Guide to the Shuttleworth Collection’s airshows at Old Warden

Few airshows offer such a relaxed and enjoyable experience as those at Old Warden. The Shuttleworth Collection typically host around ten airshows per year at their small grass airstrip, including afternoon shows on Sundays and smaller evening shows on Saturdays. They often feature the Collection’s own rare classic aircraft, as well as visiting planes and occasional military participants. The venue is also a favourite among photographers, with its favourable lighting and curved crowdline, allowing for photogenic topside passes “round the bend”.

     


Ticket options

Tickets start at £25 for most Shuttleworth airshows when purchased at the gate. This is discounted to £20 when purchased in advance from the Shuttleworth Collection’s website. There are further consessions which may apply to some visitors, such as veterans. Some events may cost differently, such as the Flying Proms, for which tickets start at £36. Tickets include entry to the museum hangars and the Swiss Garden.


Getting there

Shuttleworth airshows are delightfully easy to attend. Most visitors drive to the show, taking advantage of the free parking and generally light traffic, when compared to other airshows. This is a convenient option, but note that Hill Lane, which crosses the northern end of the main runway, is shut during the air displays, so don’t be late if you will be arriving at the airfield from the east.

However, our reviewers heartily recommend the free shuttle bus, which runs from Biggleswade railway station. The bus leaves Biggleswade approximately every half hour until the start of the flying display, and makes the return journey several times in the afternoon (the crew usually inform passengers when return services will run during the outbound journey). The trip takes around ten minutes and bypasses all traffic and entry queues, with ticket checks conducted on the bus. Please check if, and when, the bus will run before attending, as the details vary at each event.

Biggleswade is served by Thameslink/Great Nothern services, which run between London King’s Cross and Peterborough. The trip from London takes 45 minutes, with trains running around every half an hour, and return tickets start from about £15. See the operator’s website for more details and to book tickets at the lowest prices.

Shuttleworth airshows can be done as a daytrip, and there is generally no need for overnight accomodation at or near the airshow.


At the show

Aside from a small enclosure for disabled visitors, there are no hospitality enclosures at Shuttleworth Collection airshows, meaning the entire crowdline is open for spectators to enjoy. Sunday airshows can be quite busy and it can be a good idea to stake out a good spot at around lunchtime (flying starts at 14:00), but Saturday shows are more relaxed affairs and there is usually plenty of space right up until the start of the show. There is usually a parade of vintage vehicles half an hour before the start of the flying display, so you may want to be on the crowdline early to enjoy that.

While it is possible to arrive immediately before the start of the flying display and enjoy a good view, we suggest arriving in the morning for Sunday airshows, or the mid-afternoon for Saturday evening shows, as this will allow time to enjoy the gardens and ground displays, soak up the atmosphere and watch any arrivals and rehearsals that occasionally take place before the start of the official flying display.

The most popular spot is on the crowdline, parallel to the runway, immediately to the south of the control tower, as this is where photographers benefit from being close to the main runway while also benefitting from the topside passes around the curve in the crowdline. This is usually considered show centre, and B-axis manoeuvres are usually centred on this point.

However, this area can become extremely crowded, and we also recommend a spot immediately west of the control tower. While set back from the main runway and the straight section of the display line, this is probably the best place to enjoy Shuttleworth’s unique topside passes, and thanks to the slight hill, with the back of the showground elevated by several meters, there is still a decent view of the runway to be enjoyed.


Reviewer’s summary

Shuttleworth is one of the UK’s most treasured airshow venues, and while there certainly are some particularly good viewing spots around the showground, the fact remains that on this intimate grass airstrip, anywhere will offer a good view. Go along, relax, and enjoy the Shuttleworth magic – it’s not difficult to see why the Collection’s airshows are regarded so affectionately by airshow fans from around the world.