Great menu, great prices and super enthusiastic staff.” Omaha Beach: This is obviously not a place that you can stay at but if you want a landing site that is easy walking distance from the beach this is a pretty unique location. The taking of Omaha on the 6th June 1944 was to be the responsibility of United States Army troops. On that day very little went as planned. Difficulties in navigation caused the majority of landing craft to miss their targets throughout the day. The defenses were unexpectedly strong, and inflicted heavy casualties on landing U.S. troops. Today the 8km beach is designated a war memorial and is dotted with the remains of German bunkers. On the shore, the stainless-steel sculpture Les Braves commemorates American soldiers. Behind the beach is the Musée Mémorial d’Omaha Beach which documents the invasion. All well worth a visit to get some perspective on the D Day landings. The landing site is at a microlight airfield which has a small landing fee. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Remarkably convenient landing spot. Fee goes in tin.” Chateau de Villiers-le-Mahieu: This is a large 4* Château hotel with 93 rooms, located to the west of Paris has had many different iterations eventually being restored and converted into a hotel in the 1980’s. From the outside this is an archetypal French castle, completely surrounded by a picturesque moat. It could be used for a Disney film with no CGI needed. In fact it is possible to borrow a boat to row around the moat. There is also a spa, open air swimming pool, golf and mountain biking. The 93 rooms are divided into those which are within the main building and those that are housed in the two annexes.The decor here is more modern although in the ‘Royal Rooms’ the feel is more traditional with Toile de Joie wallpaper and the chosen colourways being more blue and white and less purple. There is a restaurant and a bar and on Saturdays during the Summer it is possible to have supper in a new restaurant located within the main château. This is a frequent landing site for Helipaddy members and helicopters can land on the grass to the West of the hotel. Abbaye de La Bussiere: This unique luxury hotel is located between Dijon and Beaune in the middle of some of the most famous wine producing areas in the world. The hotel was originally a cistercian abbey founded in 1131. It was transformed into a hotel in 2005. In the restaurant you eat below the vaulted arches of the former cloister whilst much of the medieval stone work remains and the ancient dovecotes, out houses and wine press are still to be seen in the grounds. The landing site is by the lake on the lawn in front of the building. The main hazards being the owner’s Shetland ponies that wander free in the grounds. Helipaddy pilot comment: “Owner is Heli-friendly and didn’t seem phased by the helidonkey mashup. Interior design is an acquired taste.”
Discover many more places like these using the Helipaddy web or mobile app.