Last one First
Gloster Meteor WA882 on Bennachie.
(Distance covered =
10.7 mile/Ascent =+807m)
A Championships in Aberdeen meant I had a few options for crashsites I could visit, however our printer was broken so I couldn't print out any new maps. I already had a map for Bennachie from when I visited the Westland Wallace up there, so the decision about where I should go was made by a faulty electronic device.
There's a nice big carpark at Bennachie Visitor Centre with toilets a cafe and a little shop. There's also a sideroom called 'The Bailles Room', it houses some information and pictures about Bennachie and hanging from the ceiling is a 20mm cannon from Meteor WA882
Carpark and Visitor Centre at Bennachie
My rules for adding a crashsite onto my list of 'Crashsites visited' are that I must find a piece of the aircraft or a memorial at the location. Finding a piece in the visitor centre doesn't count so I still had a hill to walk up and a couple of forests to scratch around in.
Two views of the Meteor's Cannon in the Bennachie Centre.In fact its just the barrel as the breech is missing. Below is a photo of a Meteor having two of it's four cannon removed.
I could have reached the Meteor crashsite by following the Gordon Way which passes within feet of some pieces of the Meteor, but as I set off from the Visitor centre I was unaware of this because I actually had an incorrect grid ref which had the crashsite about 1km northeast of where it actually was. I often mention a crashsite as being exactly where it was meant to be, meaning I found it where it was marked on my map, therefore as I was soon to find out, the Meteor on Bennachie was not where it was meant to be.
Mither Tap at the eastern end of Bennachie
Because it was such a nice day there was a lot of People out walking, most of them seemed to be heading up to the top of Mither Tap which looms large over the visitor centre. I decided to go with the flow and follow the Mither Tap route as well.
There a a few well signposted routes around the Bennachie Visitor Centre including one up to Mither Tap.
When I first got back into hillwalking and visiting crashsites a few years back I was a little unfit, so I used to make a beeline for the crashsite then straight back to the car. Now as I am quite a bit fitter and a lot lighter I will make quite large diversions if I think a particular route is going to be more interesting, time permitting of course. Today was one such occasion as I could have easily avoided going up and over Mither Tap.
The path up to Mither Tap was lovely through the woods but as there was no breeze it was also very warm.
Because of the heat it was proving hard work up through the woods but once
out onto the open hillside there was a lovely cool breeze and I reached
the top with ease. The last little bit of path which led up onto the rocky
summit was heaving with walkers so as I wasn't that desperate to go to the
summit I skirted around and took the path that headed off to Oxen Crag,
the highest point on Bennachie.
The scenery up here very much reminded me of a certain channel four advert so I was half expecting to bump into a Small Purple Number four carrying a sign with a Jack Russel in tow.
The summit of Mither Tap with Oxen Crag in the distance.
I knew the wreckage of the Meteor was scattered over a large area with some pieces lying in a wood, I didn't have a grid ref for the bits in the wood, there were four areas of woodland that encroached up onto each corner of Oxen Craig so to speak, two to the north and two to the south but I deduced from the grid ref I did have that the pieces were probably in the nearest bit of woods downhill from the crash location, so I went to look for those first. After searching the woods for quite a distance downhill I found nothing so went up to the grid ref I had, zigzagged back and forward across the side of the hill and found nothing there as well. I started to walk towards the next bit of wood on the northern side but noticed that the background on the photos I had of the wreckage bore no resemblance whatsoever to what I was seeing on the ground. I aborted searching in the second area of woodland to the north and headed up to the summit instead, to see if I could spot anything familiar from up there. As soon as I reached the top it was immediately obvious that the grid reference I had was way out and I had been searching on the wrong side of the hill.
Oxen Craig on the left, my grid ref had the crashsite to the right of the path leading to it, in fact it was way off to the left.
The photos I had were of a collection of wreckage with a distinct forest track running along the edge of some woods in the background and also a large lump of wing with a very distinctive crag in the background, I could clearly see both of these from the summit, both on the south side of the hill. Now I knew exactly where to look I afforded myself the luxury of a bit of sunbathing on the summit of Bennachie while I enjoyed my butties.
Mither Tap from the summit of Oxen Crag/Bennachie
As I was making my way down through the boulder field just below the
summit I stopped to watch two Mountain Bikers hopping their bikes from one
large boulder to another, sod's law dictated that just as the first one got level
with me he went arse over tit and face planted into the heather. I did
very well not to laugh, something which his mate didn't accomplish as he
passed him laughing his head off.
Once off Oxen Crag it was a short walk across the heather to reach the memorial which was erected for both plane crashes on Bennachie*.
above and next 3 photos:-The Memorial for the three airmen lost on Bennachie, the two lost in the Westland Wallace crash on 3rd September 1939 are officially the first commonwealth casualties of World War two, saying as they crashed only hours after war was declared. Ellard A Cummings was also the first Canadian casualty of the war.
Past the memorial I came across a long piece of spar lying in the heather , I decided I would make a large zigzag south down the slope to locate any further pieces but the pieces I was finding were taking me west.
above and below:-some of the pieces I found scattered in the heather
I continued to follow the trail of pieces to the west where I came across the big lump of wing lying just before the hill dropped off steeply down to the third of the 4 areas of wood mentioned earlier and the most westerley of the two on the south side of the hill. As the wreckage trail seemed to be heading west I deduced the pieces in the woods must be down there, and if they wern't I could then just follow the Gordon way back around to the only possible area of woodland I hadn't checked already.
Above and next four photos:-The large lump of wing, this is the section from outboard of the jet engines.
Before dropping off the hill to check the wood, I doubled back and forth a few more times to check for any further pieces on the top and found the other collection of wreckage shown on one of the photos. These lay a little further down the slope but at the eastern end of what appeared to be an east to west wreckage trail.
above and next 8 photos:-Wreckage collected here included a lump of wingspar with a frame for one of the jet engines.
Of course Sod's Law, when it's not knocking cyclists off their bikes, is always at it's best when it comes to looking for something, you can guarantee that it will be in the last location you look, so it was on this occasion, I dropped down into the third area of trees, found nothing so followed the Gordon way back around to the east where I found the pieces in the fourth area of trees only feet from the Gordon Way path.
A map of Bennachie showing the four areas of woodland numbered in the order I illiminated them from my enquiries. The blue cross is the incorrect grid ref I had for the crashsite which initially caused me to think the pieces were in the woods to the north. The red crosses are approximate locations where I found pieces of the Meteor, the most northerley red cross being the memorial.
Meteor Wreckage in the trees right next to the Gordon Way, the hill on the left beyond the trees is Bruntwood Tap, scene of a Westland Wallace* crash.
Above and below:-The pieces in the trees, quite a way downhill from the other pieces .
Now all I had left to do was follow the Gordon Way back to the visitor centre and for once, I had plenty of time left so I could take my time and enjoy the sunshine.
Although I could of reached the crashsite of the Meteor much quicker and easier by just following the Gordon way from the Visitor Centre it would have been nowhere near as enjoyable as going up onto the top and having to search around for a bit first, especially when the weather was so nice.
I had enjoyed a great day on Bennachie and Heather had enjoyed an equally great day at the Aberdeen Championships finishing 4th in the Line up.
Heather with her trophy and Flowers for finishing in 4th place at The Aberdeen Championships outside the Aberdeen Beach Ballroom, a lovely venue for a lovely competition.